Owning a lovebird (genus Agapornis) can be fun, but only if you're familiar with the ins and outs of their dietary needs. Birds with nutritional issues often require assistance in iodine block form. By munching on these blocks, lovebirds can make up for any deficiencies in iodine they might have.
Lack of Iodine
Lovebirds typically obtain iodine by consuming normal, well-rounded diets that are centered around commercial pellets. If a bird doesn't receive enough iodine, it could lead to a deficiency that could harm his thyroid gland, causing it to increase in size. This problem is referred to as goiter. Goiters are especially prevalent in lovebirds, and also in other parrots including budgies, cockatiels and Australian grass parakeets, for example.
Although lovebirds are indeed vulnerable to insufficient levels of iodine and goiters, the problem is not as widespread as it once was. This is because iodine is now a common enrichment in litter used in bird cages, and lovebirds can instead get a lot of their iodine through that means. Despite that, some lovebirds might still require iodine blocks. It often depends on their geographic locations. If a lovebird resides in a city with water that's low in iodine, he might be a suitable candidate for the blocks, which are readily available for purchase at most pet stores. Only a veterinarian can tell you whether your lovebird needs supplemental iodine.
If your lovebird does need iodine blocks, you might be able to tell by observing him. The presence of a conspicuous protrusion on the neck -- goiter -- is usually a good start. Other key signs to look out for include problems eating and labored breathing. Some lovebirds with insufficient iodine also start acting out in a destructive manner -- a response to feelings of frustration. Any of these things call for a trip to an avian veterinarian immediately. Make a point to take your lovebird to the veterinarian for a checkup a minimum of once a year, regardless. Your lovebird could be experiencing an iodine deficiency without showing signs.
Ignoring an iodine deficiency is a seriously dangerous risk, and one that can sometimes bring deadly consequences. Goiters can apply excessive tension onto lovebirds' windpipes, which in turn can disrupt normal breathing. If a bird is having difficulty breathing, he might attempt to cope by placing his bill directly onto his enclosure's bars, for example. Lovebirds who die from goiters often do so abruptly, so don't waste time in getting the necessary veterinary help.