The majority of companion parrots that we see on a day to day basis are being fed an inappropriate diet of just seed. Unfortunately, an all-seed diet is still marketed as a nutritionally complete diet for all captive psittacines, especially in the large pet stores and supermarkets, and we now know that a formulated pelleted diet provides a much more balanced diet. Combined with a good selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, a combination pelleted and fresh food diet reduces the chances of illness in the future, as well as minimizing the risk of diet-related illnesses such as vitamin A deficiency.
Seeds are a particularly palatable food item due to the high levels of fat that they contain, and many birds will preferentially eat seeds if they are offered both seed and pellets. Because of this, it is important to manage the client’s expectations when switching their bird over to a healthy diet, and many birds will take about 6 months to adjust.
Despite the difficulties of switching a bird over to a good diet, the benefits make it well worth it. Many birds that eat a diet high in seeds are prone to diseases that result from an imbalanced diet, such as hepatic dysfunction, cardiac disease, poor feathering, and lipomas. Lipomas can be a difficult issue to handle, as many birds will not be in the best of health for surgical removal. Lipomas can also become very large, producing a large skin defect that will be difficult to close, as avian skin does not handle high-tension closures well. Many of these birds will have to undergo diet changes and weight loss before surgical removal, which can be frustrating for owners. The lipoma will also have to be monitored, as some large ones can be traumatized, causing ulcerations that can lead to infection. However, reducing the size of the mass and improving the organ function of the patient does lead to better post-surgical outcomes, and in cases where the mass is large but not otherwise traumatized, the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
For more information on converting your bird to a healthier diet and lifestyle please contact us.