PORTLY PARROTS: FAT OR FIT?

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FAT BIRD DISEASE:

Fat Bird

More and more pet birds are being diagnosed upon necropsy with arteriosclerosis, fatty liver disease and other fat related deaths.


OBSERVATIONS:

Fat Bird

What determines obesity in birds? An outward observation such as a deep crease in the breast can be a sure sign of an oven-stuffer. There are exceptions to that rule, though, such as Amazons and Greater Sulphur (Galerita-Galerita) Cockatoos - birds who are naturally heavy breasted. Birds that squat on the perch with legs far apart ("squarrots") might look good to the neighborhood butcher. Another outward sign of internal corpulence can be muddy looking feathers or black oily scalloping on the feathers. Feel the chest of the bird. It should feel muscular and not mushy along the sides. If you cannot feel the keel bone at all, the bird is TOO fat! Panting and chest heaving after flight or exercise is another sign of an overweight parrot or one with some sort of disease or internal disorder. Overgrown beaks and nails are usually indicative of fatty liver disease. In the early stages this disease may be corrected by diet, milk thistle (upon the advice of your vet), and an extra enzyme vitamin. Fatty liver disease will also manifest in feather aberrations such as different color feathers in spots which some aviculturists mistakenly label "pied". The feathers will generally lose their luster and brightness and become dark, muddy, oily, or have black scalloping. In some cases, there are no outward indications of obesity, yet upon necropsy, fat has been found to have enveloped major organs such as the heart. Hence the need for a healthy diet, proper housing and exercise. If you suspect that your bird may be too fat, proper blood testing (CBC - complete blood panel) can easily be done by your vet to determine the overall entire health of your parrot.


MOST PRONE:

Fat Bird

Amazons do have a propensity for gaining weight as they get older - along with being inclined to developing fatty tumors. Fatty tumors are also commonly found in rose breasted cockatoos, parakeets and budgies as they age.


HOUSING:

Fat Bird

Consider first the housing of the bird. Unless you can afford the space and materials for a flight cage or aviary, be sure to accommodate your pet with as big a cage as possible even if you have to sacrifice style for space. You don't even have to be too handy to make a cage out of galvanized after welding (GAW) hardware cloth. It does need to be scrubbed down before using in order to get any little burrs of lead off the wire. Avoid round or dome top cages, as they are not designed for climbing around and hanging from the top. Some wrought iron cages with playpen tops also do not have top rods for hanging toys and "hanging out" and should be avoided. Be sure to supply your parrot with enough chewing material to keep them busy while you are away or are busy. Clean pine shims or untreated pine chunks are the most fun for them to chew. Braided rope toys and wrought iron and wooden ladders are great for climbing, a natural activity of the psittacine species who are endowed with strongly developed muscular legs. Rope, macramé, and rubber rings are fun for swinging so long as they are large enough for the bird not to get his head or body stuck in them.


EXERCISE:

Fat Bird

Plenty of exercise is vital to your parrot's heart and general health. Set aside some constructive playtime each day if you have a friendly handleable bird. If not, set aside some training time (no more than 5 to 15 minutes to start) with the parrot. Have a thick towel and net handy. Remember that even though birds usually have a high rate of metabolism, caged birds are for the most part sedentary with very limited flying or climbing activity and low caloric expenditure. They are also kept in temperatures warm enough and have excellent insulation capabilities, lessening the need for a constant intake of energy foods.


DIET:

Fat Bird

Proper diet is the essence of not only a physically fit bird, but also of healthy luminescent plumage. We're being too kind to our birds. I believe in variety in diet so long as it's healthy variety - not birdie breads, too much sugar or fructose, fatty table food such as eggs, bones (bone marrow contains way too much cholesterol), cheese, etc. A tiny bit of table food once in a while is okay. Just be discerning about the portions and the type of treat. The proper vitamin, mineral, amino acid combination produced specifically for exotic avian species is a must since they are not able to forage for what they need to attain their potentially lengthy existence. Parrots are fruit, vegetation and grain eaters in the wild and need minimal protein in their diets. I recommend a wide variety of seed, grain, fruits, veggies, table food, pellets and whole or halved nuts for good nutritional maintenance. See the diet page for more detailed information and produce suggestions. Keep peanuts to one or two a day. Most bird aficionados tend to overfeed due to the unfounded fear of their favored pet not getting enough caloric sustenance. If you follow a sensible diet regime to start out with, you won't have deprive your bird at a later date. If you find that you have a parrot that needs weight reduction, gradually cut back its portions. Offer more fruits and veggies in place of some of the seed and nuts. While potbelly pigs are all the rage, potbelly portly parrots are definitely out - so love your birds - don't let them dine like swine.


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