Monday, September 24, 2007
Feathers Bird Clinic is operated out of Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois and is run by Karen Becker, DVM, NMD.
Dr. Karen Becker has graciously agreed to allow us to post her informative articles each month. To learn more about Dr. Karen Becker and Feathers Bird Clinic, please visit her web site. www.drkarenbecker.com
Hypocalcemia and African Greys
For years avian veterinarians have been aware that African Greys are more susceptible to hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels) than other types of parrots. There are still lots of parrots that are being fed a seed-based (low calcium) diet with the improper ratio of calcium to phosphorus, yet African Greys tend to have more notable problems including seizures, excessive falling and muscle tremors. Recent studies indicate that low calcium levels may result from a dysfunction in parathyroid hormone, most likely as a result of hypoparathyroidism. Parathyroid hormone is released from the parathyroid gland (located in the bird's neck) when serum calcium levels are low. This hormone stimulates the body to remove calcium from the bones when there is not enough being ingested. Like mammals and reptiles, birds that are fed a calcium deficient diet may develop an enlarged parathyroid gland in an attempt to secrete more hormone to get more calcium. Avian researchers speculate that African Greys may not be able to secrete adequate amounts of parathyroid hormone and are therefore more prone to having hypocalcemic episodes. Although the research is still ongoing, these preliminary results provide more proof that African Greys should be raised on a calcium rich pelleted diet and minimal, if any, seeds. It also demonstrates the importance of yearly blood tests to determine the inner health of our feathered friends. Birds that do succumb to hypocalcemia are treated with injectable calcium and vitamin D3, which helps in calcium absorption. We know that inhalent anesthesics alter calcium metabolism and most avian vets will administer injectable calcium to deficient African Greys before any surgical procedure, just to be safe. We also know that steroids can induce hypocalcemia and should be used with caution (I don't use them at all) with African Greys.
Bird Lovers Only Rescue would like to thank Dr. Becker for contributing to this blog and for educating us to be better bird owners and caregivers for many years prior to opening this rescue.