Cat Food, Dog Food, and Cod Liver Oil

By Diana Hedrick

23 September 2008

While sorting through all my articles to file at my library I ran across another one concerning the dangers of feeding cat food, dog food, and cod liver oil. When Pepper was having neurological symptoms and I was searching for Alan on vitamin E / selenium, I ran across several articles associating the use of cat food, dog food, and cod liver oil with vitamin E deficiency.

I have excerpted the particular section however, if you click the link, there is also a nice article about crop stasis. (Some of it is not applicable to poultry but most is in principle.)

Case Report

Hypovitaminosis E in Australian Grass Parakeets

By Terry W. Campbell, DVM, PhD

"Twelve juvenile and adult grass parakeets (Neophema sp) were presented with incoordination. The birds exhibited torticollis and abnormal head and body movements.

Some of the birds appeared unusually erect and would only move backward. Others were reluctant to walk and just stood in a "star gazing" posture.

The birds were housed either as pairs or in groups in a breeding aviary. All of the grass parakeets in the aviary were affected. The birds were fed a diet of ground dog food and a seed mixture that was soaked in codliver oil. There were no recent changes in the aviary, which also housed many budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) and a variety of finches and softbills.

Four of the birds were euthanized using a carbon dioxide chamber for pathologic evaluation. Histopathologic examination revealed cerebellar demyelination and muscular dystrophy of the skeletal and cardiac muscles in all 4 birds. These findings are indicative of hypovitaminosis E.

Evaluation of the ground dog food revealed a high content of rancid fat. It was discovered that the dog food was purchased in large bags that were stored in an area in the attic of the garage. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and depletion of the body stores occurs slowly, especially in adults.

Young birds are more susceptible to hypovitaminosis E. Hypovitaminosis E can result in birds that are fed diets high in polyunsaturated fats or those containing rancid fat.

Cod-liver oil is often used as a supplement for vitamins A and D. It also contains high levels of polyunsaturated fat and is low in vitamin E content.

Dry dog food contains antioxidants to preserve the fats; however, large amounts of rancid fat can collect if the dog food is stored for a long period of time in a warm place. Rancid fats destroy vitamin E.

Vitamin E also deteriorates readily in ground feeds.

Therefore, the cause of the apparent hypovitaminosis E in these birds was likely associated with the ingestion of rancid fats in the dog food diet. Supplementation with cod-liver oil also could be a contributing factor.

The muscular dystrophy seen in these birds may be reversed by vitamin E supplementation. However, the encephalomalacia (cerebellar demyelination) does not reverse with vitamin E supplementation. The pathologist said, "Once you are demyelinated, you remain demyelinated." Therefore, the birds were euthanized, and the client was advised to improve his storage of the dog food if he wishes to continue feeding it to the birds. He was also advised against the use of cod-liver oil supplementation."