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Toenail color change

Expert Question

Dear Dr. Speer, I have a female Seram Cockatoo of unknown age. I have had her for over 10 years. She is a very healthy bird who gets annual bloodwork and chem panels that have never shown an indication of illness. One thing that bothers me is that her feet have always been very dry, to the point of cracking. To resolve this issue I soak her feet in aloe and water and then massage lanolin into them. The past 5 years or so I have noticed that she is getting white splotches on her nails. We (my vet and I) can not determine what the cause can be. They almost look like “bubbles” under her top layer of her nails. Her diet consists of Harrison’s Hi-Po, organic fresh and/or frozen veggies daily (focusing on high beta-carotene foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, etc) and fruit 2 times a week. She gets a total of about a 1/4 cup of mixed nuts in the shell weekly.She also gets Avix Sunshine Factor every other day. She gets showered every other day in filtered water from a shower-head
i specifically bought for my birds which removes the chlorine via activated carbon. As a “final rinse” after the shower she is very lightly misted w/ avix soother. Her feathers are gorgeous and she no longer plucks like she did when I first got her. She is fully flighted. The humidity in their room is set at 50%. She gets natural sunlight every other day (weather permitting) for a min of 2 hours. I thought I once read that white spots on the nails can be a sign of illness or deficiency, so even though she seems healthy I find myself obsessing over these white spots. My other Seram cockatoo does not have these. Is there a possibility that this is her natural nail make up? I notice she has other things I have never seen on other Seram cockatoos such
as black “eyelash” follicles. What are your opinions? Do you have any testing, feeding or environmental suggestions?

Expert Answer

Sunny - alone, those color changes in the nails to not necessarily concern me too much. This could be secondary to the primary process that is causing the drdy and cracking issues on the feet (I do not really see this in the photos), mechanical trauma issues caused by the bird, or the topical medications you have been applying to the feet and nails. If the skin lesions are progressive, I’d suggest you ask your veterinarian to consider further investigation, but otherwise, would not necessarily recommend a “jump” to treatment or detailed diagnostic investigation (yet)

Brian Speer, DVM
About Brian Speer, DVM

Avian veterinarian Dr. Brian Speer was raised in a small town on California’s coast. He received his BS in Biology from California Polytechnic State University in 1978, and his DVM degree from the University of California at Davis in 1983.

An active member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), Dr. Speer is a much sought after guest speaker and has presented at numerous conferences in the avicultural and zoological communities both within the United States and abroad. He is well published in the AAV annual proceedings, has served as guest editor for the journal Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, the Veterinary Clinics of North America, and authored chapters in several recent veterinary medical texts on pet bird, avicultural and ratite medical topics. In 1995 he co-authored the extensive avicultural reference, The Large Macaws, and helped to co-author Birds for Dummies in 1999.

Since 1989, Dr, Speer has run a “bird’s only” practice in the San Francisco Bay area and is the President and Director of The Medical Center for Birds. He is a consultant for The Veterinary Information Network (Avian Medical Boards) and the Maui Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. In 2003 he was the recipient of the Lafeber award for excellence in private practice of avian medicine and surgery and in 2006, was named Speaker of the Year for the North American Veterinary Conference.