Kate A. Gustavsen1, PhD, DVM; Kimber L. Stanhope2, PhD; Amy S. Lin1, BS; James L. Graham2, BS; Peter J. Havel2, DVM, PhD; Joanne R. Paul-Murphy1, DVM, DACZM, DACAW
Hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis are common in psittacines, particularly Amazon and African grey parrots.1 Associations have been demonstrated between naturally occurring and experimentally induced hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis in psittacines.2,3,7 Daily exercise improves lipid metabolism in humans, rhesus macaques, rats, and chickens under varying experimental conditions.4-6,8 Hispaniolan Amazon parrots with naturally occurring hypercholesterolemia (343–576 mg/dL) were divided into two groups: housed as a flock and exercised daily with 30 minutes of aviary flight and 30 minutes walking on a rotating perch (n=8), or housed in individual cages with no exercise regimen (n=4).
A lipid panel (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglyceride)a was preliminarily validated for this species. Body weight, chest and abdominal girth, hematology, plasma biochemistry, and the lipid panel were measured at baseline, 9, and 15 weeks. Weight and girth were significantly lower in exercised than control birds at 9 and 15 weeks. Plasma HDL concentration was significantly higher at 9 weeks but returned to near baseline by 15 weeks. No significant changes in hematology, biochemistry, or other lipid values were noted. Results were similar to studies in humans, in which increased HDL is the most consistent effect of exercise on blood lipids.5 Results at 15 weeks may have been affected by decreasing voluntary participation in aviary flight exercise. Additional investigation will be required to determine the amount of exercise and the degree of change in lipid metabolism necessary to improve long-term wellness outcomes in psittacine species predisposed to dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis.
a. PolyChem System, Polymedco, Inc., Cortlandt Manor, NY, USA
Support was provided by a Mazuri Grant from the AAZV Wild Animal Health Fund and by the Richard M. Schubot Parrot Wellness and Welfare Program. The authors thank Jessica Huai-Chen Chang for assistance in administering the exercise program.
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