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Vitamin supplements for your bird and potential problems that may arise

Posted Aug 28 2009 8:13am
This post is one of a series of informational posts written by Dr Randal Brue for one of our great sponsors, KAYTEE. For more information on Dr. Brue, click here.

If you feed only a seed diet, be aware that your pet bird is getting very little calcium. Without this necessary nutrient, bones do not grow well or develop normally and his body may actually take stores of the mineral from healthy bones. To absorb calcium, your pet bird also needs adequate Vitamin D and the mineral phosphorus.

As a nutritionist, I’m often asked about vitamin supplements for pet birds. For your pet bird, the way a supplement is administered may affect its ability to provide the needed nutrients. Because birds’ mouths are very dry, with very little saliva, a powdered vitamin and mineral supplement could present problems. When humans eat salted sunflower seeds, they are cracked open in our mouths and the salt tasted, whereas a bird’s dry tongue and mouth eliminate dissolution of a powder in the mouth. So if the powder is given in a seed shell or hull, most of it will drop to the floor when the bird cracks open the shell. Very little of the supplement is ingested by the bird and most is wasted.

One way to provide the needed nutrients in your pet bird’s diet is to supply a powdered supplement in the bird's water or on soft foods. It is a good idea to watch your pet’s water closely because this method can have problems. Vitamins tend to break down very quickly in an aqueous or liquid environment and also when exposed to ultraviolet rays, such as in direct sunlight. These conditions make providing the correct dosage of vitamins and minerals difficult and potentially problematic. The danger arises when nutrients break down into inactive compounds in the water which the bird cannot use. They are still present in the water, however, and available for bacterial utilization. So not only is the bird not getting the nutrients it needs to combat infection, but the broken down compounds may actually be feeding the bacteria the bird will soon be drinking. To make matters worse, powdered or liquid vitamin and mineral supplements rarely contain the amino acids also needed by your pet bird.

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