What is Cystic Ovarian Disease?

Cystic ovarian disease usually occurs in birds that have laid eggs previously, but have not done so in a few years. Even if the cysts are noncancerous, the size and number of cysts can cause serious damage to other organs in the body if not treated, including dyspnea (trouble breathing) which can be life-threatening in some cases. It is possible that this condition may be mistaken for egg binding because of the abdominal swelling, which is why you need to see an avian veterinary professional to be examined and treated.

Ovarian cysts are not uncommon in birds of all types but are most often found in domestic ducks, pheasants, macaws, budgerigars, canaries, and cockatiels. There may be one cyst or multiple cysts and they can reach up to 20 centimeters. They may be caused by physiological abnormalities, physical anatomical defects (genetic), neoplasia (tumor), or endocrine disorders; although it is still not clear in some cases. Ovarian cysts may be mild or advanced, depending on the stage and the cause of the condition. In mild cases, the bird will usually not show any symptoms. However, advanced or severe cases create symptoms such as weight loss and depression.

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Symptoms of Cystic Ovarian Disease in Birds

The symptoms of this disorder can be deceiving because they are similar to other conditions such as oophoritis, abdominal infections, heart problems, liver disease, and egg binding. It is best that you take her to see a veterinarian that specializes in treating birds because they are more familiar with avian medicine. Some of the most often reported signs of cystic ovarian disease include:

  • Drop in egg production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fluid retention
  • Inactivity
  • Breathing complications
  • Paralysis of left leg if nerve is compressed
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy

Types

  • Physiological
  • Genetic
  • Tumorous
  • Hormonal (endocrine)

Causes of Cystic Ovarian Disease in Birds

The cause of cystic ovarian disease is still not clearly known, but the most common beliefs include:

  • Endocrine changes such as hypothyroidism or metabolic imbalance are often found in conjunction with cystic ovarian disease.
  • Genetics may be a factor due to the fact that this disease affects certain breeds more than others such as budgerigars, canaries, and cockatiels
  • Physiological cause such as an impacted oviduct, oviductal prolapse, or oophoritis
  • Neoplasia (tumor) may also be a cause of cystic ovarian disease in birds

Diagnosis of Cystic Ovarian Disease in Birds

Give the veterinarian as much information as you can about your bird’s history such as injuries, illnesses, medical records, and the symptoms you have noticed. The veterinarian will start by conducting a thorough examination of your bird including vitals, behavior, overall appearance of feathers and skin, and palpitation of the abdomen. Diagnosing cystic ovarian disease in birds can be difficult, depending on the stage of the condition so it is best to rule out other conditions by performing some diagnostic tests. 

A complete blood count and biochemical analysis will likely show increased white blood cells, creatine kinase (CK), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), cholesterol, globulins, and calcium. Radiographs (x-rays) will detect soft tissue density in the oviduct, inflammation, and opacity of the bones in the ovarian area. An ultrasound is used to find the actual cyst or fluid in the ovary. 

The veterinarian will also probably want to perform an abdominocentesis, which is a procedure done using a needle to withdraw fluid from the abdominal area. The fluid will be examined microscopically and a bacterial culture will likely be done as well. If the veterinarian prefers, an endoscopy will be done to do a biopsy by using a long lighted tube (endoscope) carefully inserted into your bird’s throat. Of course, she will be sedated and anesthetized for this procedure. CT scans and MRI machines are usually not used in these cases because of the small size of the ovary and cysts.

Treatment of Cystic Ovarian Disease in Birds

Treating cystic ovarian disease depends on the cause, as is the case with many conditions. Some other deciding factors are the size and amount of the cysts and where they are located. There are several types of medical treatments and surgical techniques that may be useful. Some of these include:

Warm Fluid Therapy

Fluids may be given orally, subcutaneously, intravenously, or with an intraosseous catheter. The solution should be warm saline with dextrose and can be used during other procedures as well.

Medications

The veterinarian may provide antimicrobials, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and nutritional support.

Surgery

Ovarian surgery is complicated because the ovary is positioned close to delicate vasculature, the adrenal gland, and kidney. However, endoscopic or laparoscopic surgery may be successful in some cases. The veterinarian will be able to give you more information on what is best for your bird.

Recovery of Cystic Ovarian Disease in Birds

The veterinarian will provide you with whatever medications and instructions you will need. It is essential that you follow the instructions exactly and call if you have any questions. A follow up visit will be required, particularly if surgery took place.