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Polyuria in Birds

By: Dr. Barbara Oglesbee

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Polyuria may be defined as an increase in the amount of the urine component of the droppings. In birds, droppings are composed of three elements: feces, urates and urine. The droppings are stored in the cloaca, the common emptying chamber for the gastrointestinal, urinary and reproductive tract.

  • Feces are produced in the intestinal tract and are normally green or brown in color.
  • Urine and urates are produced in the kidneys.

    Usually, birds only produce a very small volume of liquid urine, and the majority of the waste from the kidneys will be in the form of semi-solid, white/beige urates. Occasionally, a larger volume of urine is produced (polyuria), which is often mistaken for diarrhea. Birds that are polyuric will have a more liquid dropping, but the fecal component remains solid and formed. Birds with diarrhea have a more liquid consistency to the fecal component.

    There are many causes of polyuria in birds. A few of the more common causes include:

  • Gastrointestinal tract disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Dietary changes – increased amount of fruit or vegetables in the diet
  • Behavioral – increased amount of drinking
  • Toxins

    Your veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on how severely your bird is affected, how long he has been polyuric, and whether other symptoms are present. Birds that exhibit other symptoms, such as anorexia or lethargy, may require extensive diagnostic testing.

    If your bird occasionally has a few droppings with a clear, colorless liquid component and has no other symptoms, it may be normal. This is especially true if the diet has recently changed, or if increased amounts of fruits and vegetables have recently been fed, since these foods contain a large amount of water. If, however, polyuria is persistent (lasts more than a day), recurrent (returns frequently) or other symptoms occur, medical attention is needed.

    What to Watch For

  • Lethargy. Excessive sleepiness, ruffled feathers, tucking the head under the wing are symptoms that warrant an immediate visit to the veterinarian. Birds that are too weak to stay on a perch are in critical condition.

  • Loss of appetite. Monitor the amount of food the bird is eating. If the amount declines over time, or the bird stops eating entirely, seek a medical evaluation.

  • Vomiting, regurgitation or diarrhea

  • Blood in the stool or digested blood (melena), which appears as dark, green-black tarry stool

  • Lack of feces in the dropping. These droppings appear as only urates and urine. When they appear following an episode of diarrhea, it may indicate an obstruction in the intestinal tract.

    Diagnosis

    Your veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on how severely your bird is affected, or how long the problem has been going on. Chronic polyuria (polyuria lasting for several days to weeks), or polyuria along with other symptoms, usually requires extensive diagnostic testing.

    Your veterinarian may recommend the following:

  • A complete history. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian when the polyuria began, how much water the bird is drinking, whether the droppings have changed or vary in consistency or color, the type of diet your bird is on, and of any potential exposure to other birds.

  • A thorough physical examination

  • Sampling the feces or cloaca for bacterial culture and cytology (looking at cell types for evidence of infection or inflammation)

  • A urinalysis, if the bird is severely polyuric

  • A complete blood count (CBC) and serum biochemistry panel

  • Blood tests for heavy metal toxicity

  • Radiography (X-Rays) to look for evidence of intestinal disease, size and density of the liver, kidneys or other organs

  • Endoscopy for viewing the kidneys, liver and pancreas directly with a rigid endoscope to collect samples for biopsy or culture.

    Treatment

    Treatment for polyuria may include any combination of:

  • Hospitalization for intravenous or subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids and injectable medications for critically ill or dehydrated birds.

  • Dietary change or forced-feeding

  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications

    Home Care

    There are several circumstances under which polyuria may be normal. Some birds will become consistently polyuric after switching to commercially formulated pelleted diets. This will also happen if large amounts of fruits and vegetables are fed, as these foods have a larger water content.

    Baby birds that are being hand-fed formula usually have more urine in the droppings as compared to adult birds. Adult birds feeding babies drink more water and will therefore produce more urine. Birds that are stressed, such as may occur with a change in environment, may temporarily become polyuric.

    If only one or two of the droppings appear polyuric and the bird has no other symptoms:

  • Return the bird his old diet without fruits and vegetables for 24 hours.

  • Return the bird to a familiar environment.

  • Be sure that plenty of fresh water is available, and that the bird is drinking.

  • Use only paper (no litter of any type) on the cage bottom, and change the paper daily so that you can monitor the droppings.

  • If droppings do not return to normal within 24 hours, if polyuria worsens or if any other symptoms develop, contact your veterinarian.

  • If the bird's feathers appear fluffed up, keep him in a warm environment.

    After seeing your veterinarian, be sure to:

  • Give all medication as directed, for as long as directed, even after the symptoms appear to be gone.
  • Watch for a change in the droppings and report any changes to your veterinarian.

  • If improvement is not seen, report this to your veterinarian.

  • If the polyuria is worsening, or the bird develops other symptoms, alert your veterinarian immediately.

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