Sadly, the improper formulation of the baby bird hand feeding formula has had wide spread effects. As the levels of vitamin D3 (which aids in calcium absorption) were too high, it lead to widespread mineralization of the tissues of the baby birds being fed this diet. The kidneys were especially affected, becoming swollen, mineralized, non-functioning, failing, and leading to eventual death. The effect seemed dependent upon the type of bird, it's age, how much of the food it was being fed, and apparent susceptibility to the D3 levels.
We deal with a large number of breeders and pet stores who unfortunately ran into problems with the recalled formulas. The Kaytee hand feeding formulas are outstanding products and have widespread usage among breeders who hand raise their birds.
Sharp eyed breeders identified changes in the babies and were able to seek care early enough to reverse some of the changes. But in some cases the birds died quickly or became symptomatic to late, where the damage had already become so severe it was irreversible. Many of the birds presented with dehydration and when the blood work was done, their kidney values were elevated (uric acid), calcium and phosphorus levels were sometimes elevated and most usually had increased white blood cell counts, due to the inflammation of the tissues. We were able to successfully treat many of these birds by starting them on fluid therapy, using drugs to lower uric acid levels (allopurinol), prevent further damage to kidney/liver tissue (colchicine), and antibiotics to treat secondary infections. However, some birds were brought in deceased and we conducted post mortem examinations which demonstrated the kidney damage (swelling and mineralization).
This episode emphasizes the importance of quality control in the production of foods as there can be deleterious effects (remember the problem with the dogs dying from the melamine toxicosis years ago in the dog food). This transcends the pet industry as well and should serve as a caveat to us as consumers, as we are also very susceptible to food that could be similarly tainted or improperly formulated. Outbreaks of Salmonellosis and E. coli in people are stark reminders of that as well. Deal with quality sources of foods, handle and store them properly.
The good news is that Kaytee, as any reputable company should, has taken the responsibility for what has happened and is reimbursing people for their losses because of the recalled hand feeding formula. All of the Kaytee hand feeding formulations on the shelves of the pet stores are now safe and there was no problem with their seed products or pelleted foods. (The recalled food codes are in one of our previous blogs).
If ever you notice any unusual changes with your birds, contact your avian veterinarian. The sooner you address any problems and seek treatment, the better success and resolution of the problem you will have.
Peter S. Sakas DVM
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