Iron Storage Disease - Birds

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Also known as: Haemochromatosis


Iron storage disease (Haemochromatosis) is common in pet toucans and mynahs. It is thought to be caused by an excessively large quantity of iron in the diet, which leads to cellular damage in the liver. Genetic factors and stress may also contribute to the disease as even if birds are fed on the same diet, not all of the bird are affected by the disease.


Toucans and mynahs are particularly susceptible to iron storage disease. It is also reported in specific zoo birds including the bird of paradise. It is rarely reported in pet psittacines.

Clinical Signs

Sudden death is commonly the only presenting sign - with birds appearing clinically healthy prior to death. If the animal presents alive it may show signs related to liver dysfunction.


Radiographs in the living patient may reveal hepatomegaly. Definitive diagnosis is by post mortem, which will reveal a hepatomegaly with or without a definite bronzed to bluish hue. Other organs are generally unremarkable, however iron deposits are rarely reported in the spleen, kidney, intestine, pancreas and lung, in that order of decreasing frequency of involvement.


If the condition is diagnosed in the living animal a low-iron, low-vitamin C (as vitamin C increases dietary uptake of iron) diet should be given. Periodic phlebotomy is also reported as an adjunct therapy.


Birds susceptible to the disease such as toucans should be fed a low iron diet.

Iron Storage Disease - Birds Learning Resources
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Merck & Co (2009) The Merck Veterinary Manual (Ninth Edition), Merial

Forbes NA & Altman RB (1998) Self-Assessment Colour Review Avian Medicine Manson Publishing Ltd

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