If you have a bird as a pet, you’re already acutely aware of their special needs when it comes to diet and exercise. In that respect, they are no different than us humans or other pets.
Parrots need fresh, healthy food not only for nourishment, but as an enrichment toy. We've all seen our parrots play with their food.
One thing that you might not know about parrots is that their hearts are uniquely different than that of mammals; for one thing, they are larger, considering a parrots relative size. Their heart beats fast and their blood pressure is higher.
Extremely athletic, all birds have an excellent blood supply to their heart muscle and if these animals are kept in really good condition, that muscle will serve them well and that’s essential, considering their longevity.
Wild parrots get more exercise because they need to forage for food. All of that exercise is heart healthy. But, in captivity, parrots can't get exercise that their wild cousins get. That is why captive pet birds develop heard disease, usually atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque inside the blood vessel. African Grey Parrots are prone to this disease, but many captive parrots that are fed a higher fat bird food and don't get adequate exercise experience heart disease. Captive parrots tend to be overweight, too. Lack of exercise, poor diet and obesity put our birds at risk for heart disease.
Just like humans, older birds are prone to developing heart disease. The captive lifestyle, though puts young birds at risk, too. Heart diseas is life threatening no matter the age or species. Just as in humans, an inefficient heart can’t pump blood to other vital organs like the kidneys and liver very well, leading to more problems.
The best ways to stave off avian heart disease are a good bird food diet and exercise.
Flying is by far the best exercise for pet birds. The Aviator Bird Harness and optional Flight Line allow you to safely exercise your parrot with flight. Also, allowing your parrot to climb up and down bird cages and bird ladders, bird stands or even roam about a large aviary will encourage exercise.
To learn more, click here to read a more in-depth article on bird heart health by Margaret A. Wissman, DVM.