- Baby is a female blue-fronted Amazon parrot who is 24 years young. When Dr. Becker met Baby, she had dull feathers, signs of over-grooming, large fat deposits on her breastbone, and several fatty masses called lipomas on both legs.
- Baby was overweight from a combination of a sedentary lifestyle and a diet that consisted almost entirely of high fat seeds – her favorite food. Since obesity in birds often leads to hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), Dr. Becker did some blood tests and determined that indeed, Baby’s liver function was compromised.
- Baby was transitioned from her all-seed diet to a much more nutritious diet of fresh living foods and organic bird pellets. She also began taking milk thistle to support the detoxification and regeneration of liver cells.
- Fortunately, Baby took to her new, healthy diet quite well and relatively quickly. Within six months, her liver function had returned to normal.
- Also in this article, Dr. Becker offers tips for all bird owners on optimizing their pet’s environment and removing environmental stressors.
By Dr. Becker
I met Baby, a 24 year-old blue-fronted Amazon parrot in September 2012. Her dad brought her to see me because he was concerned about some fatty tumors another avian vet had diagnosed three years earlier.
As I examined Baby for the first time, I noticed her feathers were dull. She was over-grooming her lower abdomen, so the feathers there were unkempt and tattered. But more concerning to me were the large fat deposits that were accumulating over her keel (her breastbone), as well as several lipomas, which are benign fatty masses, that I could feel on both her legs.
Parrots Like Baby Are Prone to Overeating
Many pet parrots develop issues as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. For example, Amazon parrots have a tendency to become obese if their guardians don’t make weight management a priority.
Parrots like Baby who have been bred in captivity as pets are smart, vocal and animated. If you’re owned by one of these delightful birds, you know they are foodies with feathers. In other words, they enjoy eating! Consequently, overeating can become a real problem over a 70+ year lifespan.
In addition, these parrots are very popular as pets because they have more of a type “B” personality – they prefer hanging out to the constant activity seen in type “A” parrot personalities. The combination of a love of food and laidback personality can be a recipe for metabolic problems with these birds.
Evaluation of Baby’s diet revealed that like most pet birds, she wasn’t choosing to eat a balanced diet. Given the option to eat either seeds (preferably sunflower and safflower seeds) or fresh food, she would eat only seeds – a very unhealthy diet. And like many people owned by parrots, Baby’s dad fed his pet what she most enjoyed eating: high fat seeds. Although he did occasionally offer fresh foods, Baby preferred her seeds and didn’t regularly consume fresh foods or pellets.
The Dangers of Obesity in Parrots
Many animals, including parrots, store excess calories as fatty masses called lipomas. In addition to being overweight (over fat), Baby had additional fat accumulations that caused her to be “lumpy” in places. My biggest concern about Baby’s weight was that often when an Amazon’s body grows obese, there is also the presence of a secondary and potentially fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease is caused by excessive fat accumulation in the liver. The condition is typically a slowly progressive disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with fat. The many tasks the liver performs are eventually compromised, and when overall liver function is poor, birds begin showing symptoms.
These can vary depending on how much liver function remains and include mild to profound lethargy, weight loss, decreasing appetite leading to anorexia, a fluffed appearance, weakness, sitting in the bottom of the cage, labored breathing (tail bobbing), a change in stool color (usually it becomes much more green), diarrhea and a swollen abdomen.
Birds with chronic, low-grade hepatic lipidosis can also have beaks that grow unusually fast or a change in feather pigmentation. Sadly, if the disease is progressed, a bird can appear suddenly ill or even die before the owners have a chance to seek veterinary care.
I suggested to Baby’s owner that we complete some blood work to check her liver function, and as I suspected, her liver enzyme (AST) was elevated (page 1). Thankfully, Baby’s quality of life was not yet impaired by her liver condition.
Switching Baby to a Healthier Diet
I immediately informed Baby’s dad that he would need to feed his bird differently. Baby needed to be weaned off her favorite seed-based diet and switched to a variety of fresh living foods to supply her body with enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber. For most birds (and their owners), a change in diet like this can be a wildly difficult undertaking.
Many birds are actually addicted to seeds, and like cats, they cannot skip meals without endangering their health. Birds can and will starve themselves to death, so the process of transitioning to healthier foods involves some trickery.
The first step with Baby was to start the transition with fresh foods she liked, which included apples, grapes and corn. We would use these three fresh foods as lures to open her mind and taste buds to other fresh foods with a higher nutrient value.
The next step was to finely chop other fresh foods like broccoli, blueberries, pomegranate, pepper, and dark leafy green veggies, and mix them with the three foods she liked so she could experience a bit of nutritional variety.
Some birds are so finicky about trying new foods that it’s necessary to sprout their unhealthy seeds. Ironically, sprouting turns seeds from unhealthy and high fat, to very healthy and low fat. Mixing sprouted seeds with dry seeds, and then slowly increasing the amount of sprouted seeds while decreasing the dry seeds is another good way to transition a super-finicky bird away from an all-seed diet.
For Baby, I also recommended an organic bird pellet made by Harrison’s Bird Foods. I instructed her owner to grind the pellets into a powder and add 1 tablespoon of powder to 1 tablespoon of seeds so that all the seeds were coated with the powder. Birds hull seeds, so as Baby picked up and shelled her seeds, she would roll the seed around in her mouth and acquire the new taste of a nutritionally balanced pellet. I also instructed her dad to add a tablespoon of whole pellets into this mix, since occasionally birds are inquisitive enough to try new foods without hesitation.
I also prescribed milk thistle, an herb that helps hepatocytes (liver cells) regenerate and detoxify, and asked Baby’s dad to recheck her blood work in three months.
Within Three Months, Baby’s Health Was Much Improved
At Baby’s next appointment in December 2012, her dad reported that the diet change was successful. Fortunately, Baby liked the new organic bird pellets right away and he was able to gradually decrease the high fat seeds and ultimately eliminate them altogether. He was offering Baby a nice variety of fruits and veggies and she was eating well.
Baby’s feathers appeared less dull at this visit, and more importantly, her liver enzyme values had improved, but were still too high (page 2).
I suggested Baby’s dad continue the detox protocol and recheck her blood work in another three months. Thankfully, in March, Baby’s liver function was back to normal (page 3). Her owner was able to discontinue her detox protocol, but of course continued with a diet of healthy fresh foods and organic pellets, as well as Sunshine Factor, a supplement to help improve feather health.
Baby’s lean body mass was improving and her lipomas were not continuing to grow — all good signs.
Optimizing Your Pet Bird’s Environment
There are a number of recommendations I offer to all bird owners interested in optimizing their pet’s environment, including:
- Ensure birds get 8 to 10 hours of restful sleep at night in a dark, quiet room (a nightlight is ok, but no additional light should be provided).
- Provide pure water, free from fluoride, chlorine and heavy metals.
- Provide UV light. Birds must have direct sunlight (not through a window) for optimal health. If you can’t take your bird outside, get a bird light and leave it on 6-10 hours a day.
- Provide a variety of natural perches of various sizes for optimal foot health.
- Offer pesticide-free food. Organic fresh fruits and veggies are best. If you can’t buy organic, wash all produce very well before feeding.
- Ensure adequate exercise. Birds were meant to fly. If you don’t let your bird fly, you’ll have to get creative on how to help him “dance” (flap on your hand or a perch), walk or move to maintain muscle tone and optimal weight.
- Birds should be weighed weekly to ensure they are maintaining their weight. Before birds become visibly sick they lose weight.
- Provide coconut oil. Organic, cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil is excellent for all birds. It provides lauric acid that supports a healthy immune system.
Eliminating Environmental Stressors
Part of optimizing a bird’s environment is removing stressors. These include:
- Dowel perches and perch covers. Sandpaper covers cause bumblefoot, or open foot sores, so please don’t use them. Trim your bird’s nails if they are too long.
- Grit. Psittacine parrots do not need grit, so please don’t offer it to them.
- Mite and lice cage fumigators. Because these ectoparasites are rare and the fumigation products designed to eliminate them are ineffective, the majority of birds trapped next to these toxic “accessories” derive no benefit from them, and they can be harmful.
- Wrapping or covering birdcages at night. This practice was recommended back when most houses were drafty, prior to the introduction of energy efficient homes. If your house was built in the last 50 years you don’t have to protect your bird from drafts. Covering cages has been linked to increased respiratory disease in birds. If you have a drafty home, cover 3 sides of the cage with a light fabric.
- Cigarette smoke. Birds are tremendously susceptible to the toxins in second hand smoke. They are much more at risk than mammals, because birds have air sacs. There is no question a bird’s health will be compromised if the humans in her home smoke.
- Pellets and seeds containing additives, preservatives, colors and dyes. Any brightly colored commercial diet you purchase for your bird contains dyes that are unnecessary for avian health. Birds are very susceptible to environmental chemicals, so read all labels carefully.
- Teflon. Burning food on Teflon pans creates a toxic gas that is fatal to birds.
- Toys made in China. Birds mouth everything. Make sure your bird’s belongings are toxin free by buying only toys and cage accessories made in the U.S.
- Paint chipping off cages. Most paints and coatings contain heavy metals that birds can ingest as they use their beaks to climb around the cage. If your bird’s cage paint or powder coating is beginning to flake off, purchase a new cage, preferably stainless steel.
May 19, 2013 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal and Pet Photos, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, responsible pet ownership | Birds, Parrots | Leave a Comment
Have you ever seen a Peacock in full flight?
This is a rare opportunity for this. We never imagined that it could be so
Magnificent – like a phoenix in a fairy tale! It is not every day we can see such beauty!!!
h/t to Sovereignty in Colorado
Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna said she was surprised when a captive cockatoo named Figaro was seen using a tool to help him obtain an object. When researchers saw him actually make a tool, they were stunned.
According to University of Oxford’s announcement regarding the research, which has now been published in the journal Current Biology, the scientists are unsure just how Figaro ever learned to make a tool, but hope it will shed light on the “evolution of intelligence.”
Here’s how the team witnessed Figaro’s new skill, according to Auersperg:
“During our daily observation protocols, Figaro was playing with a small stone. At some point he inserted the pebble through the cage mesh, and it fell just outside his reach. After some unsuccessful attempts to reach it with his claw, he fetched a small stick and started fishing for his toy.
“To investigate this further we later placed a nut where the pebble had been and started to film. To our astonishment he did not go on searching for a stick but started biting a large splinter out of the aviary beam. He cut it when it was just the appropriate size and shape to serve as a raking tool to obtain the nut.
“It was already a surprise to see him use a tool, but we certainly did not expect him to make one by himself. From that time on, Figaro was successful on obtaining the nut every single time we placed it there, nearly each time making new tools. On one attempt he used an alternative solution, breaking a side arm off a branch and modifying the leftover piece to the appropriate size for raking.”
Watch Figaro make his tools:
Oxford University professor Alex Kacelnik said that Figaro is the only known one in his species to exhibit such tool-making capabilities, but crows have been observed to do similar things. Kacelnik said a crow named Betty made hooks out of wire to obtain food out of reach.
Still, Kacelnik said researchers are “struggling to identify the cognitive operations that make these deeds possible.”
With observations from these birds, Kacelnik hopes it may help scientists “unlock many unknowns in the evolution of intelligence.”
November 8, 2012 Posted by justonemorepet | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | Birds, Cockatoo, science, Vienna | Leave a Comment
October 22, 2012 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal and Pet Photos, animal behavior, animals, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, We Are All God's Creatures | adorable animal photos, Birds, bunnies, Cats, dalmation, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, pandas, pups, turtles | Leave a Comment
1. Himalayan Monal
2. Formosan Magpie
4. Golden Pheasant
5. Green Jay
7. Lady Amherst’s Pheasant
8. Bleeding Heart Pigeons
9. Nicobar Pigeon
11. Winson’s Bird Of Paradise
12. No Idea What Bird This Is, But It’s Totally Rad
14. Sup, Polish Chicken
Video: Osprey — the ultimate fisher
Video: Potty Trained African Grey
April 4, 2012 Posted by justonemorepet | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pets | African Greys, Birds, Parrots | Leave a Comment
It is so good when somebody waits for you at home…
And you just have to love them and laugh!
After all… they love you unquestionably and don’t ask for much like the 2-legged human kids
It is hard to be bored… please don’t lock your pets in crates for long periods of time and try to give them some quality time and exercise daily~!
h/t to Andrea Martinez
March 11, 2012 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal and Pet Photos, animal behavior, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, We Are All God's Creatures | Birds, Cats, cute animal photos, cute pet photos, dogs, pet behaviorist, pet boredom | 2 Comments
One of friends mentioned that his wife is the eagle handler at a zoo.
He posted some links to pictures of his wife with the bird. Golden eagle by the looks of it. Here’s a couple of selected shots:
Quote: “My wife is a docent at the zoo where she volunteers. She is the eagle handler. They take them places and show off the animals. The eagle they have, Aspen, is the sister to the eagle that flies for Auburn. I forget his name.”
Hat Tip: Garry Hamilton from the NoisyRoom
February 25, 2012 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal and Pet Photos, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet and Animal Training, Pets, Wild Animals | Birds, eagles, golden eagles | Leave a Comment
Save a Life…Adopt Just One More…Pet!
Everyday we read or hear another story about pets and other animals being abandoned in record numbers while at the same time we regularly hear about crazy new rules and laws being passed limiting the amount of pets that people may have, even down to one or two… or worse yet, none.
Nobody is promoting hoarding pets or animals, but at a time when there are more pets and animals of all types being abandoned or being taken to shelters already bursting at the seams, there is nothing crazier than legislating away the ability of willing adoptive families to take in just one more pet!!
Our goal is to raise awareness and help find homes for all pets and animals that need one by helping to match them with loving families and positive situations. Our goal is also to help fight the trend of unfavorable legislation and rules in an attempt to stop unnecessary Euthenization!!
“All over the world, major universities are researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions which are employing full-time pet therapists and animals is increasing daily.” ~ Betty White, American Actress, Animal Activist, and Author of Pet Love
Photos By: Marion Algier – The UCLA Shutterbug
There is always room for Just One More Pet. So if you have room in your home and room in your heart… Adopt Just One More! If you live in an area that promotes unreasonable limitations on pets… fight the good fight and help change the rules and legislation…
Save the Life of Just One More…Animal!
Recent and Seasonal Shots
Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug are protected by copyright, Please email at JustOneMorePet@gmail.com or find us on twitter @JustOneMorePet for permission to duplicate for commerical purposes or to purchase photos.
If you can adopt or foster just one more pet, you could be saving a life, while adding joy to your own! Our shelters are over-flowing… Please join the fight to make them all ‘NO-Kill’ facilities.
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- New Hope for Fear and Anxiety in Abused Dogs May 10, 2013Story at-a-glance Recently the ASPCA opened the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, NJ, a first-of-its-kind facility dedicated exclusively to helping rehabilitate dogs that have been victims of animal cruelty. The center’s patients will come from shelters across the country as well as from ASPCA-involved seizures, and will primarily be victims of pu […]justonemorepet
- The Scary-Looking ‘Sea Monster’ That Washed Ashore in New Zealand Finally Identified May 8, 2013(YouTube) TheBlaze: The ghastly-looking carcass that recently washed ashore in New Zealand had people speculating that it was some sort of “sea monster” or prehistoric beast. However, as it turns out, it’s just a killer whale — sorry to disappoint you. Because of its state of significant decay, the whale resembled something scarier than a […]justonemorepet
- How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This… May 7, 2013Story at-a-glance When it comes to species of mammals, generally speaking, bigger animals live longer than smaller ones. But within species, this isn’t always true – for example, in the case of mice, horses, and especially dogs — the bigger the body, the shorter the lifespan. According to a new study, big dogs die younger […]justonemorepet
- Canine Logo Equals Rape! Hello? May 6, 2013The University of Connecticut has replaced their old logo … … with something a bit leaner. (Click on any picture to see the largest version.) HellInAHandBasket.net: Okay, so some university in the New England states is trying to rebrand. So what? It would seem that a female student claims that the new logo will “intimidate […]justonemorepet
- Attacks Your Bird’s Liver Like Alcohol – Is This What’s Making Her Flabby and Sick? May 19, 2013
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Great Book for Children and Pet Lovers… And a Perfect Holiday GiftOne More Pet Emily loves animals so much that she can’t resist bringing them home. When a local farmer feels under the weather, she is only too eager to “feed the lambs, milk the cows and brush the rams.” The farmer is so grateful for Emily’s help that he gives her a giant egg... Can you guess what happens after that? The rhythmic verse begs to be read aloud, and the lively pictures will delight children as they watch Emily’s collection of pets get bigger and bigger.
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If You Were Stranded On An Island…A recent national survey revealed just how much Americans love their companion animals. When respondents were asked whether they’d like to spend life stranded on a deserted island with either their spouse or their pet, over 60% said they would prefer their dog or cat for companionship!