Tumors in Birds
By Rick Axelson, DVM

General Informationtumours_in_birds-1

While not as commonly seen as they are in dogs and cats, tumors do occur in birds. Birds of any age can develop tumors although it tends to be more common seen as they age.

What exactly are tumors?

Tumors are firm tissue growths or swellings that may occur on the body (protruding from the skin), under the skin, or within the body. By definition, tumor cells are cells that are growing and multiplying out of control.

"By definition, tumor cells are cells that are growing and multiplying out of control."

Are all lumps tumors?

No. Some lumps can be abscesses, which are caused by infectious organisms such as bacteria. Some swellings that you notice on your bird might actually an enlarged organ, which swells or increases in size due to disease. If the bird is a female, an abdominal swelling that you suspect to be a tumor may in fact be an egg.

Are all tumors cancerous?

No. As is true with other pets and people, some tumors are benign (non-fatal) and some are malignant (cancerous, which means that they will either invade other tissues surrounding them or will metastasize or spread to other locations in the body).

How can I tell what is causing the lump?

You cannot, and very often, your veterinarian cannot either, at least not just with a physical examination. Tests such as a painless fine needle biopsy can often diagnose the composition or cause of the lump. Sometimes, it is necessary to perform histologic testing (examination of the tissue microscopically) after surgical removal in order to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant. Internal lumps may require diagnostic tests, including blood tests, radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound or even exploratory surgery in order to determine their nature.

How are tumors treated?

"Have any lump examined immediately by your veterinarian."

Once the lump is diagnosed as a tumor, surgical removal is usually recommended. Depending upon the size of the tumor and its location, this surgery may be more challenging and difficult than a similar surgery in a dog or cat. Therefore, the sooner the pet is examined after you notice the tumor, the better his chance for a successful surgery. Not all tumours can be removed. Your veterinarian will have to make a judgement call as to whether it can be removed or not. Some tumours that can not be removed may be "debulked" if it is deemed beneficial to the animals quality of life.

Have any lump examined immediately by your veterinarian.

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