I took three of my macaws in to get their annual well checkup and comprehensive blood work done. I was told that all three have low T-4 levels (0.44 range) and need thyroid medication. They are 3-4 years old, one female hybrid, one male hybrid and one male B&G. I am uneasy about this since they have no clinical signs of hypothyroidism and are otherwise healthy. I am seriously considering obtaining a second opinion but know of no local avian endocrine specialist in AZ. Since there is so little information to be found on avian thyroid conditions I would really appreciate your thoughts and imput on this matter.
Type of Animal: MacawsGender: male and femalesAge: 3-4
Would you perhaps know which lab ran the test?
We had the tests run at two labs the first being Avian & Exotic Animal Clin. Path. Labs (avianexoticlab.com) and we had the B&G tested again at a lab in Texas; however, I do not have the name of the second lab as I have not received a copy of the lab results yet. We had the lab run twice due to the fact that all three tested low which is unusual.
Hypothroidism is a very difficult diagnosis to make based on one or even two T4s. I would think about running TSH stims before even considering it as a possibility.
Also, I really do not think that your birds should be 'treated' for hypothyroidism unless they are symptomatic. For 'symptoms', you would need to look into a long list of things: from obesity to general 'sick bird signs' to feather discolouration to overgrown beaks and nails...the list is endless and overlaps with many other diagnoses. But this is strictly my opinion.
The first place that I would start my investigation would be with their diet: pellet or seed-based? If seed, scrap all the labwork and talk nutrition.
For the most current work on avian hypothyroidism that I could find, try Dr. Cheryl Greenacre at the Univ. of Tennessee. The Michigan State University endocrinology lab ((NNN) NNN-NNNN does TSH response testing.
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Thank you for your thoughts. Your opinion has confirmed my gut feeling and I will contact Dr. Greenacre as well as talk with my vet further about the TSH stim test.
As an aside, Diet consists of Harrisons pellets, fresh (not frozen) fruits/veggies, occasional nuts in shell. Feathers are immaculate, and they are not obese. In fact our vet (and staff) always compliments us on how our macaws (we have 5) seem to "glow", which is why this diagnosis was so troubling to me, not to mention the potential problems that go with treating a euthyroid "patient". THANK YOU again for your thoughts on this matter.
You are welcome.
Their diet sounds fabulous.
A number to me is 'just a number', and sometimes it is important to look past that and look at the patient, especially in avian medicine where some of these tests are far from being perfected.
Good-luck in your pursuit of the truth,
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26 yrs of small animal vet practice. Dog, cat and parrot caretaker for 35 yrs! Former Zookeeper