The purpose of this study was to determine whether a reduction in dietary iron concentration can result in significant decreases in hepatocellular hemosiderin content in toucans with iron-storage disease. We studied 2 adult toco toucans (Ramphastos toco) previously diagnosed with iron-storage disease. Liver biopsy specimens were taken before lowering dietary iron levels to <100 mg/kg on a dry-matter basis and taken again 8 months later. One bird died from airsacculitis at 12 months, and a postmortem specimen was also analyzed. Computerized image analysis of the specimens showed significant reductions (P < .001) in hepatocellular hemosiderin content over this period. Computerized image analysis is a valid means of quantifying relative iron content in serial liver biopsy specimens and can be used to monitor response to dietary iron reductions in birds with iron-storage disease. The significant relative reduction in hepatocellular iron content in these 2 toucans with iron-storage disease, in response to dietary modification alone, is encouraging. More work is required to determine whether dietary iron levels can be safely reduced still further, as well as whether a greater effect can be obtained by instituting such modifications for other toucans before clinically significant liver damage has occurred.
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Vol. 18 • No. 2