Obesity in pet birds
The phrase "fat and healthy" is commonly used to describe "well-fed" pet birds. But in fact, no two terms could be more contradictory. Not only is obesity in pet birds unhealthy – it's often life threatening.
It's important to understand that obesity in pet birds is not just an aesthetic problem. In birds, the liver is a primary site of excess fat deposition. As an increasing amount of fat is stored there, functional hepatocytes (liver cells) are lost. The medical term for this condition is hepatic lipidosis, and a point may be reached at which there is not enough functional liver left to support life.
Hepatic lipidosis has long been blamed on seed-only diets when in fact there are probably a variety of causes. High simple carbohydrate content such as that found in fruit and starches accelerate the harm caused by a high fat diet. Inactivity, too, allows fat to accumulate. Certain species such as blue-front Amazons and rose-breasted cockatoos appear to be much more prone to obesity than most others.
Improving Body Condition
When attempting to improve the body condition of your overweight bird, keep these things in mind:
- First and foremost, be sure there is no underlying illness. A bird already suffering from hepatic lipidosis is much less capable of being forced onto an aggressive weight reduction diet.
- Avoid all simple carbohydrates. Fruit, white rice, white bread, pasta, etc. should be strictly avoided.
- Increase the fiber content of the diet. Leafy greens are a good source of fiber and a great source of vitamins.
- If nuts are utilized, avoid peanuts as well as sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. Almonds, macadamia nuts, and pine nuts are less fattening and more nutritious.
- Any exercise is better than no exercise. Flying is the best exercise for a bird, but if flying isn't an option, encourage walking and climbing. The bird can also be forced to exercise his wings by holding him and raising and lowering the hand he's perched on.
- Use one of the specially formulated pelleted diets. Pretty Bird, Exact, Harrison's and others offer diets ideal for overweight birds.
Few animals are as severely affected as birds by obesity. Keeping your pet bird from becoming overweight should be one of your primary objectives.