1. What are the signs of liver disease in birds?
In acute liver disease the liver is usually enlarged. The urates (the white area of the droppings) often become green in colour. The bird may be fluffed-up and have watery droppings.
In chronic liver disease the liver may or may not be swollen and the urates may or may not be green. Affected birds may have long upper beaks with bruises on them and bruises on their claws. The bruises are due to poor blood clotting. Some birds may have seizures (fits). Green coloured feathers may become yellow.
2. What are the non-infectious causes of liver disease?
The most common cause of liver disease is too much fat in the diet. Healthy liver cells are replaced by swollen pale fatty liver cells that donít function optimally. The bird is then prone to other illnesses. Other causes of liver disease include toxins such as pesticides, certain plants, metal poisoning from wire and cage furniture, and poisoning from fungal toxins on contaminated seed.
3. What are the infectious causes of liver disease?
The most common infectious causes of liver disease are bacteria as well as Chlamydophilosis (Chlamydiosis). Other infectious causes include viruses such as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), polyomavirus and herpesviruses. Parasites such as trematodes (flukes) and protozoa (Atoxoplasma) can also cause liver damage.
4. What diagnostic tests are needed for affected birds?
A blood sample for biochemistry and haematology can help determine how much liver damage has occurred. Other specific disease tests include chlamydophila (chlamydia) bacterial cultures and checks for viruses such as PBFD and polyomavirus. Tests are also available for mycotoxins and parasites. Radiographs may also be useful. Sometimes a liver biopsy may be necessary.
5. How can I prevent liver disease in my bird?
A broad diet based on pellets, cleanliness and proper quarantine of new birds is the best way for bird owners to prevent liver disease in their pet birds.
6. What treatment is available for liver disease?
In most cases dietary changes will be needed. This usually includes changing to a pellet or crumble diet from seed. Vegetables and fruit and Australian tree blossoms also need to be added to the diet. In many cases other diseases need to be treated either after several diagnostic tests or as a treatment trial for the most common causes of liver damage. This may mean a course of antibiotics and other prescribed medicines to help the liver.
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