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Kidney Disorders in Birds

By Rick Axelson, DVM

Medical Conditions, Pet Services

Kidneys are paired organs in the abdomen that filter the waste products of metabolism from the blood for excretion from the body. They are also important in maintaining water and electrolyte balance in the body.kidney_disorders_in_birds-1

"Kidney disease is relatively common in birds."

Kidney disease is relatively common in birds and may present as acute or chronic problems. There are many causes of kidney problems including infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic), tumors (common in budgies), toxic insults, certain nutritional excesses, metabolic disorders (such as gout) and blockages or obstructions.

What should I look for?

Kidney disease is often seen in budgies. You may see many different signs such as a fluffed, listless bird, depression, anorexia, weakness, not flying, weight loss, wet droppings, increased thirst, lameness, swollen joints, difficulty breathing and/or a swollen, puffy abdomen. Many of the clinical signs are non-specific or are observed with many different diseases. Some clinical signs are very characteristic of kidney disease. A veterinarian familiar with birds will start with a complete history, weight and a physical examination.

What tests can be done?

Clearly, a kidney problem cannot be treated unless a diagnosis has been made. There are a number of tests that can help your veterinarian determine the nature of your bird's problem. Each test provides another piece of the puzzle and often many tests are needed to give more clarity.

A Complete Blood Count (CBC) gives important information about infections, dehydration, toxins and anemia. Blood chemistry tests are used to measure kidney enzymes and certain electrolytes, and will help establish whether the kidneys are functioning appropriately. X-rays may be used to assess the size, position texture and kidney_disorders_in_birds-2density of the kidney. Although ultrasonography is limited in birds, it can be used to assess abdominal organs such as the kidney. The normal kidneys are difficult to scan, but this depends on what is going on with them Serology and specific DNA tests may be used to identify certain infectious organisms. With laparoscopy, the kidneys may be observed directly. Kidney biopsies may be required to assess the condition of the kidney at the cellular level, using the skills of a pathologist to establish a definitive diagnosis. Sadly, some diseases are found too late or are fatal and diagnosis is made with an autopsy (necropsy).

Are there treatments for kidney problems?

"Sometimes the condition cannot be "cured", only managed and supported to improve the quality of life."

Specific treatments are implemented based on the results of diagnostic testing. The range of treatments varies depending on the specific problem and may include modifying the diet to a lower protein diet, nutritional supplementation or force-feeding, and possibly hospitalization with supportive or symptomatic therapy (fluids and vitamins) plus antibiotic, antiviral, or antiparasitic medications if indicated. Sometimes the condition cannot be "cured", only managed and supported to improve the quality of life. The use of homeopathic or natural products may be beneficial to help support an ailing kidney.

It is important to follow the advice of your avian veterinarian.

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