Ask Lafeber


August 4, 2020

Health concerns

I have had my red lored Amazon for 27 years he was abandoned to a pet store and is estimated to be 35 years old. I recently took him to the vet for an issue with one feather that was growing into a circle and was very fat and painful and as a result of that vet visit my bird needed testing because they believed he had some respiratory or cardiac issues. After all these tests I come to find out he has atherosclerosis and enlarged heart that is not pumping adequately and he also has I traded in both of his knees. As of today he is on 2 Heart meds and Gabapentin for arthritis pain. I am planning on asking the vet why she chose to Gabapentin over the meloxicam because Gabapentin is usually only good for neuropathic pain and rheumatoid arthritis where is the meloxicam is good for both. I am a wreck over his health issues especially because every time I give him his medicine he is traumatized and shakes for the rest of the day. I am trying to figure out a way to give him his medication that is not so disturbing for him maybe if I can put it in some food you have any suggestions as to how I might approach this and also what would be the best diet for his medical conditions the last of which is being overweight. I have finally managed to get him off of the seeds and eating Harrison’s but I would like to include Nutri berries in his diet.. I’m just not certain what the best diet would be for him. The vet gave me all kinds of papers about diet and I really need more specific information. Eating leafy greens I mean how do I get him to eat leafy greens if he doesn’t like them. He tends to like mostly the fruits and the only vegetables he eats are string beans and sweet potatoes. I know he needs to eat more leafy greens is there some kind of pre-made Mash or chop or something and I can give him so he will be eating greens with everything else. Also I was told not to give him any seeds at all but that Sprouts would be okay I am totally lost.


Hi Robbin,

Red Loreds are my favorite Amazon – although I am biased as I got my Red Lored in 1986 and she’s a doll. Nutrition is very confusing and unfortunately there are a lot of well meaning bird owners on the internet who promote their home made concoctions. My overall advice is the same as what Vets will advise – offer a staple diet for the main diet with fresh foods as up to 20% of the diet. A staple diet is a commercial diet – and of course the word “commercial” can turn some people off due to all of the misinformation. The family owned brands like ours and Harrison’s and a few others have been formulated based on science and as we learn more about nutritional needs, formulas are adjusted.

To add to the confusion, most Vets and bird experts have the tendency to tell you not to feed any seeds and to offer pellets instead. However, when you read the ingredients of pellets, they are primarily ground up seeds and grains with additional supplements added. So why the “No seeds” advice? Because as I mentioned in my last post, most seeds are sold in whole form with their hull, and they are no longer fresh enough to retain their nutrients. Added vitamins are lost with the hull. And seeds allow for selective feeding, where the bird can choose to only eat one type of seed out of a mix. With pellets, everything is ground up and mixed together to form a uniform pellet, so the bird has no choice but to eat all of the ingredients. With our foraging diets, the seeds are hulled and combined with other nutritious ingredients and supplements – they are nutritionally formulated the same as a pellet, but they are not ground up. While selective feeding is possible with these foods, this only occurs if the owner gives their bird too many. Feeding our foraging diets does involve an initial commitment by the owner to determine how many their bird can eat daily, without wasting too much – basically the bird must learn to eat the entire berry or cake and will do so as long as he isn’t given too many at a time. Birds will just as easily waste pellets if they are fed too many. I do not recommend sprouts because they can support bacterial or fungal growth. While there are precautions to take when sprouting, most Vets these days recommend against feeding sprouts due to the risk.

My Red Lored was very overweight when I got her, and even had fatty deposits on her body, especially her abdomen. I put her on a strict diet of Tropical Fruit Nutri-Berries with some fresh veggies. It took a year, but she lost all of the excess weight as well as the fatty deposits. Her feather condition improved and she became more active.

I’m glad you were able to get yours off of the loose seeds. You can add some Nutri-Berries to his diet as I described before – break them up and add to the pellets. Like the pellets, the Nutri-Berries are 100% consumable since the seeds have been hulled already. I would break 2 or 3 up with his pellets. Once a bird has met his nutritional needs, he usually will not overeat. For additional foods, maybe stop giving him fruit other than once a week as a treat since most fruit is mainly sugar, water and fiber. The blueberries are good because they have anti-oxidants and other benefits, but one or two daily is enough. The veggies you mentioned are all good, but also try carrots. Again, offer all of these in moderation – one or two bites for a bird is like us eating the entire vegetable. You said he nibbles on kale so this is very good. The dried peppers actually have vitamins A & C. And the banana is just about a perfect food! One slice daily gives him a lot of benefits. Don’t try to get him to eat a lot of any of this – if he is nibbling on some kale, this is plenty of leafy greens. Too much of anything can be bad, so give him a small serving with a variety of what he likes. For a better guideline, the minimum caloric needs of an Amazon parrot weighing 450 grams is about 86 calories per day. Your bird may require more or fewer, but your Vet would be the one to ask about that. But as a guideline, look up the calories of any fresh foods to see how many calories they offer. This will help you understand why I say one bite or a single blueberry or slice of banana.

I don’t know if his meds are liquid or solid, but I would try giving it to him on some fruit or banana. If medicating him is as stressful as you say, at some point you have to decide if the stress is harming him more than not having the medicines. I would highly recommend that you try to get him to eat our senior bird diet because it has a lot of supplements that would be very beneficial for him. You can read about the diet here:

I hope all of this information has been helpful and not added to your confusion. You have a special bird and you love him, so you want the best for him. I hope this diet change can improve his health so that he is with you for years to come.

Thanks for the update,


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