What is Vitamin A Deficiency ?

Vitamin A is a necessary part of your bird’s diet and without it, he may not be at his best. Vitamin A is found in red, green, and yellow fruits and vegetables. However, often birds are given a seed specific diet which results in a deficiency in vitamins such as A. 

Vitamin A plays an important role in the health of your bird and a lack of it can result in skin and feather issues. Vitamin A also helps your bird with his eye health, eyesight, hearing, bones and mucus membranes maintenance. Without vitamin A, your bird may deal with poor growth, respiratory disease, and a lowered immune function. You may not even realize that your bird has a deficit in his vitamin A intake until his health begins to deteriorate.

Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common health issues in birds. This condition results from a diet that lacks vitamin A or is only seed based.

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Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency in Birds

The symptoms you may notice if your bird is experiencing a Vitamin A deficiency can include:

  • White plaques in his mouth (these areas turn into abscesses and can result in difficulty for your bird to swallow, eat, and drink and therefore, result in severe weight loss)
  • Sneezing – Due to a lowered respiratory tract immunity 
  • Wheezing - Due to a lowered respiratory tract immunity
  • Nasal discharge
  • Plugged nostrils
  • Lethargy – You may notice that your bird does not have the energy he normally does and is not as active as normal 
  • Swollen eyes
  • Feather color – Will be poor and not as vibrant or bright as normal 
  • Lack of appetite – This may be due to the pain he is experiencing due to the abscesses in his mouth 
  • Ocular discharge – He may experience discharge from his eyes
  • Foul smelling breath 
  • Feather picking – He may begin to pick at his feathers and pluck them
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination

Causes of Vitamin A Deficiency in Birds

The cause of a Vitamin A deficiency in your bird is often the result of a poor diet.

  • If your bird is given a diet that is primarily made up of seeds, he will most likely not get the proper nutrients that he needs
  • Not offering your bird a variety of fruits and vegetables that are red, green and yellow in color to ensure they are getting enough Vitamin A
  • Not providing a pelleted food that is nutrient dense and can meet your bird’s needs as well 
  • The cause of Vitamin A deficiency is completely preventable with a proper diet 

Diagnosis of Vitamin A Deficiency in Birds

Your veterinarian will need a detailed synopsis of your bird’s medical history and will also perform a physical examination, taking note of clinical signs that may be apparent such as weight loss, ocular discharge and foul breath. He may try to observe the abscesses that have formed, and in addition to the viewing, gather a sample of tissue from the respiratory tract for cytological evaluation. Blood tests to determine organ function and analysis of a stool sample to rule out parasites may be suggested. However, based on the delicate nature of most birds, the veterinarian may base the diagnosis on the examination and the discussion of your bird’s current diet.

Treatment of Vitamin A Deficiency in Birds

Treatment will be based on the severity of your bird’s needs and depending on that, hospitalization may be required. The first goal will be to stabilize him and clear his mouth of all plaque and abscesses found that are preventing him from eating, drinking and breathing correctly. After this, your veterinarian may need to treat secondary or underlying infections your bird has due to his weakened immune and respiratory systems.

Tube feeding may be necessary in order to get your bird back to a stable condition. After your bird is considered well balanced health wise, he will be released with instructions to change to his diet. These changes will include adding more fruits and vegetables such as red peppers, broccoli, carrots (puree them), sweet potatoes, endive, butter, egg yolks, mango and papaya amongst others. A good quality pelleted food will also benefit him, as well as a possible blended diet.

Recovery of Vitamin A Deficiency in Birds

Fatality is rare due to a Vitamin A deficiency. It may take some time for your bird to get back to being stable;  however, with a better diet and ongoing veterinary care he will do well. The long-term prognosis is good despite a relatively long recovery period. Your veterinarian will discuss any follow up appointment needs with you and how to best supplement your bird’s diet to meet all of his nutritional requirements.

Vitamin A Deficiency Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sugar
Budgerigars
5-8 months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

white plaque on tip of tongue

I can't pay for treatment at a vet for my budgie. She has a small white plaque on the tip of her tongue. Is there anything I can do at home for her besides giving her lots of food in Vitamin A?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1464 Recommendations
It sounds like it may be hypovitaminosis A or Trichomoniasis; without seeing Sugar I cannot say for sure. I would supplement with multivitamins but also treat for Trichomoniasis to be on the safe side which would be with ronidazole which you may need to speak with your Veterinarian about. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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