1. What is a lipoma?
A lipoma is a fatty lump that usually grows just under the skin. It can be found anywhere on the bird's body but is most commonly seen in the abdominal region or the chest.
2. What is the cause of lipomas?
Excess fat and low vitamin E in the diet are factors involved in the development of these fatty lumps.† The body has to store excess fat and it is generally deposited in the liver and in other tissues such as the skin. In addition, some birds such as budgies and galahs have a genetic predisposition towards the formation of fatty growths.
3. What happens to a bird with lipomas?
The lipoma can be in multiple sites on the body.† Lipomas can grow on the breast, abdomen, wings, back, neck, legs or near the tailís preen gland.†† They can also grow inside the body. Lipomas on the breast can irritate the bird causing it to bite and chew at the area leading to ulceration and bleeding (haemmorhage).† The tissue inside large lipomas can also die off leading to bacterial infection which may eventually spread throughout the body, causing damage to the internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys.† In addition, lipomas, depending upon their size and location, can cause physical obstruction eg Lipomas that grow near the vent (cloaca)† stop the bird passing urine and faeces.
4. What tests are needed on affected birds?
A blood test is conducted to assess the extent of liver involvement and if any of the other major organs such as the kidneys are damaged.
The characrteristics and numbers of red and white blood cells may also be assessed to see if the lipoma has a necrotic (rotting) centre which means the bird may be in danger of serious bacterial infection (septicaemia).
An obese lethargic bird with lipomas should also be tested for thyroid dysfunction.
5. Which birds are more likely to have lipomas?
Lipomas are most commonly seen in budgies, galahs, rosellas, cockatoos, Amazons and cockatiels, but can be seen in any bird on a high fat diet.
6. Should the lipoma be removed?
Depending on the size and severity the lipoma may need to be surgically removed eg the lump is necrotic inside or haemorrhaging badly.† It may also need to be removed if it is blocking the cloaca and the bird cannot pass its droppings.
7. What other treatment is available for lipomas?
In most cases we treat the lipoma initially with dietary changes to radically reduce fat in the diet and we also increase the birdís daily exercise.† This means changing the bird away from fatty seed such as sunflower seed and on to a broader based diet that includes fruit, vegetables, pellets and natural Australian blossums if it is an Australian bird. Increasing vitamin E and biotin in the diet can also help.† In the majority of cases the lump size will reduce and the need for major surgery will be reduced or eliminated altogether.
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