Shown in Figure 1 is a 9 year old budgie who came in for its annual examination. The budgie had no health issues according to the owner and was acting normally at home. Everything also appeared normal on his physical exam except for two hard masses that were felt within the bird’s crop.
We decided to take radiographs (x-rays) of the budgie (see Figure 2) to try to determine what these masses were. The bird was anesthetized briefly with gas anesthesia to keep him still and properly positioned while we took the x-rays. While using anesthesia does have some risks, the risks are usually very low in an otherwise healthy bird. The procedure is also much less stressful to the bird when performed while it is under anesthesia compared to being awake. In the x-ray shown in Figure 2, you can see two round mineral densities in the crop.
After reviewing the budgie’s x-rays, it was decided that the best course of action would be to surgically remove the masses before they could cause problems by blocking the outflow of the crop into the rest of the gastrointestinal tract. We proceeded with surgery to remove these two crop stones, or ingluvioliths, from the budgie. Surgery was relatively quick as was the budgie's recovery. We were unable to find a cause for the stones in this bird, but possible theories include an underlying crop infection or any disease causing decreased intestinal motility. Some ingluvioliths have been shown to have seed husks in their centers! (Figure 3 shows the removed crop stones.)
This case stresses the importance of avian annual exams, which allow us to discover abnormalities early and hopefully fix them before serious health problems can occur.