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Metabolic Bone Disease in Ducks, Parrots, and Other Pet Birds

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Metabolic bone disease

A bird’s health can affect feather quality and growth.

Metabolic bone disease in birds, also called rickets or soft bone disease, is a common health condition, yet it is 100% preventable with good diet and care. A pet bird, such as a duck, finch, parakeet, macaw or cockatoo, fed a poor diet that does not meet its nutritional needs is the leading cause of metabolic bone disease (MBD). Unfortunately, due to many pet birds being fed an unhealthy diet, MBD is also a common pet bird disease. Poor nutrition causes an imbalance in the calcium to phosphorus ratio and a deficiency in vitamin D. All of this results in the body pulling calcium out of the bird’s bones and other organs to support other basic body functions. If your bird has symptoms of MBD and has a history of eating an unhealthy diet, then seek avian veterinary care immediately.

Metabolic Bone Disease Symptoms

Common symptoms of MBD in birds include easily broken bones and visible swelling around the bones. Birds may also be lethargic or have behavior problems such as screaming, biting, and feather plucking. Advanced cases can result in seizures and death.

medtabolic bone disease avian

Feeding a healthy diet to birds will prevent MBD. Harrison’s Bird Foods is a healthy daily diet for parrots.

Best Prevention and Treatment: Provide a Healthy Bird Diet

The diet of the bird must be addressed immediately. Every species of bird has different nutritional needs. The bird should be a fed a diet that is appropriate and nutritious for the species of bird. Most often pet parrots with MBD have been fed a seed based diet. Your avian veterinarian will advise you on changing your bird’s diet so that he receives all the nutrition he needs. You should also further research bird diets to understand the specific nutritional needs of your bird.

For example, large parrots such as macaws and amazons do best with a rounded diet that includes parrot pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Harrison’s and Roudybush are two pellets that veterinarians recommend most.

Provide Natural UV Light

UV light found in natural sunlight is needed to help the body utilize vitamin D. Exposing a bird to UV light helps reverse MBD. Several artificial UV lights are readily available and marketed for birds. However, the research is sketchy as to how effective these lights are for birds. The best source of UV light is natural sunlight. Spending just 15 minutes a day outside will improve any bird’s health. And no, the cold, rain, or clouds will not suddenly cause your bird to keel over. That is a myth that they must be kept warm at all times. Healthy birds can live outside year round even in northern states.

Prescription Bird Supplements

Your veterinarian may advise that birds diagnosed with MBD be given regular supplements of calcium and vitamin D for a period of several weeks. Liquid neo-calglucon or calcitonin can be used for the calcium supplement and vitamin D is often given as an injection.

Supportive Care in Metabolic Bone Disease Treatment

Birds need to be confined until their bones are stronger to prevent fractures. In serious cases, the bird may also need to be given fluids and a heated area to maintain proper body temperature. In these more serious cases, hospitalization may be required.

Pet birds do not have to suffer from MBD. Giving your pet bird healthy foods every day and regular time outdoors prevents this disease completely. It is also important to know that MBD is reversible. Getting your bird treatment with an avian veterinarian and making changes to his care can cure many birds of MBD, allowing them to live a long and healthy life.

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