How Much Do We Know About Arteriosclerosis in Pet Birds?

How Much Do We Know About Arteriosclerosis in Pet Birds?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Sandra B. relates

I just lost my Goffin Cockatoo, Casper of 24 years this last month.

I am devastated. He had started having seizures a few years ago and they had progressively gotten worse but he was then hospitalized at my Avian vet for Arteriosclerosis.

My vet says that this is quite common in parrots and cockatoos. 

She wasn’t sure if this was genetic or diet-related.

Unfortunately, I had to be gone for 2 months before this to take care of my daughter in hospice.

When I flew home Casper was already hospitalized.

He came home for a few days but the cluster seizures started again soon after and I had to make the hard decision to let him go.

We did a necropsy on Casper, which showed thickening of the heart arteries but no brain tumors or anything that would cause seizures. 

I guess my questions to you.

How often have you heard about Arteriosclerosis in parrots/cockatoos?

I had Casper only about 6 years but I would say I am pretty knowledgeable in avian care.

I try to keep up with any new information but this was something I had never heard about.

Also, the seizures, my vet was saying she was seeing them more often in her patients.

When I asked her about that she remarked that the African Greys were the poster children for epilepsy.

Is this true?

I had every test that was available to me for figuring out Casper’s seizures and no reason could ever be found. 

Any knowledge that you have on these health questions would help me understand this better. I want to someday share my home with either another cockatoo or grey but I want to make sure that I make a good decision on which breed I bring into my heart. 

Thanks for posting your column every week. I always read everything and love the information you share.

Sandee B 

Video from https://czar.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/research/atherosclerosis-parrots

Dear Sandee

We are very sorry to hear about the ill health and then the loss of your cockatoo.

We have worked with birds and parrots for close to 30 years but I am truly sorry to say that this is out of our span of experience. We try to help when we can and are sad when we cannot.

You have our sympathies.

Catherine and Mitch

Mitch Rezman

replied

Hi Sandee,

I did find this piece of info

Atherosclerosis in parrots. A review by F J Bavelaar 1, A C Beynen.

Atherosclerosis is a common disease in parrots.

The disease is found in all common parrot species, but especially in African Grey parrots and Amazons. 

It is a disease of older birds that is seen in both males and females.

The most common sign is sudden death, but clinical symptoms that can be found include dyspnea (a sensation of running out of air and of not being able to breathe fast enough or deeply enough), lethargy, and nervous signs, such as paresis (a reduction in muscle strength with a limited range of voluntary movement) and collapses.

Read more:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15230050/

Best

MitchR

Sandee replied

Thank you for sending me this article.

I have been trying to find anything written on Avian Atherosclerosis.

It seems that the reports have been out about it for over ten years but not much has been learned as to the cause.

Below is the one article that my avian vet sent me on the subject of atherosclerosis.

https://azeah.com/macaws-cockatoos/atherosclerosis-birds

She said they had been seeing much more of it lately.

In all the articles I have read on the subject, no one seems to be able to identify the cause. 

Diet doesn’t always factor in.

My Casper was on mostly pellets with fruits and vegetables.

I did give him some protein about once a week either a small chunk of chicken or a sliver of steak (which was his favorite) I had been told that feeding protein was good but in light of the increase in heart issues I am wondering as a bird owner should we start to question that statement?

We started seeing heart issues and cardiomyopathy in dogs about 7 years ago.

As a breeder of Flat-Coated Retrievers, I became aware of the problem when a friend lost a seemingly healthy dog at 5.  

After the breeders started bringing this to the attention of the general public and each other, research was started.

It was found that an all grain-free diet with peas/potatoes as the primary source of carbs was the cause.

Now, vets are not recommending grain and most owners have added back grains to the diet.

My thoughts are, If we are seeing an increase in Avian Atherosclerosis, are pelleted foods either lacking or having something in them that is causing this?  

How many cases are we missing when an owner just finds their bird dead on the floor of the cage and doesn’t get a necropsy done?

Your blog reaches so many it would be interesting to know and see how many people are aware of this issue or have had it affect them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. When you lose a part of you,  like a bird can become, it comes with lots of “what if” questions.

Sandee B.

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