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Fat or Fatty Tumors

Index of Bird Diseases ... Symptoms and Potential Causes ... Bird Species and Diseases They are Most Susceptible to


Fatty Tumors The information has kindly been provided by Dr. Rob Marshall -

Fatty tumours that lie beneath the skin (subcutaneous lipomas or xanthomas) are the most common neoplasms of birds. These encapsulated benign tumors are composed of mature fat cells. They generally occur in overweight birds and are most commonly seen in budgerigars, galahs and sulphur crested cockatoos.

Development of lipomas is associated with obesity, hypothyroidism and genetic factors. In addition to being unsightly, lipomas may become large enough to restrict movement and may become centrally necrotic or ulcerated. Pain and discomfort is associated with necrotic and ulcerated lipomas and xanthomas. Birds will pick at themselves (self mutilate) with this form of tumor. The resulting bleeding and infection becomes a life threatening situation.

If the tumor is not ulcerated or necrotic, initial treatment involves dietary modification and additional exercise. Iodine supplementation in the form of Ioford in the drinking water is also recommended at this stage. Lipomas that do not respond to this treatment often become ulcerated or begin to interfere with locomotion.


Management of Lipomas (non-ulcerated and non-necrotic)

    • Introduce a low fat diet (low sunflower seed content).
    • Balance nutrition (Avianweb Note: Low Fat, Low Seed, Focus on Fruits and Veggies, Greens and SPROUTED Seeds)
    • Use an Iodine supplement to stimulate the thyroid gland and metabolism of fatty tissues.
    • Stimulate exercise twice daily to help with weight and fat reduction.
    • Return in 2 weeks for re-assessment of the tumor.

Fat tumors are associated with normal fat deposits throughout the body. The presence of these fat depots may lead to multi-focal development of lipomas. The aim of the above regime is to remove or minimize these surrounding fat depots to allow complete removal of the lipoma. If the tumor is completely removed, removal is usually curative.


Management of Xanthomas (ulcerated and necrotic)

Once the tumour becomes ulcerated or necrotic the tumor changes in nature to a serious life-threatening form called a Xanthoma. Xanthomas tend to overly fat deposits, hernias and chronic abscesses, and are non-discrete thickened areas of yellow, friable skin that bleeds easily. In these cases surgical removal is required. If the tumour is left untreated, the bird becomes susceptible to sudden bleeding episodes and may bleed to death.

  • Please refer to this article about Marcie whose owner was able to reduce these tumors drastically by massaging them with Gentamicin cream and removing the cholesterol layers as they flake off.
  • Note: A vet in San Diego (Dr. Speers) recommended apple cider vinegar (use to be discussed with a vet.).




Surgical Removal of Xanthomas

Once the fat tumor becomes ulcerated or necrotic, immediate surgical removal becomes necessary. The ulcerated and necrotic skin associated with xanthomas often complicates surgical removal of these tumours. Our aim for surgery is to completely remove the xanthoma and any surrounding necrotic or ulcerated skin. If this is achieved, recurrence is less likely.


Laser Therapy

Laser therapy has also been successfully used to treat these tumors. This procedure involves passing a laser beam across the bird's skin above the area where the pet experiences discomfort, injury or inflammation. This is a painless procedure – the pet only feels the warmth penetrating the affected area. The non-thermal photons of light are then absorbed by the injured cells, which are then stimulated and respond with a higher rate of blood circulation, an anti-inflammatory reaction, relief from pain and an accelerated healing process.

Post Operative Complications

There is very little chance of post surgical complication following the routine removal of non ulcerated/necrotic fat tumors. The removal of xanthomas and ulcerated lipomas is a more complex procedure because of an increased likelihood of bleeding and stroke like syndrome (see surgery pamphlet overleaf). As well, the likelihood of self mutilation is increased following surgery because the bird has developed a habit of picking itself. Self mutilation lessens the chance of recovery as the wound is not allowed adequate time to heal.

The Miracle that is Marcie by Jeannine Miesle - The story of a rescued cockatiel with multiple serious health problems, including xanthomas, lesions, malnutrition, Clostridium, Giardia and an atrophied uropygial gland


Recommended Resources:

  • Treating Pigeons:
    • THUJA OCCIDENTALIS: This is a homeopathic herb used particularly for ill effects of vaccinations, blemishes, wart, polips, flued retention, tumors of Skin, gland, etc in people. It has proved to be a wonderful remedy for Pox in pigeons. Dosage: 3 small tablets for a good size pigeon, 2 for cockatiel size bird.1. For the first two days: use above dose twice a day, preferably once in the morning and once at night.2. Thereafter: use same dose once per day.In two weeks this product will get the pox out of the organs, internally and kick the immune system in gear.
    Topical treatment: You can use Thuja oil topically. This is NOT to be used around eyes or nostrils and beak. Lesions should be completely gone in 2 to 3 days.

You can use Thuja oil on EXTERNAL LESIONS only, not internal. You must use the Thuja pills for internal use.

You can use Tea Tree Oil, diluted with water for external lesions of Pox and/or Canker. Use a Q tip and soak it up and dab on lesion gently. You cannot use the tee tree oil on any open wounds. Make sure the bird cannot pick at it and ingest it. You can also use Colloidal silver on internal and external lesions, as well as Neem oil.

  • “Heidi” Dow was a 14 year old spayed female with a growth on her right eye that looked red and angry (local vet said “cancerous”.) It was attached to the third eyelid, covered ½ the eye. It bled easily when rubbed or even touched gently. It was very sensitive to touch, causing this nice dog to growl. There were 2 firm growths on Rt. paw and in the middle of the chest. The owner gave Thuja 200c in July when it was first noticed and there was no change. She repeated Thuja 200c in August to no avail. She then gave Thuja 1M (date? In Aug) and the next day the tumor was more swollen and was dripping blood. She has been deaf since 1998. I prescribed Nitric acid 200c on September 8. From 9/14 to 9/18 had normal hearing. By 9/24 there was no blood and the tumor was smaller, though varied in size and shape, and she was back to normal energy and appetite. An LM potency of Nitric acid was given for the next 3 months, then a 10M Nitric acid. By April, she has been behaving like a young dog (Almost knocked the husband over which she has not done in years), woofing and pesky and pushy and sits and bounces up and down. Now doing 4 mile walks with running, leading and being adventuresome. The tumor is completely gone, there is no eye discharge, the ears are clear, there is no snoring and her appetite is fine.

  • Folk Medicine - According to Hartwell (1967–1971), the plant, usually as a tincture, is used in folk remedies for benign skin tumors, cancers, condylomata (of penis and vulva), excrescences, fungous flesh, neoplasms, papillomas, plantar warts, polyps, tumors, and warts. Reported to be anaphrodisiac, diaphoretic, diuretic, lactagogue, and laxative, arbor vitae is a folk remedy for burns, colds, consumption, cough, debility, distemper, dysentery, dysmenorrhea, fever, gout, headache, inflammation, malaria, paralysis, rheumatism, swollen extremities, toothache, and worms (Duke and Wain, 1981). The charcoal, mixed with bear gall, was introduced under the skin, after application, with needles in early Indian acupuncture, which resulted in black tatoos. Chippewa pricked the charcoal powder into the temples as an analgesic and used the leaves in cough compounds. Hurons used the boughs for their bed as a snake repellant. Menominee used in herbal steam and smudges for skin ailments and unconsciousness; they decocted the inner bark for amenorrhea, and poulticed powdered leaves onto swellings. Montagnai decocted the bruised twigs as a diaphoretic. Ojibwa used the leaf decoction as an analgetic, antitussive, depurative, and smoked objects and steamed themselves with the smoke or steam as a ceremonial cleansing. Penobscot poulticed the leaves onto hands and feet, and used for cancerous warts. Potawatomi treated the plant almost like a panacea, and burned the leaves over the coals as medicine, ceremonial purification, and to repel evil spirits (Duke, 1983c). Sources cited in Hager's Handbook report that homeopathic doses are effective against animal and plant viruses and that the plant affords protection against schistosomiasis. Hager's Handbook also lists many homeopathic applications, e.g. amnesia, angina, blepharitis, cholecystosis, condylomata, conjunctivitis, gonorrhea, gout, melancholy, myalgia, neuralgia, otitis, pertussis, pharyngitis, pruritus, rheumatism, rhinitis, trachitis, etc. (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979).

  • A benign fatty tumor, called a lipoma, is a soft, movable lump under the skin which does not turn into cancer. It can be surgically removed if it is causing discomfort or congestion. This is usually a simple procedure.

    The herb chickweed may help. Take one teaspoon of the tincture, three times daily or steep 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in a covered cup of boiling water for 15 minutes to make a tea, three times daily. Apply a chickweed ointment externally. If you don't notice a difference within a week, then this herb will not work for you.

    Thomas Bartram, in "Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine" (available at Richters) recommends Thuja occidentalis (cedar) for lipomas. Take 5 drops of the liquid extract in a little water three times daily and wipe the lipoma with thuja extract 2 to 3 times daily.

NOTE: Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified avian vet!

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