Clinical Avian Nutrition for Veterinary Health Professionals

Clinical Avian Nutrition for the Veterinary Health Professional


Dr. Susan Orosz presented this live, interactive, webinar on the clinical perspectives of avian nutrition. How can veterinary health professionals address the nutritional needs of the companion bird?  This discussion will include the pros and cons of dietary options for the companion bird, from seed-only diets to pellets, extruded diets, and fortified whole seed diets. The presentation will also explore the nutritional history and physical exam findings related to nutritional status, and techniques for successful conversion to a healthy diet. The remainder of the seminar will focus on clinical concerns related to nutrition, including nutritional imbalances, from obesity to hypovitaminosis A, as well as nutritional management of common clinical conditions.


Lecture outline


  • Nutritional history
    • Importance as a diagnostic tool
    • Determining exactly what the bird is fed and in what proportions
    • Primary caretaker
  • Physical examination findings
  • Dietary conversion
    • Evaluation of the patient
    • Recommended food items
    • Monitoring
    • Tips & tricks
    • Cautions
  • Unsafe foods for birds
    • Food that should never be fed to birds
    • Foods that
      are generally not recommended but are sometimes fed without
  • Clinical management of…
    • Obesity
      • Predisposing factors
      • Potential health risks
      • Weight loss program

About the presenter

Dr. Susan Orosz is Director of the Bird and Exotic Pet Wellness Center in Toledo, Ohio. After graduation, Dr. Orosz worked at an exotics practice in San Diego before joining the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where she served as Section Chief for the Avian, Exotic Animal and Wildlife Medicine Service for 14 years. Susan lectures both nationally and internationally on avian and exotic animal medicine topics. She is also a Past President of the Association of Avian Veterinarians and was awarded the 2007 T.J. Lafeber Avian Practitioner of the Year Award. Dr. Orosz is also a veterinary consultant for Lafeber Company.  [MORE]


Webinar recording

Note:  Three slides (55-57) were inadvertently out of order between time stamp 45:20 to 46:24. The slides and correct accompanying text are posted below.


Slide 55:  Occupational therapy

Slide 55

Foraging is important.

Wing flapping takes up 20% of birds’ basal metabolic rate, so we’ve got to get them wing flapping or flying. We’ve got to get them moving, with a lot of physical activity.


Slide 56:  Weight loss program

Slide 56

We want to schedule regular follow-ups. Remember not only do we want to weigh them, but to feel them because clients tend to “slide backwards”.


Slide 57:  Gastrointestinal disease

Slide 57

As I said before, when I showed you that picture of that stomach. It’s going to based on that particular species of bird but in general you want a high-energy, low-fiber diet initially with easily digestible protein…


Download the presentation

Download Dr. Orosz’s presentation:  PDF  (14 MB). Contact us if you would like a copy of the PowerPoint file with annotated notes.



With a passing grade of 70% or higher, you will receive a continuing education certificate for 1 hour of continuing education credit in jurisdictions that recognize American Association of Veterinary State Boards Registry of Approved Continuing Education approval.

Test your knowledge


Evaluation form

What did you think? Please complete the evaluation form to provide feedback or to make suggestions for future webinar topics.


Expert Q+A

Although Dr. Orosz was able to answer most questions submitted during the live event, remaining questions were answered by email and are posted below:

Reproductive disease

I’m not familiar with the association of giving a bird a variety of foods and reproductive problems.  Can you elaborate on that?

Parrots tend to go into breeding when the rainy season stops and there is a wider variety of foods available. This increase in a variety of foods, including the increase in fat and protein in the diet, is often what helps to stimulate reproduction. This is particularly important in the species of parrots that are not seasonal. Many parrots are from ecosystems close to the equator and they don’t use changes in the light cycle to stimulate them into lay but changes in foods. So when the unsuspecting owner gives a large smorgasbord of  foods this is one factor in the possibility of stimulating breeding behavior. The owner presenting this large variety while they are in their cage can be interpreted by the parrot as they are being presented  by their mate (which is interpreted by the parrot as the owner) to their nest box( their cage) this great amount of food and that stimulates reproduction. That is why I suggested that there should be limited veggie fruit choices each day. 

Renal disease

What about the role of phosphorous on renal disease? Any [studies]?

Regarding phosphorus, I do not know of a study that concentrated on just that mineral. There have been studies done in young parrots where the vitamin D3 levels were too high in the food that there were hand raised on. In those birds, the calcium and phosphorus values were measured and they were increased leading to gout in the kidneys and other organs( visceral gout). I might add that none of this was intentional by the food manufacturer. 

Have you observed renal disease in color mutation lovebirds, budgies, and cockatiels on a very high pelleted diet?

These species in general can have problems with extruded diets resulting in increased urine. They are granivores and realistically need more material in their diets like some grains to utilize their GI tracts properly. That is why I tend to use the Nutri-Berries for these species.  I have not had much difference in the color mutations vs the normal wild type but in general the color mutations tend to have more problems particularly with the immune system. 

Gastrointestinal tract disease

Do you see flaccid gizzards commonly in practice?

I think that I see some of that indirectly as I do not have a fluoroscope at my practice. The ballooning or pocketing of the portions of the stomach results in the formation of pockets where anaerobic bacteria tend to colonize. This I can see on fecal Gram stains- anaerobic bacteria or spore formers along with Clostridium when present. Often parrots have a slowing down of the GI tract during periods of increased reproductive hormones. This slowing down of normal GI motility results in these anaerobic bacteria in the fecal gram stain as well. 

Eclectus parrots

Do you believe that Eclectus parrots need a more specific diet due to toe-tapping wing flipping?

I think that Eclectus are hard to deal with from a nutritional perspective as they come from islands or a unique ecosystem. Dr Marshal* is concerned that they need some harder food stuffs for the gizzard and proventriculus to work properly. That could be interpreted as more than just a pelleted diet so that some firmer vegetables are added. In my experience, I am not sure that the toe tapping is from a nutritional problem [but] from avian ganglioneuritis (ABV) as most of the toe tappers that I have had in clinical practice were positive for avian borna virus.

*Rob Marshall, BVSc, MACVSc (Avian Health) was mentioned during Dr. Orosz’s live presentation. He presented at ExoticsCon 2019.

Food items:  herbs, insects, grit, produce

How about herbs? Milk thistle seeds, echinacea, fenugreek etc? 

I love to give fresh herbs to parrots and they tend to like fresh curled parsley, cilantro, dill  and  basil. Most do not like echinacea but I have not tried fenugreek. But all would be great. These herbs help the immune system and provide support to it. 

Side question to the freeze dried insects, are live feeder insects considered a part of a good diet as it must also provide a foraging aspect?

You can add live insects but have found that most hand-raised parrots are scared of them. Other protein sources are a small amount of cooked meat or eggs. The number of servings are based on the species. Greys and cockatoos need slightly more protein than Amazons, for example.

Do canaries need some grit? Would this be insoluble or soluble?

Most of the time pet stores sell an insoluble grit for canaries. They don’t need much or very often if that is used. One common problem with birds when they get sick is that they tend to overeat grit and create a grit impaction. I tend to not give grit to canaries and feed a pellet with some seed . Additionally, I have owners use eggs that are hard cooked with some finely ground crackers and add in the egg shell as a form of soluble grit. This egg mixture may be one to two times a week or if feeding young, I will have them use this handmade egg food daily. 

How much fruits and vegetables should the parrots eat at day in grams? Often clients ask us about the quantity that they should provide

It would be very hard to do that in grams as the size of the bird matters. I use an example of an Amazon parrot would need for example 4 Nutri-Berries BID and then about 2-4 tablespoons of veggies. One serving of fruit which would be one small piece. Then for that size bird, several walnuts. 


RACE approval

This program is approved for 1 hour of non-interactive continuing credit for veterinarians and veterinary technicians in jurisdictions which recognize American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) Registry of Approved Continuing Education (R.A.C.E.) approval.


To cite this page:

Orosz S. Clinical avian nutrition for veterinary health professionals. LafeberVet Web site. October 27, 2019. Available at