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Enzymes Parrots Do Not Produce: Lactase & Cellulase

We hear it all the time “birds don’t produce lactase, the digestive enzyme necessary to digest lactose in dairy products. Therefore we should not be feeding dairy to our birds.”

Then doesn’t it stand to reason that since parrots do not produce “cellulase” that we should not be feeding foods containing “cellulose?”

Although some people will feed yogurt due to the fact that during the fermentation process lactose is broken down, “casein”, an indigestible, glue-like protein still remains. For this reason I never feed any kind of dairy to my birds. I do not feed yogurt or cheese.

Yet with cellulose it plain doesn’t get broken down at all, ever except in the case when it passes through the “cecum”, which mammals have.  However, birds are not mammals, they are aves. Parrots belong to a very special class of aves that do not have ceca.  Poultry have ceca, parrots do not. The cecum is a small, blind-ended sac connecting the small and large stomach.

Chicken Cecum

Parrot Cecum-It doesn’t exist

Ceca pulverize and liquefy cellulose into a liquid that is then reabsorbed into the metabolic system to be used as glucose. (1) For birds that do not have a cecum, and because birds do not produce cellulase to break down cellulose, this tough indigestible fiber only acts as a laxative stripping the delicate mucus lining from the digestive tract, as well as nutrients as the cellulose passes through. Because birds have a very short and narrow digestive tract compared to most mammals having a broad and long digestive tract, they do not need a fibrous laxative like cellulose to thoroughly cleanse their digestive tract. Instead Nature has provided “pectin” and “hemicellulose” fibers in their indigenous foods such as tropical fruit and tender greens, also containing Omega 3s to gently flush their digestive tracts while delivering vital nutrients. Both of these fibers are soluble fibers whereas cellulose is insoluble.

I started educating the avian community about this vital information in 2011 and I will not stop educating until fellow bird lovers across the globe begin to understand how important it is that we all grasp this for the long term health of our companion birds.

As you can clearly see in the photos, poultry (Galliformes)(A) have ceca and parrots (Psittaciformes)(B) do not. (2) Combined with the knowledge that birds do not produce cellulase in order to digest cellulose, I do not know how we as a community can ignore that parrots should not be fed high-cellulose foods any more than they should not be fed dairy.


Ref: (1), Pg 105; (2), Pg 95.

©11.7.15   Machelle Pacion   Passion Tree House LLC   All Rights Reserved

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