Calcium/Phosphorus/Vitamin D3

Many different diets for birds are deficient in the trace minerals and inorganic elements that they need. Diets that are high in seeds and grains, particularly oily ones, have a low calcium to phosphorus ratio and a calcium deficiency. This is especially true for oily seeds and grains. The oils included in these seeds have the potential to bind calcium in the intestine, where they can then create insoluble “soaps,” which hinder the calcium from being absorbed. Calcium and phosphorus shortages and imbalances are the most prevalent mineral diseases found in birds. This is likely caused by the high-grain diet that the majority of birds are fed.

Calcium is the most abundant form of the mineral found in both the human body and a whole egg. It is necessary for the body to consume it in greater quantities than any other mineral does. Calcium is essential for the mineralization of the skeleton, and if an insufficient amount of calcium and/or phosphorus is absorbed from the intestine, bone development in young birds will be abnormal, resulting in rickets; alternatively, the bones will be extremely fragile, making them more likely to break easily. Calcium is necessary for the contraction of muscles, the transmission of nerve impulses, and plays a significant role in a wide variety of metabolic activities that occur within the body.

Because the body’s metabolism of calcium is connected to that of phosphorus and vitamin D, having sufficient amounts of these nutrients is important for the body to make effective use of calcium. In the human body, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1, which maintains a state of homeostasis. Calcium to phosphorus should be present in the diet in a ratio of between 1:1 and 2:1, according to research. Because metabolic bone disease can be caused by an excessive amount of either calcium or phosphorus, supplementing needs to be approached with caution. Absorption of calcium from the intestines into the bloodstream requires the presence of vitamin D3, which is required for this process.

As was pointed out before, a poor diet that is high in fatty seeds and grains is a major cause of calcium deficiency in birds, which can lead to a variety of health issues. Many bird owners and breeders try to enhance their birds’ diets in an effort to combat this problem; however, they almost always do so incorrectly. Some people feed their birds ground-up calcium pills, but as you can probably deduce by now, this is an erroneous practice. If the bird does not receive the adequate amount of phosphorus, it may develop hypophosphatemia, also known as low blood phosphorus, and ultimately develop bone disease. Other issues can arise when calcium intake is excessive in the diet. Young birds that are still growing and are given foods high in calcium may have kidney difficulties, which can ultimately lead to kidney failure and mineralization/gout. A high calcium level that is not accompanied by an increase in manganese and zinc levels will interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain trace elements.

A deficiency in calcium will develop if the diet contains an excessive amount of phosphorus. In the colon, an excessive amount of phosphorus will combine with calcium to form the insoluble chemical calcium phosphate. Phosphorus is still absorbed, however this leads to low calcium levels in the blood.

An alarming trend that has emerged in recent times is the poor composition of certain commercial diets, which has led to an excessive amount of vitamin D3 being added to the diets. Nutritionists are in agreement that vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be absorbed from the intestine; however, the precise quantities of vitamin D3 that are required have not been established. Unfortunately, certain diets have had an excessive amount of vitamin D3, which has led to the effect of renal mineralization due to an increased calcium absorption. This issue has not surfaced as frequently in commercial diets since better diets have been developed and active study has been conducted on the topic. The current issue is that well-meaning pet owners and breeders are adding excessive amounts of vitamin D3, causing the problem.

How can we guarantee that we will be able to supply sufficient mineral supplements without causing any adverse effects? Provide a diet that is both nutritionally full and balanced, such as pellets. This diet can be homemade or purchased commercially. If your birds consume seeds on a regular basis, you should give them a supplement that is balanced in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3, such as Osteoform or D-Ca-Phos. When providing young birds with supplemental food, exercise extreme caution. Adding additional quantities of these elements, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, could lead to mineralization of their kidneys because the majority of commercial meals and hand-feeding have enough levels of these elements. Mineral blocks, cuttlebones, crushed oyster shells, eggshells (make sure they are not raw due to the risk of salmonellosis), bone/bone marrow, milk, and cheese are some other sources of minerals that have been shown to be safe for birds to consume. Other mineral sources that have been shown to be safe for birds include: Calcium deficits are seen in large birds the majority of the time, and we believe this is due to the fact that mineral blocks or cuttlebones are not used, and that other sources of minerals are not offered.

We sincerely hope that this conversation did not strike fear into your heart; but, it does highlight the importance of supplying a well-balanced diet in addition to sensible supplementation. Providing your pet bird with the appropriate diet is of the utmost importance!

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