Veterinary Viewpoints


Question #1 My veterinarian recommended that my pet ·lovebird be spayed. He said this was necessary as my bird might die if it becomes egg hound again. Isn't this kind of extreme for a little bird' I thought birds had been laying eggs for millions of years and survived.

M. Tessler, Virginia

Answer # 1 Reproduction is risk. Caged birds often are on diets deficient in calcium and Vitamin 03. They .also have poor muscle tone from lack of exercise. All of this predisposes caged birds to egg binding. The inability to pass an egg is a life-threatening condition needing medical intervention. Recurring egg retention is most serious and requires more extreme measures. Surgical removal of the oviduct isone procedure used in an effort to stop unwanted egg production. The newer gas anesthetics and specialized equipment and instruments have made this procedure much safer for avian patients. Yes, birds have been laying eggs for millions of years and a percent of female birds die each year from retained eggs.

fames M. Hanis, DVM Oakland, CA

~wer # 2 Spaying or hysterectomy is indeed a major surgery for such a small bird. Only the healthiest birds in the hands ~f the ~ost skilled surgeons would avoid the inherent serious risk of death with this procedure. If your bird has been laying many eggs, she may be suffering from malnutrition and secondary reproductive problems and hence not be the best candidate


for surgery. On the other hand, if she has laid many eggs, suffers from egg binding, and all other medical attempts have failed, surgery may be her only chance. If this is necessary, insure that your veterinarian has the surgical equipment and skills necessary for such a procedure.

Behavioral modification may also be helpful, such as manipulating objects, birds or people she may he bonded to and decreasing her day length. This will stop reproduction in some birds. Other birds may respond to various hormone therapies which are experimental, not always successful, and may require repetitive injections. Regardless of the method used to control egg laying, all birds with egg binding should he checked for secondary problems and supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Your delemma is, unfortunately, quite common and we all are awaiting results on the use of hormonal treatments to help out these high producers.

Kirn foyner, DVM, MPVM

Raleigh, NC

Answer #3 A number of the commonly kept small psittacines, including lovebirds, Cockatiels and Budgies, have a strong tendency to have very strong egg laying urges and may lay excessive numbers of eggs in a pet situation. such appears to he the case with your pet lovebird. Some of these small psittacines lay in excess of 100 eggs per year! Egg laying itself is stressful to a bird and requires that the bird he in good nutritional plane. I find that the vast majority of small psittacines presented with a variety of


egg laying problems, including egg binding, are often on a seed diet which is inherently devoid of the proper elements for a healthy bird, particularly one that is producing eggs. So "spaying" your bird (surgically removing the uterus but not the ovaries, as is commonly done with mammalian pets) is the only definitive solution to the prevention of an egg bound bird. If the bird is in good health and the uterus is small, a good avian veterinarian can properly perform this surgery with a minimum of risk to the bird.

Other alternatives include altering the diet so that the bird is on an adequate nutritional plane.This can be accomplished with the use of one of the commercial pelleted diets, table food, calcium supplementation, and commercially available bean mixtures. Changing the diet puts the bird in a good nutritional level and in itself will not prevent the possibility of egg hinding but should decrease its incidence. A variety of hormonal therapies including the use of the human drug HCG have been used with varying success in a number of psittacines.