have discussed in the past how important it is to catch
changes in our companionsí behaviors and habits as
early as possible to address any potential disease
before it becomes untreatable. But itís more difficult
to spot problems in some species and birds are among the
are essentially wild creatures that have been adapted to
captivity and they still possess many wild traits. One
is their tendency to hide symptoms in the face of
illness. This is an adaptation to living in a group.
When a bird shows symptoms of disease, they are targets
for predators and attract attention to their flock. The
flock will reject them in order to avoid unwanted
attention. Unfortunately, this same behavior continues
in captivity and can make it very difficult for
caretakers to spot problems.
is an 11-year-old sulfur crested cockatoo living with
Mandy in her apartment. She is fed a diet of
"parrot mix" as well as fruit and vegetables
of varying types. She spends a lot of time out of her
cage and is tightly bonded to Mandy.
the past two months or so Mandy reports that Kiwi has
been drinking more water and her droppings have changed
color from a deep emerald green to a more bright
"electric" green. She has not shown any other
changes, but Mandy has noticed that the papers in the
bottom of her cage seem to be wetter than they had been
in the past.
is without question a problem with Kiwi. The change in
droppings color indicates a possible liver problem. When
the liver in some types of birds is not functioning
properly, a chemical change in the makeup of the
droppings, as processed by the liver, causes the change
increased thirst and what sounds like increase in
production from the urinary tact also can be caused by
liver disease, although there are many diseases that
also can lead to these symptoms.
product of the urinary tract in birds is different than
in mammals. Mammals produce urea, which is a liquid,
while birds produce a solid material, yellowish to white
in color, called uric acid. It is surrounded by liquid,
mostly water, and then excreted. When birds drink
excessively, as is the case with Kiwi, they will excrete
excessive amounts of water from their urinary tract.
needs diagnostic testing, including a blood and urine
analysis. Again, the earlier the cause is discovered,
the more likely we will be able to help Kiwi. Right now,
we do not know definitively how long Kiwi has been
dealing with the disease.
indeed Kiwi is dealing with liver disease, I would
consider diet as a possible cause. Seed-based diets in
our psittacine patients are a long-term recipe for
disaster. This is due to several factors. First of all,
seed-based diets allow birds to pick and chose what
seeds they like to eat and leave those they donít,
leaving the diet unbalanced. Frankly, even if a bird
eats all the seeds in a mix, the diet still would be
unbalanced. Another problem is that seed-based diets are
high in fat. This fat can deposit in the liver and, over
time, lead to death from liver failure. Kiwi is a
candidate for this scenario.
indeed Kiwiís blood work shows a liver problem, I
would recommend an endoscopic exam and biopsy of her
liver. This will help determine the type of liver
problem and to what degree it has progressed. We then
can formulate a treatment plan to hopefully turn her
around with a dietary change.
and all psittacine birds should eat a varied diet which
can be inconvenient for some caretakers. A pellet-base
diet can provide complete nutrition.