Site Menu

Clagged Vent In Budgerigars

Investigations into Clagged Vent in Budgerigars: Preliminary Results
John R. Baker
of Liverpool

Dr Baker

Clagged in Budgerigars is the condition in which droppings accumulate around and over the vent, these droppings then form a dry hard mass which obstructs the passage of feces and urine to the outside and these waste products accumulate inside the bird resulting in death within a few days. This condition has been the subject of research at the University of Liverpool over the past couple of years, sponsored by the Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales (inc. I.O.M.) Budgerigar Society. Unfortunately relatively few samples of clag or affected birds have been obtained and the results presented here must therefore be considered provisional.

Before describing and discussing the results to date, it is necessary to briefly describe the production of urine and the function of the lower part of the intestine. Budgerigars produce urine in the kidneys from where it passes in fine tubes called ureters to the extreme bottom end of the intestine. At this stage it is relatively liquid. Having reached the intestine it is passed forward up the intestine, that is towards the mouth. It travels up for a short distance before travelling down again prior to being voided. During this passage in the intestine the urine is partly dried out, making it the fairly firm, white consistency that all fanciers are familiar with. The lower part of the intestine also has a function with regard to the feacal part of the droppings which is to dry the droppings so that the water that is in them from the bird's digestive juices can be recycled and used again. Another function is to secrete a very thin layer of mucus onto the droppings to ease their passage to the outside. The lower part of the intestine has little in the way of digestive function although some vitamins are probably absorbed from this site.

Sample Results

Forty six samples of clag have been received together with the bodies of 9 affected birds. Examination of the internal surface of the clag material reveals that it can be divided into three types (the internal surface has to be examined as all sorts of things stick to the outside masking its appearance). The three types are:

  1. Light Yellow to pale brown with a gritty slightly sandy texture, dry and odor free. 23 samples of this type have been received.
  2. Dark brown and fairly dry although some moisture is present. These samples often have rather sticky feel and are almost odor free. 22 samples of this type have been received.
  3. Dark brown to black, relatively soft and foul-smelling. Only one sample of this type has been received and this type will not be considered further.

Considering type 1 in more detail, these are composed principally of abnormal urine. As can be seen from the introductory paragraph this could arise from a malfunction of either the kidneys and/or the intestine. Two dead birds with this type of clag have been received and both these birds had inflamed kidneys and the blood chemistry of a few birds with this condition again suggests that the kidneys are at fault when this type of clag is produced, although exactly what the nature of the fault is awaits discovery. However there is no infectious bacteria present and the condition does not spread as if a virus was involved. Talking to fanciers who have had birds affected with this type of clag, it seems probably that in the majority of cases, the birds recover provided the build up of clag is removed regularly so that waste products do not accumulate in the bird's system. This type of clag occurs almost entirely in the autumn and early winter for reasons which are not at all clear at the moment.

Type 2 represents abnormal feaces and here the malfunction will almost certainly lie in the lower part of the intestine, although disturbances higher up can not be entirely ruled out. Examination of the few dead birds with this condition suggests that, at least in some of them, there is excess mucus production in the lower intestine and this leads to stickiness of the droppings so that they adhere to the feathers around the vent. The causes of this type of condition are many and varied but a significant proportion of cases are associated with an infection of the lower bowel by a bacteria called Staphylococcus. In these cases it will be possible to get rid of this with antibiotics together with frequent removal of the clag, having softened it in water. In spite of a germ causing a number of cases it does not seem to act as an infectious condition and it is suspected that there must be some other trigger factor which allows this bacteria in to cause the problem. It was thought at one time that this trigger might be diet related but the condition has now been seen in birds on a wide variety of foods and not common factor was found. In a number of other cases of this type of clag the intestines were found to be displaced and therefore malfunctioning; examples of this have included umbilical hernias, cancer of the testicles and a retained decomposing egg. Other conditions that have been seen causing this type of clag have been inflammation of the gizzard so that poorly ground up food was being passed into the intestines and psittacosis in which a number of bodily functions, including those of the intestines, are disturbed.

Affected area must be cleaned

What ever the cause in an individual bird, the most important aspect is that the clag is spotted and removed. Spotting the clag is not as easy as it would sound as, in many cases, unless the bird is viewed from below it can be missed unless it is very big. How many fanciers look at birds this way? The dry clag should not be pulled off but softened in water and gently removed. If removal is delayed, because the condition is not see, the bird may still die as waste products have accumulated in the bird's system. The clag will have to be removed at least twice a day until nature or treatment effects a cure therefore the isolation of the bird in a small cage in which it can be easily caught is a good idea. The skin under the clag is often inflamed and sore and a bland cream spread on this area will make the bird feel more comfortable and in some cases appears to prevent more clag sticking to the bird. The only other that can currently be recommended is antibiotics for a proportion of birds affected by type 2 clag. Unfortunately just looking at the clag will not indicate which birds should respond to treatment so that I would suggest that all birds with this type should have a 5 day course of treatment.

As was said at the beginning this is only a preliminary report based on a relatively small number of samples. We need to obtain samples from a wider variety of owners so that we get a better idea as to which types are common, also to get affected birds or preferably recently affected birds so that we can take blood samples, and to get birds which have died of the condition so that post-mortems can be carried out. In this way we should be able to sort out the condition. I would appeal to owners of affected birds to send samples of clag, or better still let us see live affected birds or those which have unfortunately died of the condition.

.Check out the articles in our Reference Library

Templates in Time