There are a number of reproductive disorders that can occur in pet birds. The following are some of the more common disorders.
Cloacal Prolapse (Vent Prolapse)
The cloaca is the area where the urine, feces, and urates are stored prior to being passed. The vent is the outermost part of the cloaca; these cloacal lips control the frequency with which your bird will eliminate its droppings. A prolapse of the cloaca occurs when the inner tissue protrudes through the vent opening, resulting in exposed intestines, cloaca, or uterus. It can be caused by a physical or psychological problem or both. The condition requires immediate emergency care by a veterinarian.
This syndrome is extremely common in adult Umbrella and Moluccan cockatoos. The exact cause has not been determined, but birds that develop cloacal prolapses are frequently hand-raised, had delayed weaning and/or continued begging for food, have a close attachment to at least one person (with signs of either a child/parent or mate/mate relationship with the person), and have a tendency to hold the stool in the vent for prolonged periods (for example, overnight), rather than defecating in the cage. Cockatoos that are independent of humans do not have this medical problem. It is possible that the condition is caused by prolonged begging for food, causing straining and dilation of the vent; misplaced sexual attraction to a person, causing vent straining and movement; retention of stool in the vent for prolonged periods, stretching and dilating the vent; or a combination of these factors.
If detected and treated early, surgery and behavior modification can correct the problem. However, behavior modification is often difficult for owners because in many ways it involves breaking the close bond that they have with their bird. If the bird still perceives its owner as either parent or mate, it will continue to strain and the problem will likely recur. Behaviors that should be avoided include stroking the bird, especially on the back; feeding the bird warm foods or food by hand or mouth; and cuddling the bird close to the body. If an owner is serious about trying to change their bird's behavior, the aid of a behavioral consultant will likely be necessary (see Behavior of Dogs: Where to Get Help).
Egg binding occurs when a bird is unable to expel an egg from the reproductive tract. It is most commonly seen in overweight, female birds that get little exercise. Calcium deficiency is another factor often seen in birds with this condition. Cockatiels, budgies, and lovebirds are commonly affected, but larger parrots may also experience egg binding.
Signs of egg binding include tail wagging, swelling of the abdomen, and a swaying or unsteady posture on the perch. If the egg is putting pressure on a nerve, signs of leg paralysis may also occur. It is not recommended that bird owners attempt to remove the bound egg, because a bird may become paralyzed or die if this is done incorrectly.
A veterinarian will attempt to extract the egg by providing calcium, humidity, lubrication, hydration (fluids), and warmth. X-rays may be needed to determine if the egg is abnormal and to pinpoint its location. Following this, injections such as oxytocin or prostaglandins may be given to help induce movement of the egg. If the egg does not pass with medical management, the veterinarian may need to use manual extraction or even surgery to remove the egg.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Teresa L. Lightfoot, DVM, DABVP (Avian)