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Egg Binding

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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Egg laying is a common and uncomplicated event for many birds. And, as some bird owners find out, the presence of a male bird is not required for the production and delivery of an egg.

Despite most normal egg deliveries, some problems can occur. Egg binding, or the inability to pass an egg, is one of the most serious complications. Without treatment, egg binding can result in death of the bird.

Egg binding is most commonly found in budgies, finches, canaries, cockatiels and lovebirds but can occur in any bird. Though the exact cause of egg binding is not known, several conditions are assumed to contribute to this situation:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Excessive egg production
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Old age
  • Malformed eggs
  • First-time egg laying
  • Infections or abnormalities of the reproductive tract

    Birds with egg binding can become rapidly ill. Some birds show signs of depression, poor appetite, stand with legs far apart, straining, wagging of the tail, paralysis of the legs and even drooping wings. Veterinary care should be sought immediately. The smaller the bird, the more quickly egg binding can become life-threatening.

    Diagnosing Egg Binding

    To diagnose egg binding, the history and physical examination of the bird are very important. Frequently, your veterinarian can feel the egg in the abdomen. If palpation does not reveal an egg, x-rays may be needed. Once egg binding is diagnosed, treatment must be started immediately.

    Treatment

    Most egg bound birds are quite ill and require some stabilization before the egg is removed. Initially, the bird is placed in a warm, moist environment. Injectable fluids may be needed as well as injectable sugar solution. Since most egg bound birds are deficient in vitamins and minerals, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D are administered. Infections can occur so antibiotics are necessary.

  • Initially, the cloaca is lubricated and gently massaged to try to remove the egg. This works in over 50 percent of egg bound birds. If this doesn't work, your veterinarian will place your bird in a warm water bath up to the mid-body or administer a warm gentle enema. If this doesn't work, medical treatment is begun.

  • Medications can be given to stimulate uterine contractions such as prostaglandins or oxytocin. Once the egg progresses and can be visualized, your veterinarian can probably remove the egg manually.

  • If the egg has not passed, more aggressive treatment is needed to save the bird. Your veterinarian will pass a needle into the egg and remove the contents. Then the egg can be collapsed and the eggshell fragments removed with forceps. In this case, some of the eggshell pieces will be expelled over the course of the next several days. This can be a tricky procedure and carries the risk of infection.

  • If the uterus ruptures, surgery is necessary.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If you suspect that your bird is egg bound, you can try to place the bird in warm water or lubricate the cloaca with vasoline or lubricating jelly. If not effective quickly, veterinary care is crucial. By supplying proper nutrition, keeping a stress free environment and breeding your bird responsibly, the risk of egg binding can be diminished.

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