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what causes egg yolk peritonitis?

What Is Egg Yolk Peritonitis in Parrots?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Egg yolk peritonitis (EYP) is the inflammation of the peritoneum, a membrane covering the internal organs. The peritoneum provides a smooth surface for blood and fluids to move through.

EYP occurs when a parrot releases a yolk from the ovary, which becomes trapped in the coelomic cavity in the abdomen. That’s why egg yolk peritonitis is called “internal laying.”

When this happens, fluid accumulates in the abdomen and seeps into the bloodstream. This can lead to toxicity, sometimes causing long-term liver damage.

Egg yolk peritonitis may be septic, meaning it has been contaminated by bacteria (most commonly E. coli.) If it’s non-septic, the yolk is devoid of bacteria, but the peritoneum remains inflamed.

The prognosis is encouraging if you seek veterinary assistance at the early onset of EYP.

Causes of Egg Yolk Peritonitis

EYP is commonly associated with poultry and ducks but can arise in parrot species. Lovebirds, macaws, and cockatiels are most vulnerable to this condition.

Because EYP affects the oviduct, only females can be adversely affected. The parrot must be able to become gravid to develop EYP, which means birds under one year old are unlikely to have problems.

The causes of egg yolk peritonitis in parrots include:

  • Genetic illnesses passed on from parents make it impossible to lay eggs.
  • Injury to the oviduct caused by rupturing, potentially due to egg binding.
  • Significant stress or physical damage during the ovulation period.
  • Irritation to the stomach lining leads to reverse peristalsis.
  • Excessive white blood cells.
  • Weight gain and obesity.
egg yolk peritonitis symptoms

Symptoms of EYP

Egg yolk peritonitis is painful, which will be reflected in a parrot’s demeanor and behavior.

The yolk exerts pressure on internal organs, and the inflammation associated with the condition will exacerbate the discomfort. Consequently, the parrot may become more hostile than usual.

The symptoms of egg yolk peritonitis in parrots include:

  • Fluffed-up feathers.
  • Constantly lifting the tail feathers.
  • Change to the parrot’s stance and gait, usually involving the legs widening.
  • Sitting on the floor of the cage.
  • Dullness in the eyes, which may swell and close.
  • Discharge from the eyes and nares (nostrils.)
  • Changes to the droppings, which may appear white or yellow.
  • Respiratory difficulty, including labored breathing.
  • Swelling around the abdomen and vent caused by fluid accumulation.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Refusing to eat or drink.
  • Lethargy and depression, including reluctance to move or interact and reduced verbalization.
  • Muscular weakness, leading to tremors.

Egg yolk peritonitis can be fatal if left untreated. If EYP combines with another medical problem, like egg binding (dystocia), the issue can be life-ending within 24 to 48 hours.

Egg Bound vs. Egg Peritonitis

As egg yolk peritonitis can appear similar to dystocia, you must understand the difference. While both conditions can result in premature death if not resolved promptly, the treatments vary.

Dystocia involves the formation of a solid egg, including a shell, within the body that can’t be passed.

Egg yolk peritonitis is exclusively a problem with fluid. This means the swelling may not be as visible by sight, especially in the early days.

Egg yolk peritonitis and egg binding can arise simultaneously. An X-ray will be required.

Treatment for EYP

Treatment depends on how advanced EYP is and whether the problem is septic. Non-septic egg yolk peritonitis is more easily treatable than septic EYP (where there’s a bacterial infection.)

X-rays help determine the severity. A vet may perform an abdominocentesis – extracting the yolk fluid from the parrot’s body using a needle. A diuretic like Frusemide may also be applied.

The parrot will then receive fluid therapy to flush out the remaining yolk from its body. Intravenous antibiotics may be administered to prevent secondary infection.

This will likely involve the parrot remaining in surgery overnight, regularly hydrating through intravenous fluids, and being tube-fed. Medications include oxytetracycline, Baytril, and gentamycin.

Surgical intervention may be required if abdominocentesis is ineffective or the yolk has spread.

how to treat egg peritonitis

Recovery from EYP

Parrots with non-septic egg yolk peritonitis usually recover faster than birds with septic EYP. The parrot will likely be treated and discharged on the same day as an inpatient.

Upon discharge, a vet may recommend follow-up appointments. This will involve bloodwork to ensure that hormone and blood levels are normal and minimize the risk of reinfection.

If a parrot is given antibiotics upon discharge from surgery, you must complete the course. It must also have a calm and sedate lifestyle, drink regularly, and be fed a high-protein diet.

Prevention of EYP

A female parrot can’t develop EYP if she doesn’t become gravid. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds because parrots sometimes lay eggs without a breeding partner.

Do what you can to avoid elevating the parrot’s hormones. This can be achieved by reducing light exposure, warm conditions, and fatty foods. Also, limit petting to the head, feet, and beak.

Sometimes, vets issue hormone injections like Leuprorelin. Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs stated that Leuprolide acetate can suppress egg-laying activity. Hormone therapy is only temporary.

A salpingectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries) may be performed if the parrot is likely to continue to lay eggs. Due to the inherent risks of this surgery, this will only happen if the parrot’s life is in danger.