Parrots and Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency, hypovitaminosis A, is one among the most common and preventable diseases that affect your pet birds, but it frequently goes unrecognized. Generally, birds on all-seed diets will most likely suffer from vitamin A deficiency and disease, as most of the seeds, such as sunflower seeds, grains and peanuts do not contain this vitamin. Because of their selective feeding habits, vitamin A deficiency is a self-inflicted disease caused by their inadequate diet. Vitamin A is found in many fruits and vegetables, and feeding your bird with a diet rich in these will help prevent vitamin A deficiency.
This deficiency may weaken a bird and make it more susceptible to bacterial, fungal and viral infections. The cells lining the respiratory tract, reproductive organs and digestive tract undergo structural change, disabling them to secrete mucus. If left untreated, the secondary conditions may further lead to the demise of the bird. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, and an antioxidant that helps in the growth and repair of tissues. It is also essential for the proper functioning of the bird’s eyes, skin, bones, mucus membranes and hearing.
Signs & Symptoms
Common vitamin A deficiency symptoms depend on the organ system that is affected and the microorganisms that penetrate the barrier.
* White plaques or patches inside your bird's mouth and on the tongue base. When the white plaques become infected they progress to swell and form large, obvious abscesses. It becomes very painful and the bird ceases to eat.
· The abscesses distort the glottis, windpipe, and this may cause labored breathing, eventually leading to mechanical suffocation.
· Excessive oral mucus caused by changes in the salivary and tear glands.
· Blunting or absence of the choanal papilla is common.
· Blocking of choana, which leads to labored or open-mouth breathing, profuse nasal discharge, sneezing, wheezing and severe swelling of the eyes.
· Foul smelling breath.
· Fading of the pigmentation of the bird’s skin and feathers.
· Tail bobbing.
· Lack of appetite and failure of young birds to gain weight.
· Low hatchability rates.
· High hatching mortality.
· If secondary infections have developed, you can see pustules or abscesses in the oral cavity, crop, or respiratory tract.
Most of these signs imply that your bird is very sick and needs immediate attention. All these signs do not develop suddenly, but they happen over the course of several weeks or months.
Vitamin A Deficiency And Disease
Vitamin A helps to maintain the mucous membranes and other epithelial surfaces, and when there is vitamin A deficiency, your pet birds may suffer from decreased resistance of these tissues to disease-producing organisms. Mucous is a protective layer that prevents the invasion of disease causing pathogens, but when there is vitamin A deficiency, mucous is diminished allowing bacteria and some microorganisms into the mucous membrane and they readily set up residence within these tissues. They multiply within your bird’s highly sensitive organ systems. As a result, the bird may experience severe respiratory and sinus infections, and structural change in the digestive and reproductive tract tissues.
When the swelling and obstruction of the choanae becomes severe, the birds will not be able to swallow and this may cause malnutrition. The microorganisms will also start to spread throughout the birds’ body and weaken the immune system and damage major organs. A deficiency of vitamin A may also cause hyperkeratosis, thickening of the skin with excessive scaliness and flakiness of the feet. In severe cases of deficiency, there may be changes in the kidney, which can lead to gout, indicative of kidney failure.
Few birds may die as a result of deficiency of vitamin A, but they usually die due to secondary infections that are common to birds suffering from weakened resistance and inability of their body to undergo normal cellular regeneration. These secondary infections will further cause damage to the organs, which will lead to the eventual death of the bird.
Your vet may perform some tests to help determine which organs infected and the type of bacteria or fungi present. Your bird may be hospitalized for nebulization and tube feeding. Once its condition becomes stable, surgical lancing of the abscesses are performed. Although the recovery period may be quite long, the prognosis is favorable.
How To Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency
The best and safest way to ensure that your pet bird does not suffer from vitamin A deficiency and disease is to provide it with fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin A.
* Although some species have specific nutritional needs, all birds should be provided with foods that are rich in vitamin A, such as red or orange vegetables and fruits like carrots, red peppers, mango, squash, papaya, parsley, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, etc., and dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, collard greens turnip greens, etc.
* Birds that prefer seeds should be given a commercial vitamin supplement, sprinkled on their food or in water. AviVita Plus is a daily multivitamin, mineral and amino acid supplement for pet birds, and it helps to maintain the overall health of your pet birds. Aviglo Red Palm Oil is a rich source of vitamin A, carotenes and antioxidants. Sunshine Factor is a natural, whole food vitamin supplement for your pet birds. These natural vitamin precursors are more beneficial to the bird’s health and have fewer side effects when compared with synthetic sources.
* In addition, you can also give them beta-carotene supplementation, which is readily converted by birds to the active form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene are much less likely to cause the toxicity that can occur with excessive vitamin A consumption.
In some clinical cases, your vet may opt for an injectable vitamin A to speed recovery. You can also periodically supplement your pet’s diet by adding a few drops of vitamin to the bird’s diet from a punctured vitamin A gel capsule. Some breeders add a teaspoon of cod liver oil to a pound of bird seed, as vitamin A improves reproductive results. However, it is not recommended to use cod liver oil as a supplement because it can become rancid and promote the destruction of vitamin E. Other forms of vitamin A supplementation are effective in increasing the bird’s resistance to disease and help to yield better reproductive results.
However, excessive vitamin A supplementation can cause serious side effects like reproductive failure, bone abnormalities and liver disease. Some birds, particularly Lories and lorikeets, may need less amount of vitamin A in their diet, as excessive amounts of vitamin A may cause iron storage disease of the liver.
In conclusion, birds are generally resistant to many diseases, but once their system becomes compromised due to vitamin A deficiency, treatment and cure need veterinary intervention. Ensure your bird’s safety against vitamin A deficiency and disease by feeding it with food rich in vitamin A and a daily use of a good quality vitamin A supplement will also help to prevent your birds from getting afflicted.
- Diane Burroughs