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.
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:
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
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:
Treatment for polyuria may include any combination of:
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:
After seeing your veterinarian, be sure to:
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. Normal birds on a diet that has a low water content only produce a very small volume of liquid urine. The majority of the waste from the kidneys will be in the form of semi-solid, white/beige urates.
The urates seen in the droppings consist of uric acid, which is the form in which the majority of nitrogenous waste is eliminated. This method is very efficient, since greater amounts of waste can be concentrated in a semi-solid form as compared to a liquid urine. The avian kidney always produces some urine. This urine serves to flush the semi-solid urates out of the kidney and into the cloaca. If a large amount of liquid is ingested, either by drinking or eating foods with a high water content, this liquid is eliminated in the form of urine. Birds often drink excessively with many different diseases, including infections and metabolic diseases, like liver disease and pancreatic disease.
Normally, the kidneys serve to balance the amount of water retained in the body. If the kidneys are damaged, they may loose the ability to form a concentrated urine. Excessive amounts of water can be lost from the body, resulting in polyuria and dehydration.
Since the major method of eliminating waste is via the production of uric acid, birds have not developed the ability to form urine that is as concentrated as mammalian urine. To compensate for this, liquid is reabsorbed by the colon. When urine enters the cloaca, it is moved by peristaltic waves into the colon, where water is absorbed.
Birds with intestinal tract disease often develop intestinal hypermotility. Peristaltic waves (rhythmic contractions of the intestinal tract which serve to push digested food forward) occur at regular controlled intervals in normal birds. In some birds with diarrhea, these waves lack coordination, so that food moves through the intestinal tract too quickly. This results in an increase in frequency of defecation and polyuria since water moved into the colon does not have a chance to be absorbed.
A small amount of urine in the dropping may be normal. For example, switching to a commercial pelleted diet may cause temporary polyuria in some birds, as these birds may initially drink more water. Also, as mentioned above, birds eating a large amount of fruit and vegetables will become temporarily polyuric since these foods contain a higher water content. Similarly, birds may drink excessively following a bath, or if sweet tasting beverages are offered.
It is common for birds to become temporarily polyuric when stressed. This may occur when the environment changes, such as the addition of a new bird, new people in the house, or moving the cage. Most birds are polyuric when taken to a strange place, like a veterinarian's office.
Nesting birds and their offspring are usually slightly polyuric. This is commonly seen before egg laying in female birds. After laying the eggs, however, the droppings should return to normal. Birds that are feeding babies will also be polyuric, since they will drink more water to make a gruel in the crop to feed to the offspring.
There are many causes of polyuria in birds. The cause may be very simple, such as a dietary change, or may be due to a number of complex disease processes. There are many contagious diseases which cause polyuria, so it is important to inform your veterinarian of any potential contact – direct or indirect – with other birds. Possible causes of polyuria in birds include:
An overgrowth of harmful bacteria may also occur when antibiotics are used improperly. Bacteria may cause intestinal disease or move from the intestines directly to the kidneys though a specialized system of veins, call the renal portal system.
A thorough history is extremely important in the diagnosis of diarrhea. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian:
Your veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on how severely your bird is affected, whether other symptoms are present, or how long the problem has been going on. Birds that have other symptoms or have had chronic polyuria (lasting for days to weeks) or recurrent polyuria may require extensive diagnostic testing. Any combination of the following may be recommended:
Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially of the problem is severe. The following treatments may be applicable to some, but not all birds with polyuria. Theses treatments may reduce the severity of symptoms, or provide relief for your bird. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your bird's condition.