When a pet bird lives in an artificially created environment such as a bird cage, it often lacks the features of a natural habitat. These differences may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can pose serious negative consequences for your bird. To cut straight to the best vitamins we recommend click here, otherwise continue reading below to learn more.
What Causes Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies?
Like all animal species, a small percentage of birds may have a metabolism that inhibits nutrient absorption and leads to health issues. While this can be an issue with individual birds, the most common cause of vitamin and mineral deficiencies is an inappropriate diet. Feeding your bird a diet consisting primarily of seeds will eventually have a detrimental impact on your pet. To see a full list of foods that you can feed your parrot, check out our guide to what parrots eat.
The best base food for your pet bird consists of fortified bird pellets. These are designed to provide all the essential vitamins and nutrients they require. When supplemented with some fresh fruits and vegetables, this will serve you well in keeping your birds in good health. Margaret A. Wissman, DVM provides a very good overview of the nutritional needs of pet birds and her advice should be considered when planning your bird’s diet.
Which Deficiencies are Most Common?
In the Merck Veterinary Manual, Sharman M. Hoppes, DVM gives an excellent synopsis of the potential nutritional diseases faced by pet birds. Feeding your bird the wrong foods can lead to obesity as well as a number of ailments associated with lack of nutrients. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most prevalent problems seen in pet birds. Imbalances of calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D3 levels are also associated with bird illness and are attributed to insufficient diets.
What are the Signs of These Problems?
Vitamin A deficiency often causes respiratory problems in birds. The lack of vitamin A negatively affects the production of mucus leading to an increased risk of bacterial infection. Left untreated, this will lead to the bird’s early death.
According to PetMD.com, signs that your bird is suffering from this ailment begin with the appearance of white spots in the eyes, sinuses and in and around the mouth. Other signs include wheezing, sneezing, loss of appetite, swollen eyes, listlessness and dullness of feather colors.
Vitamin D3 is essential in enabling your bird’s metabolism to absorb enough calcium to remain healthy. Seed-based diets are low in calcium and high in phosphorus. Combined with the fact that many pet birds do not receive adequate natural D3 through exposure to the sun or artificial lights, problems associated with calcium deficiency are intensified (although full spectrum lighting can help to remedy this issue).
Lack of adequate calcium in the diet can lead to curvature and deformation of long bones and vertebrae. Young African grey parrots are particularly prone to this condition. Other signs include weakness, tremors, seizures, and depression. Low calcium levels can also lead to bone fractures, excessive aggression and a general sense of nervousness and fearfulness in your pets.
Reproducing birds with calcium deficiency will often produce thin-shelled eggs that have a decreased chance of survival. In some cases, the deficiency can lead to potentially fatal egg binding in the hen or an end to egg laying altogether. Insufficient calcium can also lead to bone fractures. It is therefore critical to ensure that your breeding birds maintain proper calcium and vitamin D3 levels.
Calcium and vitamin A deficiency may also manifest itself in dry, itchy skin which can lead to behavioral problems, primarily feather plucking.
Why Would I Need Bird Vitamins?
Though the underlying reason for your pet bird’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies are related to its diet, in some cases it can be extremely hard to make a change. When taking ownership of a mature bird that has been fed seeds its whole life, you may be challenged in getting it to accept pelleted food. Your bird may also be genetically predisposed to having absorption problems that diet alone cannot address.
There are bird vitamins and supplements available that can help you get past these hurdles. You should continue to strive toward creating the properly balanced diet for your avian charges, but the use of commercially available products can make a huge difference in your bird’s health.
What Bird Vitamins and Supplements are Available?
Calcium is readily available in your local pet store in the form of cuttlebones and mineral blocks. These can be used to introduce some calcium into your bird’s diet. Many smaller birds love to chew on the cuttlebone, but unfortunately, the form of calcium available in it is not easily absorbed by the body.
With breeding birds, you should go further if lack of calcium is suspected. There are many calcium-rich supplements available and most come in a powdered or granular form which can be problematic in administering to your bird. Below is a video showing the benefits of bird supplements such as Prime, which is especially important in birds that primarily eat seed based diets:
Many varieties of vitamin supplements are available from most major pet bird suppliers in liquid and powder forms. They are designed to be mixed with the bird’s water or mixed with soft foods. Multivitamins can be used to combat lack of both vitamin A and D and often contain other trace elements beneficial to the bird’s health. Experimentation with the various products should eventually lead you to one that will work for your bird.
Best Bird Vitamins and Supplements
If you’re looking to improve the health of your bird then we recommend some of the following vitamins and food supplements:
Living World Prime Powder – which provides a vitamin in powdered and not pill food (useful if you’re having problems getting your bird to eat pill or pellet based vitamins).
Cuttlebone – which is a natural food supplement that increases calcium.
Fortified Food Pellets – strengthened bird feed that provides extra sources of vitamins.
Nekton-S Multi-vitamin – the world’s most popular bird supplement.
Cautions When Using Bird Vitamins or Supplements
Care needs to be taken when treating your bird with vitamin D3. Vitamin D toxicosis can result from excessive oral D3 and can cause dangerous calcium accumulation in the kidneys. Macaws are very susceptible to this problem.
Another issue you may encounter when using liquid supplements in the bird’s water is that they may not like the taste and this can cause a decrease in drinking and lead to dehydration. You may need to experiment with different supplements to find the one that works best for your bird. Keep trying until you find the right one as it can be critical to your companion’s survival.
As a reminder, the best bird vitamins and supplements are: