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3 Health & Behavioral Issues You Should Know About that Affect Companion Birds

If you've recently acquired a feathered friend, you need to be aware of certain health and behavioral problems that plaque companion birds. Many species, ranging from the tiny parrotlet to the majestic macaw, may be subjected to conditions and behaviors that could be cause for concern. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid potential problems, and your avian veterinarian can advise you on how to do so. Meanwhile, be aware of the following potential threats to your bird's well-being.

1. Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is a common health issue plaguing many pet birds. Many pet owners new to bird care tend to feed a diet that is rich in seed and nuts. This results in a lack of vitamin A. Whether you own a parakeet or an African Grey, be aware that your pet's diet needs to include plenty of leafy greens in order to avoid this deficiency. Symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency may not be noticeable during the early stages. However, there are some signs to be on the lookout for, including:

  • dull looking feathers or poor plumage that is brittle
  • overgrown beak and nails
  • white spots or abscesses along the eyes
  • wheezing, sneezing and respiratory distress
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea

Any of these symptoms may be present in a number of other medical conditions, therefore it is best to have your avian vet make a final diagnosis. The vet may want to perform a blood test. If it's determined that your bird has a vitamin A deficiency, your vet may recommend adding fresh fruit such as cantaloupe to the bird's diet. Other good sources of vitamin A are fresh greens, collards, spinach, broccoli, egg yolks, and sweet potatoes are good sources of vitamin A. 

2. Feather Plucking

Feather plucking is a self-destructive behavioral issue that seems to be most prevalent among parrots such as the African Grey and cockatoo. When a bird plucks its feathers, complications such as bleeding or infection may occur. If you've noticed your pet is plucking its feathers, you need to determine the root cause. A thorough exam by your avian vet can rule out medical issues (such as a viral or fungal infection) that may be causing this issue.

Feather picking may stem from frustration or boredom. It may also be due to environmental factors, such as a cage that is too small, exposure to tobacco smoke, or other irritants to feathers and skin. Once you recognize why your bird is plucking its feathers, you should correct the problem. Don't smoke or use perfumes and air fresheners around your pet, house the bird in an appropriately sized cage, and provide stimulating toys and activities outside the cage to prevent boredom.

3. Obesity

Obesity is a common problem that avian vets see regularly. While some species such as Amazon parrots are prone to becoming overweight, any bird may become obese due to a poor diet. One way to avoid this is to cut back on sunflower seeds and nuts, both of which tend to be high in fat. Replacing an all-seed diet with a fortified pelleted diet is best for the overall health of your bird and for controlling its weight.

Another contributing factor of obesity in pet birds is lack of exercise. Many caged birds do not receive adequate time outside of the cage for play and exercise. If your bird's wings are not clipped, allow it to fly around the room under close supervision. If your bird's wings are clipped, you may still provide exercise with the use of bird ladders, ropes, swings, climbing perches and play gyms.

For more help or assistance, contact clinics like Grove Center Veterinary Hospital.