Why Your Parrot Needs Vitamin D
In order to stay healthy for the rest of its life, your bird will need to have a nutritionally balanced diet. One particular nutrient that is very beneficial for birds and should be included in a parrot’s balanced diet is vitamin D3. In its bird Vitamin D3 form, Vitamin D is called cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is produced only in your bird’s body as a result of reaction between sunlight and Vitamin D precursors in your bird’s diet.
Birds need Vitamin D so that calcium can be absorbed by their intestines. This is how important blood calcium levels are regulated for their bones to be produced and remodeled. Vitamin D3 is also necessary to regulate the absorption and excretion of phosphorus. This is particularly important if your bird’s diet does not contain balanced levels or ratios of calcium and phosphorus. The amount of alkaline phosphatase in your bird’s blood is also be regulated by D3, and it may also contribute to cell differentiation and regulating your bird’s immune system.
Bird Vitamin D3 is one of the two main forms of Vitamin D. The other form is Vitamin D2, which comes primarily from plants. It is true that birds are capable of synthesizing their own Vitamin D from lipids in their diet, as long as their skin is exposed to the sun’s UV rays. The Vitamin D precursors in your bird’s skin are converted to Vitamin D when your bird is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, the UV rays of the sun are filtered out by glass windows. For your bird, plant sources are not an ideal source of Vitamin D since D3 tends to be 30 to 40 times more potent than Vitamin D2. According to studies, chicks exposed to sunlight for 11 to 45 minutes every day can grow up naturally and stay healthy. Vitamin D3 formed in your bird’s skin serves as a hormone that metabolizes both calcium and phosphorus.
If you have a parrot-like bird, then for each pound of dry pelleted diet that your bird eats, approximately 600 IU of Vitamin D3 should be enough. However, when if your bird is growing and/or is laying eggs, higher amounts of both calcium and vitamin D3 are recommended. Most bird species are not able to utilize Vitamin D2. For humans, 400 IU is the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin D. Usually, similar or higher amounts of Vitamin D3 are present in most commercial pelleted avian diets available today. Vitamin D, particularly D2, happens to be a fat-soluble vitamin, so you cannot add it to your bird’s water effectively since it will get stored in the body’s fat. Your bird can only Vitamin D3 can be absorb and synthesize by birds.
If your bird is not getting enough Vitamin D3, it can lead to low calcium levels. If calcium levels in your bird’s body are low, it may experience symptoms such as bone fractures, reduced laying of eggs and hatching, seizures, soft or thin egg shells. Low calcium levels may also affect your birds anxiety levels. If your bird’s kidneys and liver ever get affected by diseases, it will not able to produce enzymes that are required to convert Vitamin D into Vitamin D3. In times like these, it will be beneficial to give your bird a Vitamin D3 supplement.
At the same time, your bird may also suffer from calcification, gout and nephrosis if you give it excessive Vitamin D, which is referred to as hypervitaminosis D3. According to several studies, young macaws, particularly the blue-and-yellow and the hyacinth, can suffer from crop stasis, gout and other symptoms as a result of too much Vitamin D3. According to other studies, cockatiels also happen to be sensitive to high levels of Vitamin D3. However, certain species of birds do not experience any symptoms even when given similar diets with high Vitamin D3 levels.
If Bird Vitamin D3 levels are 4 to 10 times higher than the recommended allowance, it can lead to effects like decreased PTH, increased bone and calcium absorption, hypercalcemia, nephrocalcinosis, polyuria, and soft tissue mineralization.
So, even though Vitamin D3 is crucial for your bird, make sure you do not go overboard with supplements since high levels of Vitamin D3 can also prove to be toxic. Since both loss little and too much Vitamin D3 will be bad for your bird, you should provide your bird with a complete pelleted, nutritionally balanced diet from a name-brand. Many are available these days. If you have a parrot-like bird, it should be able to synthesize its own bird Vitamin D3, as long as its diet included plants lipids and they receive enough natural sunlight.
Consult with your avian veterinarian to determine if your bird needs a good Calcium + bird vitamin D3 supplement.