One of the most common problems when sending a baby bird to the vet is a condition called "acid goiter". Acid goiter is actually "goiter stasis", a condition where the baby has a goiter - or oesophagus - full of hand food that has gone bad.
The term "acid goiter" describes the condition of the contents of the goiter, but it is rarely a disease in itself. In the vast majority of cases, it is actually a symptom of another disease.
The danger of crop inflammation comes from the spoilt food itself. Just as any food spoils if it is kept too long in a warm room, undigested baby food will collect toxins and bacteria - and threaten the bird's life.
Goiteritis is a condition where the crop no longer functions at all. In other words, the crop stops emptying.
An owner will approach the baby for a scheduled feed and see that most or all of the food from the previous feed is still there. It is important to note here that you should never give extra food to a baby who still has a full crop.
It is important when raising a chick by hand that you know exactly how much and how often to feed.
Goiter is an emergency and you should call your vet immediately.
So, how does a veterinarian the condition? To stabilise the patient, the spoilt food must be removed as soon as possible. In most patients, the food can be removed via an oral feeding tube. Depending on the particle size of the baby food, a standard red rubber or metal feeding funnel with a ball can be inserted into the crop. The crop contents can then be aspirated.
Sometimes, however, the doctor will have to dilute the spoiled food by introducing warm water or electrolyte solutions into the crop before removing the food. The crop is then gently massaged and the contents aspirated. It is important to palpate the tube in the crop during aspiration to prevent the crop wall from sucking against the end of the funnel. Once the crop is reasonably empty, it should be rinsed by repeatedly filling it with a warm balanced electrolyte solution, massaging the crop and sucking up the contents until it is clear.
Dehydration is a problem
The vast majority of babies cared for for goiter will be moderately to severely dehydrated. The lack of fluid intake due to the non-functioning crop, combined with the persistent high fluid losses associated with many childhood illnesses, results in fluid shortages that can be life-threatening. So once the crop is emptied, the vet will take care of the patient's fluid needs, usually administering fluids intravenously.
Babies that are not fully feathered often need an ambient temperature of 29 to 32 degrees. Those that are sick are less able to thermoregulate. Your vet should therefore take extra care to ensure that hospital patients are kept warm. High humidity should also be maintained to avoid contributing to dehydration.
In terms of medication, the bacterial overgrowth in the crop and the rest of the gastrointestinal tract must be addressed. While antifungals may eventually be useful, antibacterials are much more urgently needed.
Once first aid has been given, your veterinarian should perform a detailed physical examination and collect appropriate samples for a thorough diagnostic evaluation.
Remember that goiter is a symptom, not a disease, so the underlying problem must be identified and resolved if the baby is to thrive.