What is Egg Binding?
In many instances, a bird may be unable to expel the egg due to lack of contractions or weak contractions from inadequate calcium intake. If you have been feeding your bird seeds only, with no other supplements, you will need to administer vitamins right away. However, it is best to let the veterinarian tell you what amount of vitamins to give her. The complications of egg binding include damage to the kidneys from pressure of the retained egg, peritonitis from a ruptured egg, and prolapse of the cloaca or reproductive tract. It is important to get your bird to the veterinarian if you believe she is egg bound.
Egg binding in birds is a common but possibly life threatening condition in which a bird is having a hard time laying an egg. It is more common in small birds such as canaries, finches, parakeets, budgies, lovebirds, and cockatiels, but the most common reason for egg binding is a lack of calcium or other vitamins. It is also more often seen in birds that are already ill or have other health issues such as advanced age, lack of exercise, and obesity. Another risk factor is inadequate environmental conditions such as not enough nesting materials, too cold or hot, and not enough water or feed.
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Symptoms of Egg Binding in Birds
In all birds, the symptoms can vary, especially with the cause of the condition. However, the most often reported signs of egg binding include:
- Tail wagging or bobbing
- Visibly swollen abdomen
- Fluffed up appearance
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to balance on perch
- Paralysis of a leg or lameness
- Decreased or absent droppings
- All white droppings
- Decrease in appetite
- Sitting at bottom of cage
Egg binding in birds is sometimes referred to as:
- Post-ovulatory stasis
- Impacted oviducts
- Egg retention
Causes of Egg Binding in Birds
- Physical deformity of the reproductive system
- Lack of calcium or other vitamins such as selenium, vitamin E, vitamin A, or protein are at higher risk
- Inadequate nesting area
- Excessive egg laying
- Stress from overcrowding or unsanitary living conditions
- Lack of exercise
- Smaller birds like canaries, finches, budgerigars, lovebirds, and cockatiels
Diagnosis of Egg Binding in Birds
The veterinarian will usually be able to feel the egg with palpation and see the distended abdomen. A complete physical examination will include checking the eyes, skin, beak, feet, weight, comb, nares, feathers, breast, crop, wings, glands, and vent. The most essential diagnostic procedure is radiographs (x-rays) because most eggs contain a large amount of calcium and will show up nicely. However, if the x-rays are inconclusive, an ultrasound may be done. In addition, a CBC, plasma biochemical profile, and ionized and total calcium levels should be checked.
Treatment of Egg Binding in Birds
Egg binding requires immediate emergency care by an experienced avian veterinary professional. Immediate warming and fluids are usually needed in these cases. Other treatments may include an intraosseous catheter to administer fluids if she is in shock, medication to help induce muscle contractions, deflating the egg while it is inside the uterus (Ovocentesis), manually expelling the egg, or surgical removal of the egg.
Warming and Fluids
The veterinarian will immediately check your hen’s body temperature and place her in an area specifically kept at 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to increase her body temperature. Fluids will be given by injection or with an intraosseous catheter to reduce the chance of shock or dehydration.
The veterinarian may decide that your bird needs a calcium injection or another medication that promotes contractions such as oxytocin, prostaglandin, or arginine vasotocin. Another option is to apply prostaglandin gel rather than an injection. Antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection and steroids to help with pain may also be beneficial.
If the veterinarian is unable to get your bird to lay the egg herself and she is in distress, an ovocentesis will be performed. This is done by inserting a syringe into the egg to remove the contents. Once the egg is smaller, your hen should be able to pass the egg with no problem. Lubrication will be applied to help with this process.
Removing the Egg
If your bird is unable to expel the egg herself, the veterinarian will try to remove it by applying lubrication and gently trying to ease it out. If this does not work, the veterinarian will have to surgically remove the egg.
Recovery of Egg Binding in Birds
Once your hen has laid the egg, you should try to keep her in a cage by herself to recover. This is especially important if your bird had to undergo surgical removal of the egg. Continue to monitor her daily to check for complications and call the veterinarian if you suspect anything is wrong. Be sure to provide a healthy diet and fresh water for your bird on a daily basis.