Renal Dysfunction or
Kidney Disease is fairly common in pet birds, and is one of the
more common problems in older birds. Normally functioning kidneys filter waste
products from the blood stream into the urine. The kidneys are vital,
life-sustaining organs, and kidney failure poses a potential and serious risk to
a bird's well-being.
There are two
Chronic renal failure: Progressive destructive
condition affecting both kidneys. The onset may be very slow and the signs
fairly non-specific, for example, the bird is just not doing well.
Acute renal failure: function of the kidneys is rapidly and
severely, but often reversibly, compromised. In acute disease, such as a
toxicity, the signs occur suddenly and can be very severe.
A bird with poorly functioning kidneys
may drink increased amounts of water and urinate more often --
in an attempt to flush out those waste products in its blood stream that the
kidneys are no longer capable of eliminating into the urine.
Depending upon the cause of kidney dysfunction, the pet's owners may notice
The pet may have an
enlarged abdomen, become unable to fly,regurgitate, vomit or become
develops due to the kidney disease, lameness and swollen joints
may also be seen.
Depression and lethargy;
fluffing of the feathers, general weakness, loss of appetite
Dehydration - Birds suffering from
dehydration may have crinkly skin around their eyes and produce small, dry
Blood in droppings (red bird droppings)
are indicative of internal bleeding low in the digestive track. Even though this
may be a symptom of kidney disease, it can also be a result of lead poisoning
The usual causes of renal failure in birds
Gout:Since the diseased kidney cannot filter out
uric acid, they become deposited in joints or the small tubules of the kidney.
This condition in birds is referred to as Gout.
Several viruses can cause either temporary or permanent kidney damage;
for example, the Polyomavirus is the most common,
especially in young, hand-fed psittacines. Adenovirus, Poxvirus, proventricular dilatation syndrome (PDD), and herpesvirus
have also been associated with renal
Bacterial: Usually occur as a result of
the spread of an infection from another area of the body to the kidneys via the
blood stream or the urinary tract.
Fungal:Aspergillus is the most common cause of fungal
infections of the kidney in birds, though fungal renal disease is relatively
antibiotics (i.e., gentamicin and streptomycin)
Heavy metals, including zinc, lead,
cadmium and mercury. Patients should be tested for toxic levels of
heavy metals known to be associated with renal failure in birds, such as lead
and mercury. In addition, toxic or deficient levels of other heavy metals,
including arsenic, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc should be
considered and tested for.
One should also look for evidence of
acute intoxication by organophosphate, carbamate, or organochlorine
Less common cause of toxicity is
overeating salt that can also damage the kidneys of
Ingestion of certain plants and some food
items have been linked to renal failure.
lesions could be tied to an acute toxic etiology.
Nutritional deficiencies or excesses
Vitamin A deficiency – Birds with hypovitaminosis A (usually
caused by diets low in vitamin A) may develop kidney disease. This most commonly
occurs in birds receiving seed-only diets, unsupplemented with pellets,
vegetables, and fruit.
Cancer: Kidney tumors are particularly common in budgerigars. Tumors can often put pressure on other
organs and nerves. If the tumor puts pressure on the nerves going to the legs,
the bird may experience weakness, difficulty moving a leg or may not be able to
stand. The abdomen may also become distended.
An obstruction of the urinary tract by a urinary stone or
an enlarged egg that can't pass.
Microscopic and tape worms
The vet will initially perform a
physical examination, and follow it up with a complete medical history and complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry tests
(including electrolytes, total protein, albumin, uric acid, blood urea nitrogen,
and creatinine), and a urinalysis.
Radiographs (x-rays) may be helpful,
and cloacal swabs, endoscopy, ultrasound, and sometimes a kidney biopsy may also
Supportive care: Fluid therapy, tube feeding, and
providing supplemental heat.
Periodic blood testing may be
necessary to monitor the response to treatment and adjust it
The underlying cause of the renal disease needs to be
Since bacterial infections can be a common cause of renal
disease, or can often occur secondarily, antibiotics are usually included in the
Antiviral medications, antifungal medications,
specific treatments for gout or toxins, vitamin A supplementation or surgery may
Provide a diet
rich on the organic vegetables, greens, fruits, rich in the following
Vitamin A – helps healing process of
urinary tract liningVitamin B complex – helps fluid
C – boosts immunity and elevates urine acidityVitamin
E – elevates immune systemBromelain and Quercetin
are most effective when used together. Quercetin is an anti
inflammatory and may reduce the production of uric acid. It occurs naturally in
apples, pink grapefruit, watermelon, elderberries and green leafy vegetables, as
well as black tea, green
tea and elderberry juice. Bromelain is another
anti-inflammatory that is found in pineapple.
Reduce dietary protein
Provide an ample supply of
clean / filtered water
Helpful Greens / Herbs:
Root (pu gong ying) – aids kidney excretion function of
wasteCranberry – acidifies urine and kills
bacteriaCelery and Parsley – decreases uric
acidDevil's Claw is a natural anti inflammatory that also
reduces pain. It also facilitates the elimination of uric acid from the
body.Nettle Tea increases the excretion of uric acid from the
body and many swear by it for treating gouty joints. Nettle will work both as a
tea or a tincture. The teas are fine for milder cases, but the tinctures are
usually recommended in more severe cases of gout.Aloe Detox
(for example: "Lily of the Desert Aloe Detoxifying Formula" - available
over the following websites: http://www.vitacost.com;
or at better health food stores) has shown multiple benefits for gout sufferers
- one way to get birds to drink it is to drip it on their favorite soft foods.
Adding it to their water may stop from them drinking as they may not like the
taste. The manufacturer reports that Aloe Detox needs to be refrigerated
(obviously). After opening, it will keep for 7 to 9 months.
Fresh gel from the leaves are superior to Aloe Vera gel bought
commercially. Bird owners will cut off a small section each day and feed
that section to their pet birds. The plant is easy to grow in most areas. It
needs, however, to be grown organically -- without the use of chemical
fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
Even though Aloe Vera is
helpful for many birds, some rare birds may have a reaction to Aloe Vera. Spray
one of your fngers and touch your bird's foot. Leave for 24 hours and see if an
Please note: Any content published on this site is commentary or opinion, and is protected under Free Speech. It is only provided for educational and entertainment purposes, and is in no way intended as a substitute for professional advice. Avianweb / BeautyOfBirds or any of their authors / publishers assume no responsibility for the use or misuse of any of the published material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.