Vitamin A deficiency can be disastrous for your bird — but it’s preventable.
Hypovitaminosis A, often known as vitamin A deficiency, is the most prevalent avoidable disease that we see at our office. This condition can occur with or without concomitant secondary infections. Because an all-seed diet is poor in vitamin A, birds kept as pets that consume nothing but seeds—and in particular sunflower seeds and peanuts—are at the greatest risk for developing this condition.
Because of the structural changes that take place when there is not enough vitamin A in the body, the cells that line the respiratory, reproductive, and digestive tracts are unable to produce mucus when this condition exists. A deficiency in vitamin A makes it possible for environmental bacteria and other microorganisms to penetrate the mucous membrane barrier and establish “housekeeping” within the tissues of the body. Mucous functions as a protective blanket to prevent the invasion of disease-causing agents, so this makes vitamin A deficiency particularly dangerous.
Symptoms & Signs
The symptoms of a vitamin A shortage vary depending on the organ system that is affected (for example, the reproductive, digestive, or respiratory tracts), as well as the particular microbe or mix of germs that are attacking the patient.
The respiratory system is the one that is typically impacted the most. If you check inside the bird’s mouth, you should be able to observe the early signs of this shortage. This is because the cells that line the bird’s mouth and sinuses are also affected when they become damaged. At first, you could see some small white plaques on the roof of your mouth or at the base of your tongue. In the end, the plaques develop an infection, which results in the formation of huge, apparent abscesses. Abscesses have the potential to deform the glottis, which is the aperture of the windpipe. This can lead to laborious breathing and, in the end, mechanical suffocation. Abscesses have the potential to become so enormous that they completely obstruct the choana (the slit in the roof of the mouth). When this occurs, the bird will show signs of having a profuse discharge from the nose as well as visible swelling around the eyes. The discomfort caused by these localized infections will eventually lead to the bird’s death from starvation. The bacteria have the potential to replicate all throughout the bird’s body, which would have catastrophic results.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency in birds include but are not limited to the following: sneezing, wheezing, nasal discharge, crusted or plugged nostrils, unthriftiness, lethargy, depression, diarrhea, tail-bobbing, thinness, poor feather color, swollen eyes, ocular discharge, lack of appetite, gagging, foul-smelling breath, and “slimy mouth.” Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin
Vitamin A insufficiency is responsible for the death of very few, if any, of the patients directly. The secondary infections that are typical of birds with a compromised immune system and an incapacity of the body to go through normal cellular regeneration are typically the cause of death for these birds (to heal themselves). Because of the secondary infections, the bird may suffer organ damage, which will eventually result in the bird’s passing. As a result, we begin by treating the life-threatening infection, and then we administer vitamin A injections to correct the underlying vitamin A deficiency that is causing the problem.
Before beginning treatment for the secondary life-threatening component, a battery of diagnostic tests must first be carried out. We take a blood sample to assist in identifying which organs are affected, we test cultures and antibiotic sensitivities to identify which bacteria or fungi may be present, and we examine the patient’s feces to look for any signs of parasites.
The bird is then kept in an animal hospital for at least a week while we determine the most effective course of treatment for it based on the results of the tests. Once the patient is stable, we frequently perform additional procedures such as nebulizing the bird, tube-feeding it, and surgically lancing the abscesses. Even though the bird may need a fairly extended period of time to recover, the prognosis is typically favorable, unless additional disorders have caused irreversible organ damage. In this case, the bird’s prognosis is less favorable.
When it comes to this ailment, the old proverb “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true once more. Psittacines, in general, have a high resistance to disease; but, if they become ill, it can be challenging to treat them successfully. This is especially the case if the sickness is caused by insufficient food, which is frequently made worse by the birds’ picky eating habits, which can increase the risk of the disease by a factor of several times.
The majority of diets that are low in vitamin A are also deficient in other vitamins, proteins, and minerals; therefore, prevention must focus on improving overall nutrition in addition to providing proper vitamin replacement. In addition to a high-quality mixture based on safflower seeds, parrots should be provided and taught to eat items that are either bright yellow or dark green in color (with a few exceptions).
Cantaloupe, papaya, chili peppers, broccoli leaves and flowers, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnip leaves, collards, endive, butter, liver, egg yolks, beets, dandelion greens, and spinach are some of the foods that should be offered to your bird to prevent a vitamin A deficiency. Other foods that are high in vitamin A include cantaloupe, papaya, and turnip leaves (see chart for relative vitamin A content). Your birds will be less likely to contract this prevalent ailment if you give them a daily dose of one of the numerous powdered vitamins available that are of a high enough quality.
Vitamin A Content
Desirable Food IU Per 100 Grams
- Red chili peppers (fresh) 21,000
- Red chili peppers (dried) 16,000
- Broccoli leaves 77,000
- Broccoli flowers 3,000
- Carrots (pureed) 10,000
- Sweet potatoes 9,000
- Turnip leaves 7,500
- Collards 6,500
- Endive 3,500
- Dandelion greens 14,000
- Spinach 8,000
- Butter 3,500
- Beef liver 45,000
- Egg yolks 3,000
- Cantaloupe 4,000
- Mango 5,000
- Papaya 2,000
Foods Low in Vitamin A
- Summer squash Bananas
- White potatoes Apples
- Grapes Oranges
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