We have had so many wonderful innovative products that cross over from human holistic and herbal medicine quite easily to our furry friends (dogs and cats). But what about our feathered companions?
As many of you know, birds have very different and complex physiology compared to that of dogs and cats. They have often been referred to as “little dinosaurs,” because of their multiple air sacs, air-filled bones and extreme sensitivity to toxins of all types. Because of this, there has been hesitation and extreme caution in providing birds the herbs and supplements proven so beneficial for dogs and cats.
However, there are both supplements and modalities that are safe for your bird and should be considered when working with your vet, to provide your bird with nutrition and preventative health.
While nut oils such as peanuts, cashews, pistachios and seeds of ALL TYPES are considered the “bad” type of fats for your bird, contributing in large part to fatty liver problems, your bird still needs essential fats. A safe fat that will give your natural bird polyunsaturated fatty acids and balanced Omega-3, is from the red palm fruit (not seed).
Omnivorous Diet for the Natural Bird
The most critical part of your bird’s preventative maintenance /health is correct nutrition. Peanuts contain high amounts of mold toxins, which is now considered to be one of the big contributors to birds dying of liver disease (it’s not always just the “fat”).
All types of nuts and seeds carry this risk. No matter how “hard” it is, it is well worth it to take the time to convert your bird to an OMNIVOROUS diet. You can do this by starting with 1/3 of their “usual” food, 1/3 plain Cheerios, and 1/3 of the new organic pellet or crumble. I like Harrison’s, Roudybush and a few of the new non-seed based organic diets available. I do not recommend any other pellets out there.
Make Sure your Bird Gets Enough Protein
If you are going to feed your bird whole foods, you must make sure the feed includes enough protein. Eggs whole or with a large percentage of egg white (cooked please, ideally organic), lean chicken and lean beef or fish, are all acceptable. This replaces the insect matter they would eat in the wild.
A Natural Bird Diet Consists of Vegetables
When you’re putting vegetables into your bird’s diet, make sure they are lightly steamed. Raw vegetables can be a turn-off and less digestible, although great beak work for the birds that love to tear them apart! Some great ones are Italian squash, yellow squash, broccoli and cauliflower. For the little birds such as cockatiels, budgies and even canaries/finches, you can hang a fresh sprig of cilantro or parsley EVERY DAY in place of millet. DO NOT FEED MILLET. IT IS LIKE POTATO CHIPS FOR BIRDS.
The Right Types of Fruit to Feed your Bird
If your bird is frugivorous (a fruit eater), use the higher nutrition fruits such as kiwi, papaya and mango. Avoid grapes and oranges. Apples provide excellent fiber and are best if organic.
DO NOT EVER FEED YOUR BIRD CHEESE. Besides the fat, it can form an obstruction in the gizzard, which is life-threatening.
The Best Way to Provide Vitamin D to your Bird
Sunlight outdoors with no window/screen is the best source of Vitamin D. If not available, get a bird light (OttLite) and place it at least 18 inches from the cage turned on 8 hours/day.
Most birds are calcium deficient and that affects their CARDIOVASCULAR health. This is due to the above problems with Vitamin D, essential for the absorption of calcium. The best supplement is Calcuim Glubionate syrup, available at most pharmacies and used at a dose of 1-2 tsp. into 8 oz. of drinking water fresh daily. This can be used for life. It is only the birds taking excess vitamin D (toxic) that have any risks with this. I have never met a pet bird with Vitamin D toxicity.
Holistic Treatments for Birds
You can also use natural treatments on your bird to decrease their future health issues. Most birds with arthritis or foot problems will not stand for acupuncture, no pun intended. But they do great with COLD LASER therapy. Ask your holistic vet about this option for birds, as there are very few medications they can take for pain. Alpha-wave machines can promote healing, calm and well-being in birds as well.
Flower remedies are excellent for birds that need calming (do not work very well with feather picking, which is a disorder often associated with liver and hormonal issues as well as nutrition and owner behaviors).
Chinese herbal formulas made in the US and in the right hands (no over the counters, please!) are excellent for healing. Ask your holistic vet about this.
Antioxidants such as CoQ10 are excellent for heart issues. Curcumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Milk thistle and vitamin E, along with SAMe are in liver support supplements. An herb called Yunan Baiyaou is proving excellent to control bleeding in birds with inoperable bleeding tumors. There are prescription pharmaceutical quality preparations of all of these, and more, that can be scaled down for your natural bird.
PEA is a current cannabinoid that is a natural anti-inflammatory with no psychotropic effects. Compounding pharmacies do a great job of using palatable mixtures to help “get the supplements in” to your bird. Ask your vet for the formulation in the flavors and they can also let you know what your bird may prefer.
These are a few of the options available to help your natural bird. If they are on a great diet, get direct sunshine on a regular basis and have excellent supplements, you may never have to see a vet, except for the once a year checkup! Let’s put an end to a “crashing bird” that “seemed healthy” only a week ago. Let’s get them truly healthy NOW.