Iron Storage Disease / Hemochromatosis

Curl-crested Aracari (Pteroglossus beauharnaesii), also known as the Curly-crested AracariIron Storage Disease / Hemochromatosis

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

 

Fruit eating birds - such as Mynahs, Toucans, and Lories - are particularly susceptible to this disease, but it is increasingly seen in hookbills / psittacines. For example Quaker Parrots are now increasingly seen with this disease, but it can affect any parrot species.

 

Symptoms:

    • Loss of balance
    • weakness
    • lethargy
    • loss of interest in food

It cannot be detected by histo unless a special staining method is used.

 

Saffron Toucanet, Pteroglossus bailloni)Suspected Causes / Contributing Factors:

  • May be hereditary in some cases

  • Some researchers voiced their concern that "fortified bird seeds / pellets" are to blame for the increased occurrence of this disease.

  • When feeding pellets or fortified diets to your pet, Please be aware that certain dietary components may increase the storage of iron, including Vitamin C, ascorbic acid (citrus fruit) and sugar.

    Citric acid facilitates the absorption of iron. Therefore, Jerry Jennings, President / Director of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens strongly recommends "against feeding any citrus fruit at all - not even in moderate amounts." Red meat or any other meat should not be fed either (high in iron). He states that the iron in their diets comes mainly from the pellets they are fed, so low iron pellets should be the base diet. He uses "Mazuri because it is both low in iron and high in betacarotenes, and the quality control Mazuri practices is the best." (Should be available in better bird stores as well as online.).

    On the flip-side, copper and tannin compete with, or bind up iron so that it isn't as available.
 

Disease Progression

Iron Storage or Iron Overload Disease is characterized by the storage of excess iron in the liver and other organs.

It may be caused by an increased absorption of iron from the intestine even when the body does not require it. This is called primary iron overload. This is usually caused by an inherited abnormality known as hereditary haemochromatosis.

However, if iron is overdoses (over-supplementation), the body cannot expel the overload of iron quickly enough. So the body starts to store it in the liver. If accumulated in large concentrations, iron is toxic to liver cells.

This can cause the accumulation of fluids in the body with difficulty breathing, and it can involve the heart and other organs.

Rosenberg's Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus rosenbergii)

Toxicity can lead to cell death and fibrosis.

Iron Storage Disease is not found in wild populations of birds; it is, therefore, considered a disease of captive birds, which supports the theory that over-fortified food may be one of the reasons of this sharp increase in occurrences of this condition.

 

Alternative / Holistic Treatment Options:

    • Copper and tannin compete with, or bind up iron so that it isn't as available.
     
    • An article published in the "Alternative Medicine Review" (Volume 5, Number 4, August 2000) stated that "green tea polyphenols stimulate the activity of hepatic detoxification enzymes, thereby promoting detoxification of xenobiotic compounds, and are also capable of chelating metal ions, such as iron, that can generate radical oxygen species."
    • Zhi Zhong, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues found that "Green tea extract scavenges harmful free radicals in fatty livers and, therefore, could be an effective treatment to prevent failure of liver transplants."

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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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