ALERT: Malnutrition is the number one cause of early death in pet birds. Vets often see birds who have become accustomed to an all seed diet or that simply refuse proper nutrition. Parasites may also cause malnutrition in birds. Depending on the lacking nutrients, malnutrition can affect particular organs and systems or it can suppress a bird’s entire immune system. Both are a major cause for concern. A lowered immune system may be that your bird is very susceptible to bacterial or fungal diseases and may have delays recovering from illness, injury or surgical procedures. You may notice the following health concerns if your bird is malnourished:
SKIN: dry itchy skin, flaking, long nails and overgrown beaks, poor feather condition. Scaly, patchy looking feet.
FEATHERS: dull, faded feathers absent of vibrant greens, blues and reds and broken or frayed feathers
RESPIRATORY: sinusitis, sneezing, liths in the nose, air sacculitis, aspergillosis.
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: enteritis, hepatitis, pancreatitis (shows up as dark green colored stools, or diarrhea or no eating, no stools) fatty tumors or fatty liver disease
REPRODUCTIVE: egg binding, infertility, weak chicks.
ENDOCRINE: feather picking, feather coloration problems, hormonal imbalance, etc.
A malnourished bird may also experience obesity which leads to heart problems, liver problems, tumors and pressure sources. A bird may demonstrate low stamina. The most common deficiencies include lack of protein, calcium and important vitamins such as vitamin A and Vitamin D3. Parrot vitamins such as UnRuffledRx Multi-Vitamin for Parrotscan go a long way toward improving your parrots well-being
We recommend that you monitor your bird’s weight at least weekly, maybe more if it is a particularly fussy eater. To get a baseline weight, weigh your bird during the same time of day to take into account the weight of the food in the crop. Develop a record keeping system. After a few weeks, you’ll know your birds baseline weight. Then you’ll be able to detect if your bird has suffered a 10% or more weight loss. The weight loss may occur quickly or over the course of a few weeks.
Most nutritional problems take years to develop, but when a particular organ or system has become sufficiently compromised it may appear that your bird got sick suddenly. Take your bird to an avian vet anytime you notice a 10% or more drop in weight as that is the threshold for recovery versus life-limiting illness. Your vet can perform a full physical examination, pull blood panels, administer other tests deemed appropriate and perform the appropriate tests to determine what is causing the symptoms.
Once your vet has determined if your birds ailing health is due to an unbalanced diet, she can recommend a species specific balanced, nutritious diet that is appropriate for your pet’s lifestyle once your bird has a clean bill of health. Your vet can also assist you in monitoring your pet to insure it continues to experience improved health..
Most birds begin a healing process once they’ve successfully converted to a well-balanced pellet such as Harrison’s Bird Foods. Many a bird has eaten fatty seed based for years and once converted to pellets and fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, nutritional grains and an occasional Lafaber Treat, experience restored health. Use a Goldenfeast Blend if you don't have time to chop and dice fresh foods.
Expect that your bird will experience physiological changes as it is converting to the new diet. As your birds skin regenerates to a healthier state it will shed the dry flaky skin cells and may molt. Use an avian grade Aloe Vera Spray to sooth the skin. You bird may also become more muscular and fit. It may develop “friskier” behavior as a sign that it feels better. You’ll want to initiate proper bird training techniques to insure that behavior problems such as screaming and aggression are kept at bay.
In conclusion, malnutrition is the number one reason parrots present to an Avian Veterinarian. As parrot specific research is conducted and understood, bird food manufacturers are developing and refining well-balanced diets and avian vets are becoming more experienced in assisting parrots into converting to healthier diets.