IRON STORAGE DISEASE
We have previously mentioned problems with calcium and phosphorous, but other problems do happen.
Problems with iron storage are a problem in many species, but particularly in toucans and the Mynah birds.
These birds can have a genetic component in this disease and many individuals can appear clinically normal until death. Mynahs do tend to show some clinical signs before death. Current information suggests that dietary iron is important.
Mynahs exposed to high levels of dietary iron progressively over time will store it in organs throughout the body, but the main storage organ is the liver.
When this storage is excessive, then a weakness, difficulty breathing and abdominal fluid can build up as the liver fails.
Vitamin A deficiency
A lack of vitamin A is one of the most common problems we see in our patients. In many cases this deficiency is chronic but certain signs do indicate it as a problem.
Two main features indicate this as a problem. Firstly it is involved with the maintenance of membranes of the respiratory tract and skin.
A deficiency can generate a dry skin, which can become an irritation and lead to feather plucking. Sore feet and to some extent bumblefoot may be predisposed by a lack of vitamin A.
Respiratory problems occur, as there is no protection from the complicated epithelium in the sinuses or other tissues. Hardened lumps of material can accumulate in the sinuses or nares leading to swellings or changes to the birds cere. Within the mouth the opening between the mouth and nasal chambers can be seen as a slit. This can be easily examined and changes associated with deficiency easily seen. It will predispose the bird to respiratory infections.
Changes such as impaired fertility or poor egg quality can also be seen.
Iodine deficiency is most usually a problem in Budgerigars. It generates a problem called ‘Goitre’ and can lead to respiratory problems due to an enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck. Most owners are well aware of the need to provide iodine sources in the cage such as ‘iodine blocks’ to prevent this.
Solving the problems
It is very difficult to create a diet from a variety of food sources that is complete in every way, mixing food types does help but the exact quantities is difficult. There essentially three ways in which we can assist to create a balanced diet.
Firstly we can consider supplementing the deficiencies in the current diet, this may be by adding a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement in the birds water, such as ‘Calcivet’ or by adding a powder to a food source such as ‘Nutrobal’. Both provide good levels to counteract deficiencies. Vitamin A deficiency can be dealt with in a similar manner by using a multivitamin powder or multivitamin drops. In food supplementation is better than in water, especially if it is given on a piece of food fed to your bird by hand (in the pet situation). In most captive parrots the supplementation of Vitamin A, D3 and Calcium will be needed. Combination preparations are available. Iodine can be adequately provided by an Iodine block.
Trying to provide additional food sources does help. Fresh fruit, pulses and vegetables provide high levels of nutrients that will not be present in seed diets. It is always advisable to provide these to every bird.
The best method by far is the use of a complete food as about 80% of a bird’s diet, with fruit providing the remaining 20%. No seed is required in the case of hardbills. The nutritional requirements of species will vary and it is important to ensure the correct complete diet is used. There are now diets aimed specifically at African species (such as Greys) and Cockatiels. Diets designed to reduce iron levels are also available for Mynahs etc. Converting a bird to such diets can take up to 6 –8 weeks.
All of these products are available (mostly stocked at our hospital) and you are welcome to ask for any advice regarding diet and how it can be improved. There is also a handout available in how to convert your pet bird over to a complete diet.
Christmas is upon us once more and as ever it is a good time for reflection. This year the avian side of life at Drove as come on in leaps and bounds. We have special equipment for the birds now, I have been on many courses this year to improve the quality and quantity of services we can provide you. If there is something that as yet we are not providing that you would like us to please contact us to discuss this.