Old World Aviaries

The Scoop on Poop

by Jackie Frederickson, DVM
Alaska Pet Care Center
Anchorage, Alaska

Reprinted from the Alaska Bird News, vol. 6, no 11.

Are you using wood chips, corn cob or any other type of loose litter on the bottom of your bird cage? If so, stop! There are two good reasons for this advice.

First, even if your birds canít get to the litter because you have a grate over it, they can still inhale molds and bacteria that grow in feces or food in the litter.

Secondly and more importantly, you are covering up the simplest (and cheapest) diagnostic tool you have available to you right at home. Checking your birdís droppings can give you valuable insight into your birdís health.

To analyze bird droppings, you must know what is normal. Bird droppings are composed of feces (green to brown), urates (white), and liquid urine (clear). Most droppings contain all three components. The normal color, form, size, and number of droppings is different for different species of birds. What is normal for a cockatiel is not normal for a lory. To know what is normal for your bird, you must evaluate the droppings daily. This means the cage liner must be changed every day.

A few generalizations can be made. If a bird stops eating (but may still be cracking seeds or throwing food around), the fecal component will decrease. Solid urates and liquid urine will still be passed. The fecal volume is critical to watch when weaning, changing diets, or if any stress is anticipated.

Small, scant droppings can also occur with intestinal obstruction, as from a foreign object or a tumor mass.

Diarrhea (loose feces) is actually quite rare. More commonly you will see increased urates or increased liquid urine. (This is nearly impossible to assess on absorbent litters.) True diarrhea can be caused by parasites, bacteria, or fungal infection as well as from certain medications and foods. Changes in the amount of urine can be caused by diabetes, kidney disease, certain drugs, toxins, nervousness, and foods with high water content.

Color is also an important indicator. Feces of birds on seed diets generally have greener droppings, while those on pelleted diets have browner droppings. Pigmented foods (e.g. beets, blueberries, raspberries) can change the color of feces. Clay colored feces may indicate pancreatic disease, maldigestion, or malabsorption. Bright green feces may be found with Chlamydia, other bacterial, or viral diseases that affect the liver. Blood in the feces can be a sign of liver disease, papillomas, intestinal inflammation (infections or dietary), or egg laying problems. A change in the color of the urate to pink, red, or ďchocolate milkĒ can be seen with lead or zinc poisoning. Lime green urates can be seen with chlamydiosis. Starvation may produce bile stained urates. Yellow-green urates can be seen with hemolysis (red cell break down) and liver disease from various causes.

Undigested food in feces can be seen with Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome. (Be sure it is not just food that has fallen onto the droppings.)

This valuable information comes free of charge every day from your birds. Donít ignore it or cover it up. Use this information to help stop problems early, and share this information with your veterinarian.


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