Egg Binding in Birds
Many sick pet birds look alike. They sit on the bottom of their cages with ruffled feathers and their heads down. This is why it’s so hard to figure out what is wrong with your bird without taking it to the veterinarian. Perhaps you also notice that your bird has a big belly. Perhaps it is a female who has a history of laying eggs but has suddenly stopped laying eggs. Your veterinarian will confirm this problem as “egg-binding”.
Egg-binding is a fairly common issue in certain female birds, such as cockatiels, budgies, and lovebirds. This is because these species tend to constantly lay eggs. If something prevents them from laying the egg, it will get stuck in the belly. When multiple eggs get stuck in the belly, this is called egg-binding.
There are different reasons for egg-binding to occur. Most of the time, this problem is related to a nutritional imbalance such as insufficient calcium. Calcium is required to create the egg shell; therefore birds laying many eggs tend to use up their calcium stores very quickly. Without enough calcium, the shell doesn’t form properly and the egg can get stuck in the belly. Egg-binding can also happen if the bird becomes dehydrated or is not getting enough calories in its diet.
This problem needs to be addressed by your veterinarian because your bird can quickly become very sick. X-rays and ultrasound are the most common ways to diagnose egg-binding. The treatment is to remove the eggs that are stuck.
There are two options that your veterinarian has to remove these eggs. Very often the vet will try the medical option first before going straight to the option that involves anesthesia. The medical option is to attempt to help the bird pass the eggs on its own. This can simply be done by warming the bird up, giving it fluids, and giving it an injection of calcium.
The next option is to put the bird under general anesthesia so it will relax and allow the veterinarian to remove the eggs. This is done very carefully to avoid damaging the uterus of the bird. Your veterinarian may choose to first draw some of the egg contents out with a needle and syringe. This way the egg will be smaller and easier to remove. With gentle pressure on the abdomen, the egg can be slowly pushed out of the bird.
Your bird will need veterinary care for at least 24 hours after this procedure. This is so dehydration and nutritional needs can be addressed. Also, there are some potential complications associated with egg-binding. One risk is that the uterus will tear or burst, due to the build-up of pressure from the eggs. Although this is often deadly, it occurs uncommonly, especially when the sick bird is promptly brought to and treated by the veterinarian.
Another potential problem after egg-binding is infection of the uterus or cloaca. This is the reason that some affected birds will be placed on antibiotics. However, the most important complication after egg-binding is the risk of it re-occurring. This is why it is very important for you to talk to your veterinarian about how to prevent egg-binding from occurring in the future.
Egg-binding is a simple problem (retention of eggs in the belly) with various causes. An improperly balanced diet is a big factor in the development of this problem. It is often difficult to find good information about the proper nutrition for pet birds, but your local veterinarian will always be able to help you. Remember, if your bird looks quiet and has ruffled feathers, it is sick. It may be egg-binding, or it may be another disease. But the sooner your get it treated, the more likely you are to have your healthy bird back quickly.