In January of 2012, I noticed some blood in my parrot’s cage. Ni is an African Gray parrot who picks her feathers. I assumed she had just pulled another one, but closer inspection revealed a bloody mass in the area of her preen gland (uropygial gland). The next day, I performed surgery and removed the mass. Unfortunately, the biopsy results confirmed my worst fear. Ni had a very aggressive form of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma and the tumor cells extended all the way to the margins.
Squamous cell carcinomas that occur in the area of the uropygial or preen gland are usually seen in birds that are on poor quality diets. The lack of vitamin A causes squamous cell metaplasia that eventually changes to a carcinoma. Ni has always enjoyed a good diet. She eats a mixture of vegetables, fruits and organic pellets. This couldn’t possible be the cause. . .or could it? I started Ni on Harrison’s Sunshine Factor, hoping for the best.
Two months have passed and I am happy to report that Ni is doing well. Right after surgery, her incision broke down as the tumor remnants started to grow again. After two weeks of vitamin A supplementation, the tumor started to shrink and Ni no longer required medication to control her pain. I suspect the Arizona heat may have effected her otherwise great diet during transport. In any event, as a veterinarian and bird lover, this is a wonderful development to share with all of you who care about birds. If your bird is diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, be sure to ask your veterinarian about vitamin A supplementation. Below is a picture of the tumor before I removed it.