What does it mean when your vet says that your companion bird is suffering “blood loss”, but you have never seen your bird actually bleed?
One explanation is that your bird could be bleeding internally. To learn if this is the case you need to request that your avian veterinarian perform a CAT Scan or computer tomography (CT) to determine if your beloved bird is bleeding internally. Once internal bleeding is ruled in or out you need to find the cause if your bird is bleeding internally. Is it due to an injury or something your bird is consuming? If an injury hopefully your vet can perform surgery to correct the problem, but if it is something your bird is consuming this may become more difficult.
Many birds today are fed diets high in “salicylates” or more commonly known as salic acid. Salicylates are used in many OTC remedies and pharmaceuticals as well as supplements in the form of buffers, fillers and stabilizers. Salic acid is virtually in all plant matter, but is found in high amounts in herbs, spices, berries and domestic fruit. However it is also present in greens and vegetables. Salic acid is a naturally occurring food chemical placed in plant matter by Nature to protect plants from predators, but unfortunately it is used as a man-made chemical in many OTCs, supplements and pharmaceuticals as well. It is also present in preservatives, flavorings and food colorings as well as many household cleaners and laundry detergents; we can’t escape salicylates.
Salic acid is, at its most basic form a blood thinner. It is the main ingredient in aspirin. If a bird ingests too many salicylates the blood can be thinned to the point where internal bleeding begins to occur. This may be one reason why a bird experiences blood loss with the caregiver and veterinarian not knowing what is taking place internally. Then suddenly the bird dies and no one knows why.
In addition, if a bird’s diet is high in foods that contain tannins those naturally occurring food constituents can block iron absorption and also act as a diuretic causing Vitamin B12 to leach out of the bird’s system so fast that this all-important water-soluble vitamin cannot be replaced fast enough. Both iron and Vitamin B12 are responsible for red blood cell regeneration and proper formation. To a veterinarian examining a bird this could appear as “blood loss” when in fact it is anemia due to lack of red blood cell regeneration and proper formation.
Foods that contain high amounts of tannins are certain herbs, spices, teas and legumes. There are other foods, but those foods contain the highest amounts of tannins. We all seem to feed a lot of those foods to our birds.
So the next time you read a post about a bird suddenly dropping dead and the cause is “unknown”, or a bird suffering lethargy, or anemia, or “blood loss” remember this article. Take heed, if you feed your bird a lot of herbs, spices, teas or legumes do your research and learn which items in those categories contain the highest amount of tannins. Also, be sure to limit the amount of OTC remedies, supplements and pharmaceuticals you allow your bird to ingest, most of them will contain salicylates even though not stated on the label. Truth in labeling does not require that salicylates be listed on the label because the FDA does not recognize salicylates as adding to the nutrition of a product, therefore the manufacturer is not legally required to list them on the product label. Just know that if the product is a laboratory-produced remedy, supplement or pharmaceutical chances are high it contains salicylates. When you begin layering several of those items upon another you are introducing high volumes of salicylates to your bird’s system thinning its blood.
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