is an article we wrote for the Brotogeris Society International
because there is some concern about high protein diets causing
kidney problems in this group of American parakeets. It is however
equally relevant to any species or individual where protein,
gout or kidney problems are an issue:
has been reported that kidney problems and gout are common in
Brotogeris parakeets. This has led to a view that high protein
diets are dangerous for these birds. To understand this
better we need a little knowledge of three issues:
Is kidney damaged caused by high protein or is an intolerance
to high protein a symptom of kidney disease?
* What do we mean by "high protein"?
* Is some protein safer than others?
take them one by one.
The job of the kidneys is to remove toxic waste materials from
the body. The kidney tissue can be damaged by infections. It
can also be killed by hard work! In other words, if the
levels of toxic materials are very high, the kidney may be damaged.
When protein is broken down in the body the kidneys have to
remove the waste material. In birds the most obvious of
these is the white "uric acid" portion of the droppings.
Other waste is in the liquid urine which is also produced by
if the protein level in the diet is very high the kidneys may
be damaged by overwork. When the kidneys cannot remove
all the uric acid the body also removes them from the blood
by depositing them as crystals. When the are deposited
in the joints they cause the painful symptoms of gout.
At necropsy they are often seen as white crystals all over the
internal organs. This is called visceral gout.
Unfortunately "high protein" is rather difficult to define.
You will find the percentage protein listed on most bird foods.
You may think this is a good guide but it is actually very misleading.
What really matters is the ratio between protein and energy
in the diet. Your bird (just like you) needs a combination of
both. It will eat enough food to ensure it has enough
of both of these key nutrients. If the balance of the diet is
tipped towards too much energy the bird eats enough food to
satisfy its protein requirement. It eats too much energy
and the excess energy is turned into fat. This is a common
situation for many birds (and humans!!!).
fact many bird diets are severely energy dense (particularly
those with lots of sunflower seed and nuts). This can
lead to protein deficiency as well as obesity. Birds like
this moult slowly and have poor feather quality as well as suffering
from many other chronic problems. These foods are energy
dense because of the huge amounts of energy in fats and oils.
So determining whether the food is "high protein" requires a
full knowledge of the fat, carbohydrate and protein content,
the energy levels of each component and some sums!
the protein level is too high the bird eats too much protein
just to get enough energy. This may lead to the kidney
damage and gout we have already discussed.
But even the protein energy ratio is potentially misleading
because there are different qualities of protein. Basically
protein sourced from plants (seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables
etc) is far poorer in quality than animal proteins (dairy, eggs,
meat, insects). The best way to understand this is to
read the article "Not all protein is the same"
then return to this article. The protein article is in our English
section so you will need to return to the US section when you
have read it.
may ask why we need to balance plant protein in captive birds
while wild birds get no such extras? The reason is simple.
Wild birds get far more exercise so need a different protein
to energy ratio in their to our pet birds or breeding stock.
Studying what wild birds eat provides us with useful information
but must be interpreted and modified for captivity!
don't know whether Brotogeris parakeets need particularly low
protein diets. What I do know is that they will be much
safer eating balanced protein. So the limiting amino acids
Essentials3 will help enormously. As will the vitamins
and Rapisorb minerals they contain. For most of you we
would recommend Daily
Essentials3 and CalciBoost
(for extra bio-available calcium) as the basic supplement package
for diets based on seeds, fruits, nuts, peas etc. For
breeding we add a few more goodies - but that is a different