Clinical investigation into feed-related hypervitaminosis D in a captive flock of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): Morbidity, mortalities, and pathologic lesions

June E. Olds*, Eric Burrough, Darin Madson, Steve Ensley, Ronald Horst, Bruce H. Janke, Kent Schwartz, Gregory W. Stevenson, Phillip Gauger, Vickie L. Cooper, Paulo Arruda, Tanja Opriessnig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Blank Park Zoo began suffering mortalities in the spring of 2012 within a flock of 229 captive budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) housed in an interactive public-feeding aviary. Clinical signs in affected birds included weakness, posterior paresis, inability to fly, or acute death. Gross and microscopic lesions were not initially apparent in acutely affected deceased birds. Many birds had evidence of trauma, which is now hypothesized to have been related to the birds' weakness. Investigation into the cause(s) of morbidity and mortality were complicated by the opening of a new interactive enclosure. For this reason, environmental conditions and husbandry protocols were heavily scrutinized. Microscopic examination of dead budgies later in the course of the investigation revealed mineralization of soft tissues consistent with hypervitaminosis D. Pooled serum analysis of deceased birds identified elevated vitamin D3 levels. Vitamin D3 analysis was performed on the feed sticks offered by the public and the formulated maintenance diet fed to the flock. This analysis detected elevated levels of vitamin D3 that were 22.5-times the manufacturer's labeled content in the formulated diet. These findings contributed to a manufacturer recall of more than 100 formulated diets fed to a wide variety of domestic and captive wild animal species throughout the United States and internationally. This case report discusses the complexities of determining the etiology of a toxic event in a zoologic institution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • Budgerigar
  • Feed toxicosis
  • Hypervitaminosis D
  • Melopsittacus undulatus
  • Mineralization
  • Vitamin D

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