Bird Nutrition – Do You Want a Happy and Healthy Bird?

If your answer is yes, here is some advice from one of the most experienced exotic veterinarians in the area:

1. FOOD- Nutrients are simply materials that nourish the body and essential nutrients must be supplied in order for the body to carry out normal everyday functions. Nutritional requirements are based on a set of interactions between many variables such as species, physiological state, gender, other nutrients in the diet and the surrounding environment. Nutrients are divided into four basic groups.

a. Protein: Protein is made up of a chain of amino acids. The chain contains up to twenty-two different amino acids and out of those, the body cannot manufacture ten so they must be routinely provided by an outside source, the food. Not all food contains every amino acid needed; therefore, it is preferable to choose a diet that compliments your birds’ protein requirement. It is hard to count on any one commercial diet to give your bird the nutrients they need. Many brands claim they are nutritionally complete but this may not be the case. Out of 11 manufactured diets analyzed, many nutrient deficiencies and excesses were evident. Birds require different amounts of protein in different physiological states such as growth, molting, reproduction, stress, illness, and adult life.

b. Fat: Fat is essential in the diets of birds. The requirements are small so deficiency is unlikely in a practical diet. The addition of fat to a birds diet is common and it affects the palatability, texture and the birds’ intake of the diet.

c. Vitamins: Vitamins are organic nutrients that have either a cofactor or hormonal function in the body. All birds require vitamins for day-to-day functions. The most well understood function of vitamin A is its role in vision but in avian medicine it is the effect on the growth and differentiation of the epithelial tissues. A deficiency will result in a hardening of the tissues and the beak. It is this function that is obligatory for normal disease resistance because it is required for the maintenance of the mucous membranes and the secratory tissues.

d. Minerals: Minerals in feed formulation must be carefully regulated and evaluated for possible interactions with other nutrients and also to avoid toxic levels.

2. SANITATION- Birds need clean, humid and warm environments. The cage, water bottle or bowl, and feeder should be cleaned daily, washed and dried thoroughly as needed.

3. ENVIRONMENT- Mental stimulation is critical to a bird’s psychological health. One should choose a large cage, preferably wide in dimension. Keep the birdcage in the liveliest room in the house to keep them entertained.

4. PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE- Birds, like any other pet, need annual checkups. Birds can have infections for a long time before showing any signs or symptoms. An avian vet will be able to diagnose and treat the problem before it progresses into something more serious and possibly life threatening. If you are thinking of buying a new bird or have bought one, find an avian veterinary doctor to check the birds’ health and to check for psittacosis (parrot fever) before taking the bird home.

For more information, contact All Pets Veterinary Hospital (Avian Medical Center) at 703-478-0233

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