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Q:  My parakeet’s upper beak grows constantly and every six weeks or so, I’m taking him to the pet shop to have it trimmed. The owner of the shop says his beak keeps growing because he is not chewing on his cuttlebone. That sounds reasonable, but I’ve never had this problem with any of my other birds. What do you think and what advice can you offer me?

Thank you for all your help.

 A: A parakeet’s beak is composed of bone covered by a layer of keratin, a tough protein also found in fingernails.  Like nails, the beak grows continuously, but it is worn down in the normal process of chewing.  Parakeets wear their beaks by chewing food as well as branches, cuttlebone, and toys.  Grinding the upper beak against the lower beak should keep it from overgrowing.  If the beak is not properly aligned, however, either the upper or lower beak can overgrow.  Some illnesses can result in a misaligned and overgrown beak.  Parakeets that eat mainly or exclusively seed will develop vitamin A and calcium deficiencies.  Make sure you feed your parakeet a combination of seeds, nutritious pellets, and fresh vegetables to avoid this imbalance.  Parakeets can also be afflicted by a parasitic mite, Knemidocoptes, or “scaly face mite”, which can lead to beak deformities.  This condition can be treated, although if the beak is misaligned, it will probably need to be trimmed periodically for the rest of the bird’s life.

Frank C. Boren, DVM

Dr. Boren graduated from the University Of Florida School Of Veterinary Medicine and has remained on the staff of Oradell Animal Hospital since completing an internship here in small animal medicine and surgery. Dr. Boren has a special interest in exotic and zoo animal medicine. He is the veterinarian for the Bergen County Zoo and is consultant for The James A. McFaul Environmental Center in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Dr. Boren sees appointments at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus and at our Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey office.
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