Hormonal Disorder in Birds

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 1, 2008

Avian Diabetes Mellitus

Hormonal disorders can occur in birds and cause a disturbance in the blood levels of different hormones.

Symptoms and Types

Diseases of the glands can either increase or decrease the hormone secretion ability of the gland. One such glandular disease in birds is Diabetes Mellitus. The usual symptoms of diabetes mellitus are:

  • Increased amount of urine (polyuria)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased levels of blood glucose or glucose in urine


Hormonal disorders in birds can be due to many detected or undetected reasons, including:

  • Tumors or cancers of the glands that secrete hormones
  • Injury to the glands
  • Diseases of the glands
  • Surgeries of the glands

An injury to a gland can lead to either decreased amount of hormone secretion or an increased amount, thus altering the blood levels of the hormone.

Tumors and cancers of the glands, however, cause the gland to begin secreting hormones in different ratios or altogether different hormones. For instance, testicular cancer can cause the testicles to release female hormones leading to female characteristics in the male bird. Cancer of the ovary or pituitary gland can lead to release of male hormones in a female bird resulting in male characteristics.

The hormonal disorder, Diabetes mellitus, occurs in birds that are obese and have problems in the pancreas and reproductive organs. It is a medical condition, in which the pancreas secretes less insulin or more glucagon; thus increasing the level of sugar (glucose) in the bird's blood.


Diabetes Mellitus is diagnosed in birds similarly to how it is done in humans. A simple blood test for glucose levels is done, along with testing for levels of insulin and glucagon.


Treating Diabetes Mellitus generally involves insulin, which corrects levels of blood sugar for a short duration. Insulin can be given by injection, by mouth or through water. The water method allows the bird self-regulate its levels of insulin.

Once the insulin takes effects, the bird's thirst will also decrease. This, in turn, will lead to less consumption of medicated water, and will further regulate insulin levels in the bird with Diabetes Mellitus.


In some birds, hormonal disorders like Diabetes Mellitus are temporary. In birds with permanent Diabetes Mellitus, regular medication is needed to prevent this hormonal disorder from becoming fatal.

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