Obesity is an issue for people, but it is also a growing issue for their pets, including pet birds. Pet birds can be subjected to developing several different health issues when becoming overweight. Certain birds, such as budgies and cockatiels, are prone to becoming obese. Bird owners should be aware of what could occur should their bird become overweight as well as what they can do to help their bird regain his health.
How Can a Bird Become Overweight?
Unfortunately, obesity in birds is becoming more common for a plethora of reasons. First, birds who are kept as pets spend a good portion-if not all-of their lives in a cage. Cages prohibit regular exercise that a bird would normally get when eating, whether it be chasing a bug or flying to a bird feeder or other source of food.
Furthermore, their diet can also contribute to obesity. Pet birds are fed seeds or other processed bird treats that are high in fat and calories, when normally in the wild these items would be scarce. This includes items such as peanuts, sunflower seeds and fruits, all of which can add up quickly, especially in a small animal such as a bird.
Health Issues for Overweight Birds
There are a large number of potential health issues that can affect an avian companion.
Aside from exercise intolerance, the bird will have severe difficulty with breathing due to excess levels of fat within the body. When excess fat is present, it pushes on the air sacs inside the bird’s body, resulting in issues with breathing, which can eventually result in death.
Furthermore, benign fatty tumors, or lipomas, can develop in or on the abdominal cavity of the overweight bird.
In some birds, hepatic lipidosis can occur. Hepatic lipidosis is a disease in which fat accumulates in the bird’s liver, resulting in decreased function of the liver. This can result in issues such as loss of appetite, overgrown beaks, bleeding issues and overgrown toenails.
As expected, obesity will also significantly shorten a bird’s life span.
How Can I Help My Overweight Bird?
It’s important to have your overweight bird examined by a veterinarian prior to starting any changes in diet or an exercise program. Your veterinarian will be able to best recommend where to start when starting a weight loss program for your specific species of bird.
You may find that simply changing your bird’s diet will help significantly. A bird’s diet should be a combination of proper nutrition through pellets and vegetables. Seeds and fruits should be treats rather than the entire diet. Your veterinarian may recommend the use of foraging toys, which encourage your bird to work to get his food, giving him additional exercise.
A larger cage along with toys or a play gym can also help encourage your bird to exercise more.
Cockatiels.org: Avian Obesity
Bird Channel: Bird Obesity Facts