Egg binding is a common reproductive abnormality occurring most commonly in small birds such as lovebirds, finches, cockatiels, and parakeets (budgerigars). Egg binding is a failure in egg passage and laying in a normal amount of time. There are many factors that contribute to egg binding, but low calcium (hypocalcemia) is the most frequent cause. Hypocalcemia may occur because of a low calcium diet, a high fat diet that bind calcium, or abnormal metabolism of calcium by the body. Clinical signs may include weakness, depression, palpable egg in the abdomen, abdominal straining, wide stance, and sudden death. Depending on the severity of signs additional diagnostic tests may include blood work or radiographs (x-ray).
Treatment should begin first with stabilizing the bird, minimizing stress, and treating the underlying cause of egg binding. In the case of hypocalcemia, calcium is administered. The passage or removal of the egg may be attempted by your veterinarian using several methods.
Extreme caution is warranted due to the severe complications that may occur. Hormonal therapy may produce forceful abdominal contractions severe enough to result in uterine rupture and death. Digital pressure requires that the egg must be in a position with the pointed end of the egg directed down. This procedure should also be performed under anesthesia. Complications may include prolapse (protrusion) of the uterus or cloaca, and rupture of the egg resulting in egg yolk peritonitis. Peritonitis is an inflammation of the abdomen (peritoneal cavity) due to the presence of egg contents. The condition may be fatal as a result of bacteria and secondary infection. Ovocentesis is the aspiration of the egg contents with a needle through the abdomen or cloaca. The goal is to collapse the egg to encourage passage. The major complication is once again egg yolk peritonitis. Surgical removal is indicated for all adhered eggs, ectopic eggs, and a ruptured uterus or oviduct. Contact your veterinarian regarding individual recommendations.