Blocked Gizzard by Dr. Rob Marshall

Index of Bird Diseases ... Symptoms and Potential Causes ... Bird Species and Diseases They are Most Susceptible to


Your bird has been diagnosed with a blocked gizzard. This is a life threatening disease and your bird may need to stay in hospital until it starts eating. It may take as short as one day, or as long as three days to unblock the gizzard. When the blockage has been present for too long, or when excessive amounts of material are blocking the gizzard, it may be impossible to save your bird. Soft materials and plastic objects may be difficult to unblock as they become impacted and “cement” in the gizzard. Recent sand, wood or dirt blockages are more likely to be unblocked. We manage to save more than 90% of birds presented to us with a blocked gizzard or foreign body obstruction. We always do our best for your much loved pets. Please phone twice daily to check on your bird's progress.


What is a blocked gizzard?

Following wet weather or fluctuating temperatures pet birds may over-engorge on minerals (sand, soil, potting mix or grit). The reason for this activity is unknown, however, there may be an underlying health problem (eg. Bowel infection, worms or eating contaminated food) that leads to this behaviour. Once a small amount of sand, grit or soil has been ingested, the bird is likely to develop a stomach ache and will scavenge for further minerals. The build up of these materials cause a blockage in the gizzard. The presence of a blocked gizzard or foreign body obstruction is confirmed through an X-ray.

What predisposes the bird to blocked gizzard?

There are a number of underlying causes of a blocked gizzard. Birds with a mineral deficiency or imbalance will seek minerals from other sources in the cage or environment. This often means they will ingest contaminated substances such as potting mix and grout between the tiles, to satisfy their mineral cravings.

Egg laying hens have a heightened mineral need and if minerals are deficient during egg laying they become predisposed to a blocked gizzard.

Similarly, birds with bowel infections are susceptible to a blocked gizzard because they are unable to absorb sufficient minerals. Cold spells are the most likely times for such birds to develop a blocked gizzard.Foreign body obstructions occur mostly in perfectly healthy birds who are inquisitive and playful.

The most common causes of foreign body obstructions are toweling, rope fibres, toys, paper, and plastics found within the birds play environment. Foreign bodies also occur after cold spells and in birds who have behavioural problems, such as boredom or sexual frustration. These birds like to chew on wood and tear up paper. Nutritional problems may also cause birds to chew on abnormal objects.


What are the signs and symptoms of a blocked gizzard?

The symptoms of a foreign body obstruction and a blocked gizzard are similar. The first signs are an increased thirst and fluffed up appearance. Birds will develop a stomach ache and will lean forward on the perch. Droppings will have no faecal component and may be watery and appear clear or white. Birds may vomit and stop eating. Symptoms of a blocked gizzard or foreign body obstruction appear suddenly, over a period of a day or two. It is important to recognize these symptoms early, so treatment can be implemented as early as possible. The likelihood of recovery is dramatically increased when the problem is identified and treated early. If left unattended for a period of time, the chances of recovery are slim.


How is it treated?

A blocked gizzard or foreign body obstruction must be treated as an emergency. Treatment starts by injecting a lubricating feed mix into the crop, using a crop needle. The birds must be hospitalized in a warmed cage and fed three times a day, in an effort to flush the obstruction through. A high energy formula is incorporated in the feed mix and is critical in re-establishing the sick bird's mineral and fluid levels.

At this time it may also be necessary to give anti-spasm injections, antibiotics or additional fluids. A culture of the droppings is taken to treat concurrent infections and help identify any underlying cause. The procedure of unblocking the gizzard with an injection into the crop may be stressful to critically ill birds and birds with a longstanding obstruction or low resilience. Unfortunately, shock and sudden death following this procedure is possible. We make every effort that this does not occur.

We can recognize when the blockage has been flushed through by the re-appearance of a faecal component (green) in the droppings. If no faecal component is seen after three days of treatment, the likelihood of recovery is poor. It may not be possible to clear longstanding obstructions. We will keep your bird hospitalized until a normal dropping has been passed.


How can a blocked gizzard or foreign body obstruction be prevented from recurring?

To prevent this problem from recurring it is important to ensure your bird receives the correct nutritional balance by following an Ongoing Health Programme. With the correct nutritional balance, birds will be less likely to seek minerals from contaminated sources. A Water Cleanser in the drinking water forms a very important part of a prevention programme as it cleans food stuff of any contamination. This health programme is comprised of Turbobooster, Energy supplement, Fvite, Ioford, Dufoplus and Water Cleanser, and provides your pet bird with all the minerals and nutrients it requires for ongoing health and vitality.


Are there any other special instructions?

Make sure your bird is eating and drinking at home. If not, it will need to return for further feeding in hospital. To accelerate the healing process, Turbobooster, Fvite and an energy supplement should be mixed into a sterile seed for three weeks. Turbobooster helps lubricate the blockage down through the bowel, the energy supplement helps accelerate recovery and Fvite restores the mineral imbalances.


Are there any long term problems?

Long term obstructions can harm the kidneys and liver and leave the bird susceptible to illness in the future.

Copyright © 2004 Rob Marshall, All Rights Reserved.


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