Iron Storage Disease In Birds

Key Points

  • Iron storage disease is the excess accumulation of iron (hemosiderin) in tissues, particularly the liver.
  • Iron storage disease is most often reported in toucans and other ramphastids, mynah birds, and starlings.
  • Mynahs and European starlings appear to be more susceptible to iron overload because they have no barriers to dietary iron absorption and they do not down-regulate iron absorption when body stores are adequate.
  • Liver biopsy is currently the best way to evaluate iron status antemortem.
  • Traditionally, phlebotomy, deferoxamine and low-iron diets have been used for management of birds with iron storage disease. Treatment for at least 16 weeks has been recommended.
  • The most important way to prevent iron storage in sensitive birds is low iron intake, especially through the diet and drinking water.
  • The use of natural chelators such as tannins to lower iron levels must be done with caution. Tannins are complex compounds that can potentially reduce protein digestion and cause anorexia.

Hemochromatosis, “iron overload”, or “iron storage disease” is the excess accumulation of iron within parenchyma, especially in the liver and eventually in the heart and spleen. Elevated iron stores eventually lead to hepatocyte damage and fibrosis . . .

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Pollock C. Iron storage disease in birds. November 23, 2008. LafeberVet Web site. Available at