Here at Rosevean Veterinary Practice we know that Parrot nutrition is very important for our companion birds. Our knowledge of what they need is constantly improving.
Common dietary related problems encountered in pet birds:
- Obesity. Due to the high fat content of sunflower seed and peanuts (and their addictive nature!) it is very common to see overweight birds. At post-mortem, fatty deposits can be visible within the large heart vessels and fat infiltrating the liver can occur. Overweight birds ideally need to go onto a slow weight loss plan, as rapid loss is dangerous. Exercise out of the cage will also need increasing.
- Sunflower and peanuts are generally low in calcium and companion birds in the UK are not exposed to adequate levels of UV light so deficiencies are common. In young growing birds deformed limbs can occur. Seizures are possible , especially in African Grey Parrots who seem particularly prone to low blood calcium. Reproductive issues such as egg binding are also possible.
- Seed based diets can be low in Vitamin A. Deficiencies in vitamin A can affect the respiratory tract leading to increased incidence of respiratory disease including fatal fungal infections. Converting to a complete pellet diet with up to 10% fresh fruit and vegetables is best. Water based supplements are often not effective as birds will often reduce intake of water if they can taste an additive.
- Fungal respiratory infections can occur unrelated to diet but seeds that have become damp in storage often contain very high levels of fungal spores and the risk is increased even further if the cage is not cleaned daily.
- Human food in many cases is not toxic, but often is high in saturated fat and low in vitamins and minerals and needs to be kept to an absolute minimum. Certain foods such as avocado, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided totally.
- High fat diets such as sunflower seeds usually allow intake of calories very quickly and involve little work. Therefore birds have large periods of the day when they would be foraging when they have nothing to occupy themselves. Abnormal behaviours and grooming may arise out of boredom.
How can we help?
- Feeding birds to optimise health can be challenging. Although it may appear impossible, with some patience they can be converted onto a healthier diet.
- Try to encourage foraging using different feeders and methods- this being said, training to forage may need introducing at a slower pace for more nervous or stubborn birds.
- Ideally aim for a pelleted diet (e.g. Harrisons, Pretty Bird or Kay-tee) with fresh fruit and vegetables making up no more than 10%