Pet Health Tip: The potential problem with feeding seed to your bird.

Recently we've had to take both our lovebirds to the Links Road Animal Clinic due to minor illnesses. Gazpacho, our Fischer's Lovebird (on the right in the picture above) was a bit lethargic and was found to have had a minor infection. So we were given antibiotics to be added to her drinking water and sent on our way. Thankfully she has recovered well from her treatment and is back to being her boisterous self :)

Hooligan, her "mate", had a separate issue at a later time where she had an egg stuck in her. She has been laying eggs constantly since we've had her, which has been about three years or so. This one egg caused her to struggle with pooping as it was partially blocking the path. She strained constantly while trying to push the egg out or to poop a bit.

We gave her a couple of days with extra heating and humidity in the form of a heat lamp on her cage and putting her in a steamed up bathroom for short periods to see if she could get the egg out on her own. When she couldn't it was time to visit the vet again. Dr. Evan Mavromatis - the same doctor who checked Gazpacho - wasn't too worried. He said Hooligan's alert behaviour was a good sign that she would probably be fine. He also said that she may be lacking the calcium needed to help her muscles contract and push the egg out. This made sense since she was probably depleted from laying all those eggs. So Hooligan was given a calcium shot and some fluids and sent home with some calcium powder to be added to her drinking water. She still struggled with the egg for another day or so, but finally out it came one night! What a relief- for both her and us! The egg was soft and broke when it fell to the bottom of the cage. I'm guessing the softness of the egg shell made it much harder for Hooligan's muscles to grab the egg in order to push it. It probably was flexing, which made it very hard to get a hold of. Thankfully, Hooligan is fine now and she is resting up. Dr. Evan mentioned to consider putting her on a hormone therapy in order to stop her from further laying more eggs. I am considering it, but she seems to be chilling out now so I will let her be. She is still getting calcium in her water just to ensure her body is replenished.

Now, what does all this have to do with a seed diet? Dr. Evan mentioned on both occasions that a seed diet - which both Gazpacho and Hooligan receive - is usually lacking in the minerals and vitamins pet birds need for optimal health. An inadequate diet can lead to all sorts of health issues, including the egg issue and infection Hooligan and Gazpacho experienced. He said even the fortified seeds sold in most pet stores can be inadequate because the vitamins and minerals are usually applied to the hull of the seed, which is the part birds don't eat! So the vitamins and minerals fall to the bottom of the cage with the rest of the seed waste. So, what was his solution? He encouraged us to get all our birds eating a pelleted diet, which ensures they receive their vitamins and minerals. It's a tough task when birds have become addicted to seed like ours have. However, I have started adding vitamin and mineral powder to their drinking water on a daily basis in order to compensate. It's been ok so far and I will update how things go taking this route. 

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