What is Impacted Oviduct?

The oviduct is a tubular shaped organ that consists of five parts, namely the infundibulum, magnum, isthmus, uterus, and vagina. Within the various parts of the oviduct, eggs are fertilized, a shell is formed from albumen and mucin, and the egg is transported out of the body. There are many reasons why an egg may become trapped in a part of the oviduct, and vary from simply being too big to a bacterial infection. A trapped egg can continue to create additional layers of shell and yolk material, causing a swelling in the oviduct, and in turn, many of the symptoms owners see. If an egg becomes too large, it may be pushed into the abdominal cavity and can cause your bird to have a penguin-like posture.

Many birds, including chickens, cockatiels, canaries, budgerigars, and parrots, can suffer from an impacted oviduct. This occurs when soft-shelled, malformed, or fully formed eggs, or egg material, becomes stuck in the lower oviduct. As an owner, your first sign is usually a stoppage in egg production. As the eggs accumulate, the oviduct can swell, putting undue pressure on your bird’s body. This is considered an emergency, and you should seek veterinary assistance immediately.

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Symptoms of Impacted Oviduct in Birds

Signs of an impacted oviduct directly relate to egg production, and to the results of pressure put upon organs in the body as the oviduct swells. Symptoms can include:

  • Egg production stops
  • Broody behavior in the absence of egg production
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy 
  • Distended or enlarged abdomen
  • Depression
  • Loss of condition
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Reluctance to walk or fly
  • Penguin-like posture

Causes of Impacted Oviduct in Birds

An oviduct becomes impacted when eggs, or egg material, becomes stuck in the oviduct. This can result in a cessation of egg production. Eggs or material can then accumulate until the blockage has been resolved, causing a distention in the abdomen, and severe discomfort for your bird. Factors that can increase your bird’s chances for this condition include being bred before the body is fully developed, being overweight, and producing eggs during the spring and summer months. Reasons eggs or materials may become lodged in the oviduct include:

  • Egg binding
  • Egg produced that is too big, such as a double-yolked egg
  • Excess mucin or albumin
  • Thickened egg material 
  • Uterine infection
  • Low calcium levels in the blood
  • Calcium tetany 
  • Trauma to the vent or vagina
  • Salpingitis, or an inflammation of the oviduct
  • Metritis, or an inflammation of the uterus
  • Dystocia, or difficult birthing
  • Cystic hyperplasia of the oviduct 
  • Chronic bacterial infection, such as E. coli
  • Infectious bronchitis (IB) 

Diagnosis of Impacted Oviduct in Birds

A diagnosis of an impacted oviduct is suspected based on symptoms, your bird’s history, a physical exam that can often reveal an enlarged abdomen, and the results of testing, which includes various bloodwork and serum analysis.

X-rays and ultrasounds can reveal soft tissue densities in the oviduct, displacement of abdominal organs due to the impaction, or the presence of fluid. A definitive diagnosis is made after an endoscopy, laparoscopy, or laparotomy are performed, which can reveal an abnormal oviduct. 

Any biopsied specimens or cultures gained from diagnostic or treating surgery are examined for possible causes or factors that contributed to the impaction.

Treatment of Impacted Oviduct in Birds

Treatment of an impacted oviduct is often in the form of surgery. This can be to remove the obstruction, and repair damage to the oviduct. In some cases, surgery is recommended to remove the oviduct, which also removes the possibility of future breeding. Surgical procedures can be complicated by the presence of abdominal fluid. If the egg is close to the vent in your bird, your veterinarian may be able to remove it without surgery.

Other supportive treatments can both help to stabilize your bird and work to address the cause of the impaction. They can include fluid therapy, nutritional and dietary support, and the use of antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. Some cases may need medical or surgical treatment to reduce the production of the reproductive hormone to prevent a recurrence.

Recovery of Impacted Oviduct in Birds

Your bird’s recovery will depend on how long the impaction has been happening, and how much damage has incurred to the oviduct and other nearby organs. While many cases can recover with treatment, recovery can be more difficult if there has been significant internal injury. If the kidneys have been severely damaged, shock and possible death could ensue. It is critical to seek veterinary care if you suspect an impaction in your bird’s oviduct as soon as you can to prevent further injury.