Vitamin Supplementation For Parrots

People are not so very different from automobiles. As long as you keep the car’s fluids and oil at proper levels, use a good grade of gasoline, and bring it in routinely for maintainance, it will probably serve you well for a long time.

In order for the human body to operate efficiently we need to maintain proper levels of vitamins and minerals by eating a healthy diet and see our doctors often so they can diagnose any potential illness. A routine blood check will tell if we are vitamin deficient.

I was lurking on a parrot forum the other day and one of the members posted that her bird was sick and that she had taken it to the vet. While she was waiting on blood work to come back, she had decided to implement a course of action (supposedly with her vet’s approval) that would actually have done  her bird more harm than good.

She was currently feeding a fortified commercial parrot diet as well as pellets and fresh produce. To that, she intended to add a vitamin supplements and hand feeding formula (assumed for the purposes of comforting her sick bird).

Her parrot’s diet was about to become vitamin fortified ( with the parrot diet), vitamin fortified (with the pellets), vitamin fortified (with the supplement) and vitamin fortified (with the hand feeding formula). Fortunately, one of the moderators set about trying to make her understand the potential dangers of her plan.

To many people’s way of thinking, vitamin supplements enhance our health – and that is not untrue. Many people assume that if they take EXTRA vitamins, it will ony serve to make them healthier still. This IS untrue. Vitamins and minerals are critical to the proper operation of the body, but this is a case where you CAN have too much of a good thing.

There is a perfect place of balance that you try to reach where you have not too little and not too many vitamins and minerals in your body. Too little, and your body will be deficient and struggle to do its job. But excess vitamins and minerals can reach toxic levels in the blood stream. That causes an entirely different set of problems – especially to a bird that is already ill.

Hypervitaminosis is that place where vitamin or mineral levels have become toxic. In parrots, this can lead to some confusing symptoms. One of the oddest are neurological ones called “toe tapping” and/or “wing flipping” which are jerky, reflexive and repetative movements that cause legs and/or wings to spasm.

The excess of fat soluble vitamins, such as A, will be stored in the liver causing eventual disfunction. An excess of vitamin D can effect the kidneys. The eclectus, as a species, shows a proneness to hypervitaminosis, as does the galah (rosebreasted cockatoo), but all species are candidates for it.

Unless you have been advised by your avian vet to add suplements for medical reasons, you should rely on your bird’s proper diet to keep all levels where they need to be. A bird that eats properly rarely needs supplementation. If your bird is shown to be vitamin or mineral deficient following blood work, supplementation will help return levels to normal, but you should go forward relying on a proper diet to keep them that way, unless medically advised otherwise.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

1 comment

Amanda Covington

Thanks heaps. A birdtricks Q&A Facebook moderater put me onto this & I found it super helpful. Thanks SO MUCH!

Amanda Covington

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