by Shelly Lane
Quaker Parrots seem to be somewhat prone to obesity, fatty liver disease (FLD) and other liver problems. The following is the story of one of my own birds and what I’m doing that seems to be helping. As with any other health issue, you should take your bird to a good avian vet if you suspect it has fatty liver disease.
Back in May of 2004, we had quite a scare with River, one of our Quaker Parrots. He was about 7 years old at the time. Looking back, his beak was slightly overgrown for a while leading up to this crisis, but apparently not enough that I thought it might be a problem. Another thing I observed is that he would sometimes have what appeared to be a bruise on his beak, and he would also have sores on his feet from time to time. I found out later that these are classic symptoms of liver disease.
I think one of the reasons I wasn’t concerned is that I’ve had River since he was 3 months old or so and had always fed him a good diet of pellets along with a small amount of fruits and veggies. In fact, for the 3 or 4 years prior, I had been feeding my birds low-fat pellets. Most if not all of the birds with fatty liver disease that I had heard of had been on seed diets. So unfortunately, I just never put these symptoms together.
Then in May of 2004, River’s blood stopped clotting like it should. This caused blood to accumulate under his beak and come up out of his nares. Yes, he was literally bleeding to death from his nostrils. I rushed him to the vet. A physical exam performed by my excellent avian vet showed signs of Fatty Liver Disease except that River is not overweight, has always been on a great diet and does not have fatty tumors.
Blood tests showed slightly elevated glucose and dangerously high cholesterol and uric acid. There was so much fat in the blood that the lab couldn’t run all of the tests that my vet ordered. In fact, the vet pointed the fat out to me after taking the sample – it didn’t look like normal blood at all. How could a bird on low-fat pellets have so much fat in its blood??? It just didn’t make sense.
I’ll never forget the phone call from my vet to notify me of the test results when near the end of the call my vet stated, “it’s hard to understand how the bird is still alive when there is so much going wrong in the body.” I thought my heart would break.
My vet told me he would research possible drug therapies. The truth was that he wasn’t sure what to do with River. He is a vet that treats only avians. In his practice, he sees bird after bird all day long, but he had never seen this problem before.
I decided not to wait. I got on the internet and found a web page that really helped on Land of Vos. As a result of finding this information, I began giving River a small amount of Aloe Detox every day and continued this for 2 months.
But what to do about his diet? Obviously the traditional diet of pellets wasn’t working for him. In fact, I would go as far to say that the pelleted food was a major part of the problem since it was his primary diet. I remember wondering at the time if his body wasn’t able to metabolize the fat in the processed food he was receiving, which led me to the thought that a more natural diet might be the way to go.
What I decided to do is remove the pellets from his diet entirely and feed him a 100% sprouts diet. I chose to use sprouts from China Prairie because they have developed a system for feeding sprouts to parrots, and it includes everything a person needs for sprouting seeds (including instructions, which I needed!)
Nearly two and a half years later, River’s beak is still a little overgrown. However, I have not noticed any bruising on his beak since the change in his diet. The sores on his feet have healed and never come back. Most importantly, he is ALIVE.
The only thing I have not done but should do is take him back to the vet to have the blood tests run again. His last visit was so traumatic for both of us that I keep putting it off. He lost so much blood when the vet did the blood draw for the tests due to his blood not clotting properly (plus what he had already lost from his nares). I think he’s in much better shape now, but I can’t help but be a little apprehensive about it. One of these days… For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that my sweet little River is still with us.
In case you’re wondering, I now feed all of my Quaker Parrots fresh sprouts daily. I start a new batch every day. All seven of our Quaker Parrots love eating the sprouts. For River and his mate Raine, I feed fresh sprouts and nothing else (due to River’s issues). My other birds receive around 80% pellets and 20% sprouts. I still feel that pellets are an excellent diet for most pet birds, but obviously for River this is not the case for some unknown reason.