Holy Liver Values, Batman! How We Lowered Our Eclectus’ Cholesterol Through Diet

Last year in July, I took my flock to the vet; she noticed the big ones’ nails and beaks were a touch overgrown, but this was especially true for Louie the eclectus. The vet recommended we get our parrots’ bloodwork done, because contrary to my earlier/misinformed belief, any bird who has a concrete perch in his cage (concrete, not sandpaper) shouldn’t have a problem keeping his beak in trim shape. You’ll need to clip their wings and MAYBE their nails, but if their beaks are growing long, there’s often a liver issue.

Those blood tests revealed that Louie had crazy-high liver values and high cholesterol. Vi’s was on the low side of high, but still generally okay (Amazons are tougher than Ekkies when it comes to diet), but also needed to be reduced.

How that was possible, I had no idea – seeds were given only for treats (though, admittedly, he did get a few every day), we cooked for him weekly and gave him a variety of fruit/vegetables in mashes served every day to ensure he ate as much healthy stuff as possible, and the pellets we used as his base diet were TOPS organic pelletsIMG_8593

With how careful we were with his diet, how was this even a thing?

Our vet wasn’t sure if the high cholesterol and liver values in eclectus parrots is just how their species is or not; the avian science surrounding Eclectus parrots is so new, and she’s seen so many ekkies with values similar to Louie’s from other responsible bird owners that she speculated it could just be the species’ normal.

Still, better safe than sorry. Eclectus’ lifespans are currently unknown in captivity (though current speculation runs anywhere from 30 years to 75 years old from my quick Google search). I once read somewhere that people used to believe these birds’ lifespans were 8-10 years (until vets started really studying the effect diet can have on these special little birds). With Louie hovering around the 9 year age mark, I didn’t want to take any chances.

The vet recommended we look at the nutrition content on the back of the TOPS pellets; whatever percentage of crude fat was in his TOPS pellets (the bag we bought had its percentage at 6% crude oils and fats) , we needed to find another pellet with the lowest possible crude fat number. Sure, it was a low number, but she was convinced that lower was out there. Seed had to be completely removed from his diet; as much as he loved sunflower seeds, we’d need to find some alternative.

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Nutriberries are a parrot’s best friend.

So, off to the pet store we went; we examined several different options and the lowest fat percentage we could find was in ZuPreem natural pellets (NEVER feed an eclectus the colored pellets – the coloring they use is super bad for them) – the crude fat percentage was 4% instead of 6%. I’d also been doing some reading on Lafeber’s Nutriberries; their claim is that it’s all the health of a pellet, but with a few seeds thrown in. I looked at the back of one of their containers – 6% fat. As treats, nutriberries beat the hell out of feeding almonds and sunflower seeds (considering their fat content), and Louie LOVES nutriberries.

Could I replace the small daily snacks of seeds with one or two nutriberries instead and keep my little buddy happy?

We hesitantly and slowly switched Louie from TOPS to ZuPreem (mixing them together until we were sure he was eating both of them, then removing the TOPS a little bit at a time). My main hesitation with feeding ZuPreem was that it contains corn; Louie is allergic to it (it makes him toe-tap), so we carefully looked for any signs of his uncomfortable syndrome returning. It, thankfully, did not!

Now, the question: Could only a 2% difference in the fat in pellets and replacing seed with a couple of nutriberries really make such a big difference?

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Brat broke out of his cage; this is where we always find him when that happens.

We waited a little less than a year to give it time to work. The only “seed” Louie was allowed was an almond in its shell (so he had to work for it and usually didn’t) once or twice. Otherwise, we bribed him with nutriberries, which he really enjoys.

And then, eight months after the wonky bloodwork, we got our answer.

Yes, yes, that 2% decrease in fat + nutriberries instead of seeds could make a HUGE difference.

I got the call this morning: “Hi, this is Dr. B, I wanted to let you know that everybody’s bloodwork looks REALLY GOOD this time! Vi’s looks the best, her liver value is now normal… and, Louie’s liver value is almost normal. It’s definitely significantly decreased and his cholesterol is normal. Continue with the diet for both of them; we’ll do repeat bloodwork in a year!”


 

Louie’s current diet looks like this:

-Free-fed ZuPreem Pellets

Fruit OR Vegetable Mashes Served Every Day (like 3/4ths of a cup, always more than he can eat), alternating between veggies or fruit every other day (take whatever bird-friendly fruit or vegetables you have lying around, add some greens like romaine lettuce, throw them in the food processor or blender, then pour over/mix in a grain base – most of these mixes have corn in them, so we just pick it out because that still makes Louie toe-tap, even if his pellet doesn’t.)

1-3 Nutriberries a day (sometimes more if he’s been awesome and deserves it) and the occasional dried fruit as treats.

-RARELY (less than once a week) he gets bites of human food, such as toast, a tiny bit of pizza crust, egg whites (never the yolk because again, fat and cholesterol content) – Louie likes carbs, lol.

NONE: Seed, french fries, fried-anything.

Could we do better? Possibly; there’s always a “perfect” to strive for. However, we’re clearly doing something right, and as two people with full-time careers, I’m pretty darn happy with his progress.

Allergies Don’t Disappear: Mild Toe-Tapping

Oh, the holidays–friendship, cheer, the season of giving…

What more could a bird want than a bit of pizza crust?

Unfortunately, Louie acquired a mild case of toe-tapping to go with it. 😦

I gave Louie a tiny bit of pizza crust (standard practice when we feel like spoiling our birds.)

This particular pizza crust came from Old Chicagos, where they apparently add cornmeal to their tasty, tasty dough. And any type of corn product will set him off tapping.

This time, at least, I got a video. Ekkie toe-tapping:

Louie’s feet started that dreaded spasm approximately fifteen minutes after receiving a tiny piece of crust (no bigger than the size of a dime.) It only lasted maybe half an hour,

Eclectus Mojo Moult: A Picture of Pinfeathers

Is he sick? Does he have scabies? Is he dying?!!

No, no, and no.

Mr. Lou is going through the most intense mojo moult of his life right now, coupled also with a hard moult. He has to be beyond uncomfortable, but he’s still our cheerful little Lou! Our handsome boy is not so handsome.

Warning: Graphics of intense Mojo Moult beyond this point!

Continue reading Eclectus Mojo Moult: A Picture of Pinfeathers

Prepare for trouble… make it double!

Louie met one of his kin today at the bird shop, a Red-Sided little dude who, at four months old (and still growing!), is the same size as Solomon Island Louie. Actually, junior might be a little bigger.

That’s the closest I’ve ever seen a bird come to an existential crisis. Louie’s eyes got HUGE, he muttered a bewildered, “Hi Louie!” as if he were looking at himself in a mirror, then scuttled away. He wanted NOTHING to do with his double.

Perhaps it’s just one of the side-effects of having a multi-bird household: no one looks like Lou. He thought he was special… and he is. To us. xD

Teacher In-Service Days = The Best

One of the hardest parts about teaching for me is that I have to leave my fids at home.

Sure, my admin *might* be open to my bringing of my feathered friends to school occasionally since they don’t leave potential allergy-inducing dander behind, but let’s be real–I teach middle school, and kids do stupid things to each other. Who knows what stupid things might accidentally happen with a bird?

Thus, the rare glory of the teacher in-service day allows me to work with one of my dinosaur companions by my side. Sure, he has to sit idly by in a small cage for the four hours of meetings in the mornings, but he gets to spend the afternoon with me, right? =)

Louie isn’t particularly helpful on these days (especially since he has determined the best place for him is smack-dab in the center of my keyboard, and he absolutely HATES with torrid passion my computer mouse and pens), but he sure is cute.

He gets to play on a desk pod away from my desk, make a GIANT mess, and receive frequent kisses while I grade and plan.

I wish this could be my life every day. ❤

Parrot Culture

Today, Hubby and I had our semi-weekly coffee shop work date, and a teenager was there with a survey for school–one of the questions was “What sub-culture groups are you a part of?”

His answer?

Parrot/Aviculture

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Hubby and I, attending the 2015 Birds of Prey Soiree, a benefit for Nature’s Educators, a non-profit organization that rescues injured birds of prey (and educates people on why they actually don’t want a “pet” falcon.)

…Where people’s first reaction to furry, brilliantly-colored masks isn’t “Hi Oscar and Elmo!” but rather, “Do you have an eclectus?!”

…Where people judge each other’s “parronting” skills with the same passive-aggressive judgment as in modern-day mom groups. (You feed your parrot that? Have you provided him with all the latest foraging toys? You’re ruining your bird for life!)

…Where people endlessly discuss the various species of parrot (and especially why the species they own is the absolute top of the trees–in all seriousness, though, ekkies are the way to go.)

…Where people roll their eyes when people claim they have to leave early/arrive late to ‘let out their dog’ but who instead cancel entire evening plans to go home and spend time with their fid.

…Where use of the word “Fid” to stand in for “Feathered Kid” never needs explanation.

…Where people don’t bat an eye when someone walks in with an ‘accident’ on his/her shoe… or shirt… or hair…

…Where it’s somehow considered more socially acceptable to have a bird nestled in your bra in public than to breast feed a human child. (For the record, I don’t/won’t do this.)

…Where being bitten hard by an aggressive pet doesn’t result in the animal being put down, but rather the question, “Well, what did I do to cause that?”

Yeah. We’re of that ilk. xD

Dog and cat people may not always see eye-to-eye, but one thing they absolutely agree on is this: nobody is as weird as bird people.