Fatty Liver Disease in Birds

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Fatty liver disease often referred to FLD that is found in birds is an illness that causes excessive amounts of fat to be deposited into the liver. It is most prevalent in Quaker Parrots, Cockatoos, Cockatiels, Budgies and Amazon Parrots. Unfortunately, this disease happens to be quite serious and could be fatal if the bird is not diagnosed and treated very early on. This disease is quite common among pet birds that have been fed the wrong diet throughout their lifespan.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease

Most of the time birds with FLD will be overweight and have a liver which is enlarged due to the extra deposits of fat. Birds with this disease commonly lose their appetite and develop general lethargy. Many times they even appear to be depressed. As a result of the enlarged liver many of the birds sick with this disease will seem to have labored breathing. This is usually because there is a distended abdomen. The bird’s feces will appear to be a greenish color and his feather quality may be a bit poor as well. If there is a major decrease in the function of the liver then there may also be a series of other issues of the central nervous system such as loss of balance, seizures or muscle tremors. Budgies in particular that are suffering from FLD might have soft and overgrown beaks. Sadly, many of the birds that have this disease do not show the first sign before suddenly dropping dead in their cages.

Is Fatty Liver Disease Preventable?

The first thing you want to remember when dealing with your pet bird is that diet means everything. You do not want to allow your bird to get overweight. This of course means feeding your bird only the highest quality foods such as AvianMaintenance, FruitBlend or Zupreem. If you have noticed that your bird is already on the verge of being overweight then you might want to lean toward using something that is a bit lower in fat content such as Roudybush low fat diets. This may help get your bird back on the right track as far as his weight goes. You must also keep in mind that birds need fresh fruits and vegetables and that at least one tenth of everything he eats should be given in the form of extra treats that are healthy. Use a clear water dish so that you can always see the quality of the water you are feeding your bird as well as how much he is actually drinking. It is imperative that he have fresh clean water all of the time and plenty of it. Avoid any human snacks or treats as these are terrible for your bird anyway.

What Does Treatment Involve?

The first step in treating a bird that has FLD is getting him on a low fat diet immediately. This diet must consist of a high quality pellet, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. Sometimes intubations for feeding will become necessary if your bird refuses to eat which will often be the case with fatty liver disease, at least at the start of treatment. In most cases you will also need to provide care such as extra heat (a heating pad under the cage works well) and fluids. There are some medicines like Lactulose that can be administered to your bird to prevent or even treat any of the symptoms associated with the central nervous system. In addition, part of a good treatment protocol for birds that are suffering from FLD will be an adequate amount of activity and exercise. Many birds become overweight because they are either bored and eat as a result of a lack of anything better to do or because they are confined in too small an area to get enough physical exercise. It is important that your bird be stimulated.

Birds More Prone to Fatty Liver Disease

Young birds that have been hand fed for a longer period than necessary seem to have a much higher incidence of fatty liver disease. This is because the formulas that are fed to baby birds are quite high in calories and fat. Because baby birds do not exercise much the excessive calories are stored as fat. Cockatoos in particular seem to be among the highest group of hand fed birds that are diagnosed with fatty liver disease. This is more than likely because they often continue to beg long after they are full. In addition, female birds make up a larger percentage of the birds diagnosed with fatty liver disease and many doctors believe this has something to do with hormones found in female birds surrounding reproduction.

Fatty liver disease is manageable if caught early enough. The most important thing for pet bird owners to remember is that keeping their birds in great shape physically and making sure that they do not become overweight is a huge step in making sure they do not get fatty liver disease. It is also important to keep track of and pay extra attention to your bird to be sure that you do not miss any of the important signs of FDL. By missing something you could be missing the small window of opportunity to help your bird recover from fatty liver disease.

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Anthony Jorgensen

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