Tumors: Lipomas in Birds

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

Lipomas are benign fatty tumors commonly found in Budgies, some Amazon parrots, Rose Breasted Cockatoos (galas), and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. They are most commonly found under the skin on the sternum (breastbone or keel bone) or on the abdomen, but can occur anywhere on the body. They appear as soft, pale yellow, sometimes lobulated, solitary, or multiple enlargements under the skin. They may be noticed as a "lump" or you may just notice that the bird is getting fat. They can become so large that they will affect the way the bird perches or impair its flight. Formation of lipomas is associated with poor nutrition, obesity, hypothyroidism, and genetic factors.

"Formation of lipomas is associated with poor nutrition, obesity, hypothyroidism, and genetic factors."

Malignant liposarcomas can also occur. They tend to be more firm than standard lipomas and are faster growing.

Is there any treatment for lipomas?

If caught early, most lipomas respond to nutritional therapy. Often, affected birds are on high-fat, all-seed diets. Weaning slowly onto a balanced, low-fat diet (pellets, vegetables, small amounts of fruit) is often successful in reducing or resolving lipomas. Iodine supplements may help stimulate the thyroid gland and increase the metabolism of fatty tissues. In some cases, your bird’s avian veterinarian may prescribe a thyroid supplement. Stimulate your bird to exercise at least twice daily to help with weight reduction.

Surgical removal may become necessary in cases where the tumor or fatty tissue is creating balance issues or has broken through the skin. Liposarcomas are likely to metastasize, meaning they may spread to other tissues. Consult an avian veterinarian for further guidance.

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