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Research Improves Parrot Health

By Jean Vore

Most veterinarians are aware that Morris Animal Foundation funds research to improve canine and feline health. But you may not realize that we also invest in projects that benefit exotic pets, including amphibians, reptiles and birds. One of the most popular common exotic pets found in homes are parrots, a species Morris Animal Foundation has been instrumental in helping throughout the years.

Findings may revolutionize parrot nutrition

Veterinary knowledge of nutritional needs of large psittacines comes mostly from captive poultry, budgerigars and cockatiels, but large parrots live in very different natural ecoystems and therefore their food sources are different. As a result, nutritional problems are the most common health problems facing large, captive parrots today. In particular, hand-reared chicks suffer from nutritional deficiencies, aspiration due to the finely ground texture of the feed and slow digestion, which causes dehydration and malnutrition.

With Morris Animal Foundation funding, Texas A&M University’s Dr. Donald Brightsmith analyzed the nutrient content of crop samples taken from wild psittacine birds. His goal is to develop new hand- rearing diets for captive parrot chicks that are more nutritionally aligned with the diets of their wild counterparts. The research team anticipates that these new formulas will improve nutrition, reduce acute and chronic health problems and revolutionize hand feeding of companion parrots.

Study looks to improve diagnostic tests

Another study at Texas A&M, led by Dr. Shuping Zhang, is raising the bar on proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) diagnostics. PDD, caused by avian Bornavirus infection, is a neurological and gastrointestinal disease that is particularly deadly to large parrots. It was first observed in imported parrots in 1977 and has since been reported in more than 50 avian species. The disease, especially at the subclinical level, is very difficult to diagnose, and effectiveness of current diagnostic tools remains problematic.

Dr. Shuping Zhang and his research team, including Dr. Brightsmith as a co- investigator, are conducting multitest comparisons to better understand the advantages and limitations of currently available PDD tests and combinations of these tests. Information gained will lead to better diagnostic tools to improve management of birds exposed to and infected with this virus, thereby improving patient outcomes.

Posted by MAF on October 2, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Veterinary research , Wildlife health


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