Iron Storage Disease in Birds

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 1, 2008

As in humans, a balanced nutrition is important for your bird. Any nutritional imbalance can result in a host of disorders and diseases in your pet. If there is excessive iron in the blood, it accumulates in the bird's main organs, and is generally referred to as Iron Storage Disease.

Iron is needed by the body to manufacture hemoglobin for the blood to carry oxygen. But it important to have a balance. Too little iron in the diet and the bird could suffer from anemia, too much and it can develop iron storage disease -- storing it first in the liver, then the lungs, heart and other main organs. Damage to these organs can be fatal to the bird.

Birds that usually suffer from Iron storage disease are mynahs, toucans, bird of paradise, and birds of parrot family.

Symptoms and Types

Iron storage disease is a slow and insidious disease, which usually does not show any symptoms in the early stages. Unfortunately, signs are only visible when death is imminent. These may include:

  • Difficulty breathing, due to lung damage
  • Distended (swollen) abdomen
  • Paralysis


As the name suggests, iron storage disease is due to excessive iron in the body. It usually occurs if the bird's diet is rich in iron; foods containing vitamin C, and A also increase the absorption of iron in the body. Birds can have a genetic predisposition to this condition, and stress sometimes plays a major role in iron storage disease.


You can prevent iron storage disease by balancing the amount of iron and vitamins in your bird's diet; commercial food is good for this purpose. Another way to prevent this condition is to avoid giving certain iron-rich or vitamin C- or vitamin A-rich food to your bird.

Low-iron foods are: peach, honeydew melon, skinless apple, and plum. High-iron foods that should not be given because of its vitamin C or A content are: papaya, mango, banana, squash, and skinless boiled potato. On their own, these foods do not cause iron storage disease. But given with food rich in vitamins C and A like citrus fruits, beetroot, carrots, chili pepper and spinach, they can lead to excessive iron in the body.

Foods that you must avoid completely are: foods supplemented with extra iron like baby food, juices and nectars, animal food, and any other commercial human food with extra iron.

With a little precaution (and a well-balanced diet), you can prevent iron storage disease from occurring in your bird.

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