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Crop Stasis

By: Dr. Barbara Oglesbee

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A thorough history is extremely important in the diagnosis of crop stasis. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian:

  • For baby birds, the temperature and consistency of the hand rearing formula, environmental temperature and humidity. Are any other chicks affected? Does the bird ingest bedding material?

  • Has the diet changed? Are fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables fed regularly?

  • Is the bird still eating a normal amount of food?

  • What are the birds chewing habits? Is there access to metal objects or plants? Does the bird chew apart wood, rubber or string toys?

  • Are any other symptoms, such as lethargy, vomiting, regurgitation or diarrhea present?

  • Has the bird been exposed to other birds?

  • How often are the cage, food and water dishes cleaned, and how are they cleaned?

    Your veterinarian will recommend specific diagnostic tests depending on the duration of crop stasis, whether the crop is emptying slowly or not emptying at all, the age of the bird and if other symptoms are present. To find the cause of crop stasis in adult birds extensive diagnostic testing is usually required. Any combination of the following may be recommended:

  • Culture and cytology. Sampling the crop, feces or cloaca for bacterial culture and cytology (looking at cell types for evidence of infection or inflammation).

  • Parasite exam. Sampling of the crop or feces to look for intestinal parasites.

  • A complete blood count (CBC). The number of circulating white blood cells may be helpful in distinguishing between infectious and non-infectious causes of crop stasis. The number of red blood cells may be diminished if bleeding in the intestinal tract is present.

  • Serum biochemistry panel. This test is needed to look for evidence of metabolic problems, such as diseases of the liver, kidney or pancreas.

  • Blood tests or other samples to test for for infectious diseases such as polyomavirus, chlamydiosis (psittacosis) or Avian Bornavirus.

  • Blood testing for heavy metals, such as lead or zinc in circulation.

  • Radiography (X-Rays) to look evidence of intestinal disease, foreign bodies, and the size and density of the liver, kidneys or other organs.

  • Contrast radiographs, such a barium studies, to look for tumors or foreign bodies, ulcerations or thickening of the lining of the intestinal tract. This test will also determine how quickly ingested material is moved through the intestinal tract.

  • Fluoroscopy (Performed by a specialist). This is a video or moving X ray that is used to determine if the coordination of peristaltic waves is normal. It is useful in the diagnosis of toxicity (lead or zinc), foreign bodies or viral diseases (Proventricular Dilatation D isease).

  • Abdominal ultrasound. This test is possible only in birds with enlargement of the liver or fluid in the abdomen. It allows visualization of the intestinal tract for evidence intestinal wall thickening, gastrointestinal masses, and foreign bodies. A specialist usually performs this test.

  • Endoscopy. This test allows your veterinarian to view the intestinal tract or body cavity directly with an endoscope to collect samples for biopsy or culture. Some foreign bodies may be removed with an endoscope. A specialist usually performs this test.

  • Crop biopsy. If Proventricular Dilatation Disease (Avian Bornavirus) is suspected, characteristic lesions are sometimes found on biopsy specimens from the crop. At this time, the only way of definitively diagnosing Proventricular Dilatation Disease is through the observation of characteristic lesions on biopsy specimens from the gastrointestinal tract or nervous system.

  • Exploratory laparotomy. Occasionally, surgery must be performed to observe and obtain segments of the intestinal tract for biopsy in order to determine the cause of crop stasis.

    Treatment In-depth

    Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following treatments may be applicable to some, but not all birds with crop stasis. Therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your bird's condition.

  • Birds with complete crop stasis and other symptoms such as lethargy and anorexia usually require hospitalization and 24-hour care.

  • Fluid therapy. Birds with crop stasis are moderately to severely dehydrated and require fluids. Fluids may be given by an intravenous catheter, an interosseous catheter (into the bone marrow) or subcutaneously (under the skin). The route of administration will depend on how severe the level of dehydration is.

  • Food that has been stagnant in the crop usually must be removed. The veterinarian may pass a small tube into the crop to empty the contents. If foreign objects or large amount of thickened, dry food is present in the crop, surgical removal of the contents may be necessary.

  • Fluids. Once the contents of the crop are removed, balanced fluid solutions are fed until gastrointestinal tract motility returns.

  • Nutrition therapy. Food is usually withheld until the crop begins to empty. However, birds have a high metabolic rate and require a constant source of energy. If food is not moving through the intestinal tract, the intestinal tract may need to be completely bypassed by administering parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding). If only the crop is damaged, the crop may be bypassed by surgical placement of a tube into the proventriculus for feeding.

  • Dietary change. When intestinal tract motility returns, diet that is easy to digest may be offered. If the bird is not eating, your veterinarian may feed a liquid diet via a tube passed into the crop.

  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics or antifungal medications may be needed to treat or prevent an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as celecoxib (Celebrex®) are useful in treating Avian Bornavirus (Proventricular Dilitation Disease), by reducing virus-induced inflammation in the nerves.
  • Intestinal protectants such as sucralfate (Carafate®)
  • Intestinal motility modifiers, such as metoclopramide (Reglan) or cisapride (Propulsid) may help to increase peristalsis. These drugs are administered after a foreign body has been ruled out.

  • Baby birds with prolonged crop stasis sometimes have an over-stretched crop. Bandaging of the crop will sometimes support the crop and aid in emptying.

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