Fatty Liver Disease in Birds

A healthy liver detoxifies the body and breaks down fat. “When a bird develops fatty liver (hepatic lipidosis), this means that the normal liver cells are gradually filled with fat.

These abnormal cells can no longer function to perform the liver’s work efficiently and, over time, the liver cells may be destroyed. As liver cells die, they are replaced with scar tissue.

The liver function gradually decreases and the bird begins to show signs of liver disease. ” Margaet W. Wissman, DVM, DABVP Avian Practice


  • Obesity: Parrots suffering from this disease are typically obese. A diet high in seeds tends to result in obese birds, so sedentary seed eaters are more likely to end up with fatty livers. Seed-only diets tend to be high in fat and low in the nutrients biotin, choline and methionine. Over-eating can also cause fatty liver
  • Metabolic disorders, such as thyroid dysfunction and diabetes mellitus may also cause fatty liver problems.
  • Toxin exposure (usually long-term): Often the liver is subjected to toxic injury from ingesting mycotoxins (from seeds), aflatoxins, plant toxins, and a variety of chemicals (cleaning products, aerosols,deodorizers, insecticides, pesticides) used in the home environment.
    • For non-toxic ways to control pests in the house or garden, please visit this webpage
  • Heredity
  • Infectious diseases, i.e., Chlamydia psittai, Pseudomonas, Mycobacterium / Avian Tuberculosis, E-Coli, and Salmonella.

Most birds with this condition show all or most of the below clinical signs:

  • Obesity: Overweight birds have fat deposits on their chest and abdomen.
  • Abnormal beak growth: The beak grows rapidly and abnormally.
  • Black spots on the beak and toenails: The black spots are areas of hemorrhage, like bruising.
  • Enlarged fatty liver.
  • Primary wing feathers and body contour feathers may take on a different color, for example in a cockatiel, a more yellowish / yellowish-blue tinge
  • Bleeding slow to stop

Treatment Protocol and Further Information on Liver Disease

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Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.

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