October 05, 2018

The Challenges Associated with Respiratory Disease in Chickens

Brenna Fitzgerald, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice), associate veterinarian at the Medical Center for Birds in Oakley, California, discusses how diagnosing respiratory disease in chickens can be challenging, including the potential for crossover with reproductive tract disease.

Brenna Fitzgerald, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice), associate veterinarian at the Medical Center for Birds in Oakley, California, discusses how diagnosing respiratory disease in chickens can be challenging, including the potential for crossover with reproductive tract disease.

“Respiratory disease presents a challenge really in any species, because your patient is not necessarily very stable and may not be stable enough to tolerate even handling for physical examination, or positioning for diagnostic imaging, things like that. And so, a lot of times the first priority is to try to stabilize that patient and improve their ability to breathe before proceeding with any of those steps. So, many times a period of pre-oxygenation is helpful before even laying hands on that patient. And also, it's very common— well respiratory disease of course can take many forms—but there's often some crossover with reproductive tract disease, because those birds tend to accumulate fluid within the body cavity and that fluid in turn compresses the air sacs so they can't ventilate well. So, sometimes the first step in stabilizing a respiratory patient, when the cause of the respiratory distress is compression of the air sacs due to fluid, is to perform coelomocentesis and remove as much volume of fluid as possible, so that the bird can breathe better. So, that is one challenge that can be addressed pretty rapidly and efficiently to get the patient more stabilized.

Other times, respiratory signs are the product of primary respiratory disease, which can take many, many different forms in chickens. There are a myriad of different infectious diseases, bacterial, and viral, and fungal ideologies, sometimes even parasitic, that veterinarians may be faced with. And probably the single most valuable thing that a practitioner can do to set themselves up to know how to collect the right diagnostic samples and request the proper diagnostic tests to make an accurate diagnosis, is to contact and develop a relationship with their state poultry veterinarian or veterinarians.

The state lab is an excellent source for the most up-to-date and effective diagnostic methods, and consulting with their staff veterinarians, a practitioner, can learn which diagnostic tests are most appropriate to screen for the most likely respiratory pathogens that may be producing the clinical signs they're seeing. So, it's a great resource for diagnostic tests, and also for advice in how to make a diagnosis. Another challenge is that many respiratory diseases of chickens, of all ideologies, can look very, very similar, and clinical science can be almost identical. So, discerning between them is probably the biggest challenge.”
 

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