Avian Fatty Tumors

a diagnosis sheet that reads Avian Fatty Tumors

Avian fatty tumors, also known as lipomas, are benign growths of fat cells that can occur in birds. They are typically found in their abdomen or chest cavity and can be soft or firm to the touch. While these tumors generally don’t need treatment, it’s important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian if they become large or tender. In rare cases, fatty tumors can be malignant, and it’s important to be aware of any changes in the size or texture of their tumor.

Fatty tumors can occur in birds of all ages, but they are most common in older birds. They tend to be more pronounced in larger breeds, like Macaws, some types of Parrots and Cockatoos. These tumors are usually not painful or bothersome to the bird unless they become large enough to interfere with breathing or other internal organs.

In some cases, fatty tumors can be surgically removed if they become too large or bothersome. If a bird has a tumor that’s making it difficult to breathe, it will need to be removed as soon as possible. Surgery carries risks and should only be considered in extreme cases.

It’s important to monitor changes in the size or texture of a fatty tumor and consult your veterinarian if there are any concerns. Your veterinarian will be able to determine the best course of action for your bird’s health.

Symptoms of Avian Fatty Tumors

The signs and symptoms of avian fatty tumors can vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Some possible signs include:

  • A lump or swell in their abdomen, chest, or other area
  • Difficulty breathing due to impeded air passage
  • Changes in appetite or weight loss
  • Difficulty moving due to tumor impeding organs or tissues
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area

Diagnosing Avian Fatty Tumors

Diagnosing avian fatty tumors typically involves a physical examination of your bird and an imaging test, such as an X-ray or ultrasound. During the physical exam, the veterinarian will feel for any lumps or swellings in your bird’s abdomen or chest cavity. If any are found, a sample might be taken to be examined under a microscope. Imaging tests can then help to confirm the diagnosis and determine the size and location of the tumor.

Stages of Avian Fatty Tumors

Avian fatty tumors can be split into four stages depending on their size and location.

Stage 1

These tumors are small and localized, 1 cm or less in diameter. They might not cause any symptoms and often don’t require treatment.

Stage 2

These tumors are larger than Stage 1 tumors, between 1-3 cm in diameter. They can cause mild to moderate symptoms and can usually be treated with surgery.

Stage 3

These tumors are between 3-6 cm in diameter, and they can cause difficulty breathing or other serious symptoms. Surgery is typically needed for these tumors, as well as possible chemotherapy or radiation treatment to reduce the chance of recurrence.

Stage 4

These tumors are very large, growing more than 6 cm in diameter. Surgery is usually not an option, and these tumors will require aggressive chemotherapy or radiation therapy to reduce their size and alleviate symptoms.

Treating Avian Fatty Tumors

Treating avian fatty tumors depends on the size, location, and stage of the tumor. Smaller tumors might not need treatment at all and can simply be monitored for changes. Larger tumors might need to be surgically removed if they are causing difficulty breathing or other serious symptoms. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation can be used in addition to surgery to reduce the chances of recurrence.

Preventing Avian Fatty Tumors

Avian fatty tumors are not preventable, but there are some steps that can be taken to reduce their risk. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight for your bird is important, because obesity can increase the risk of developing these tumors. Regular health check-ups with your veterinarian can also help monitor for any changes or lumps in your bird’s abdomen or chest cavity. Early detection and treatment can help minimize any risk of complications.