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Ascites in Commercial Broiler Poultry and Its Management

Ascites in Commercial Broiler Poultry and Its Management

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04/08/2013

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Ascites in commercial broiler poultry and its managementDr.Kedar Karki
Metabolic diseases affect internal body metabolism and development, and arethe cause of a large portion of mortality in commercial poultry flocks. Two ofthe more important types of metabolic diseases are the cardiopulmonarydisorders: sudden death sundrome and ascites. Certain types of leg problemsare also related to metabolic distrubances.Ascites is most commonly seen in fast growing broilers and is characterised bythe accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Although the disease is notfully understood, this heart failure is thought to be a consequence of a loweredoxygen tension in poultry houses and birds suffering from too little oxygen.Poor ventilation is a major contributory factor. When the disease was firstobserved, it was seen mainly in areas of higher altitude and in fast growingbroilers although it now occurs at all altitudes. Cold temperatures, coupledwith high energy diets, can result in ascites-related deaths as a consequence ofinsufficient pulmonary vascular capillary capacity for the blood flow necessaryto meet a high metabolic oxygen requirement.In the World Broiler Ascites Survey information on 18 countries from fourcontinents showed that ascites affects 4.7% of live broilers worldwide. The costto the worldwide broiler chicken industry due to ascites related mortality hasbeen estimated to be in excess of $500 billion per year.Ascites is not a disease, it is a condition in which excess amount of asciticfluids (a combination of lymph and blood plasma which has leaked from theliver) accumulate in the body cavity. In broiler chickens, the condition oftenleads to death. The ascites syndrome is associated with abnormally high bloodpressure between the heart and lungs (pulmonary hypertension) leading toright heart failure, increased blood pressure in the veins, and excessive buildupof fluid in the liver (passive liver congestion) which leaks into the body cavity.The incidence of ascites has increased worldwide over the past several years.This increase coincides with ongoing genetic and nutritional improvements inthe areas of growth rate and feed efficiency.Meat-type chickens are selected for growth rate and muscle mass. Due to verysuccessful genetic selection techniques, growth rate has increased at a rate of4 to 5% per year over the past 30 years. Broiler performance (average of bothsexes) has improved so much that the growing period to produce broilers of thesame weight has decreased by 30% in just 15 years. A 2kg. bird took 56 days toproduce in 1976; it can now be produced in less that 42 days. Selection for
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rapid growth and efficient feed conversion has resulted in a broiler with such ahigh rate of metabolism that its heart and lungs are barely capable of providingenough oxygen to sustain the body.
Contributing Factors:
 
The genetics of meat birds has changed dramatically in the last tenyears. Today's broilers grow much faster, eating less feed. The growth ofthe heart and lungs has not increased in size proportional to the increasein body weight and breast meat yield. The rapid growth of the birdmeans more oxygen demand, requiring more work out of the heart andlungs.
High basal metabolic rate
High sodium/salt content in water/feed-Excess levels of sodium in thewater or slat in feed leads to increased blood pressure in the lungs.Levels of sodium over 400 ppm could cause problems in broilers.
High altitudes have long been known to cause heart failure and ascites.
Chilling is a common cause in small flocks. It causes an increased bloodflow through the lungs.
High energy rations
Vitamin E deficiency
Environmental factors
1. Temperature :
Careful attention to brooding temperatures is criticalin the prevention of ascites. Low temperature brooding forces the birdsto use energy (which requires oxygen) in order to maintain bodytemperatures. This predisposes a flock of broilers to ascites, althoughthe signs of ascites show up later in production. Air temperature is alsoimportant later in production, but it is especially critical early.
2. Air Quality :
Any further challenges to the bird's ability to exchangeoxygen with its environment predispose it to ascites.
o
Dust - Dusty environments can contribute to the onset of ascites.Disease causing microorganisms can also attach themselves todust particles, and be respired, causing irritation or infection inthe lungs. This further reduces oxygen transfer between the birdand the environment.
o
Ammonia - High levels of ammonia in the broiler house canirritate the lungs, resulting in decreased oxygen transfer betweenthe bird and the environment.
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Oxygen - Natural gas open-flame brooders contribute to oxygendepletion in broiler houses. This burning of oxygen is in directcompetition with the birds. Ventilation rates must supply enough
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air to replenish the oxygen consumed. The volume of air comingin the air intakes should be uniformly distributed to the birds.Proper levels of oxygen typically coincide with low levels ofammonia and respirable dust. Adequate air exchange must beprovided to broilers as a preventive method of ascites. Becausebroilers have rapid growth rates, adequate oxygen levels areessential to prevent increased stress on the respiratory systemand consequently the heart.
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Carbondioxide 
Diagnosis:
Ascites is most commonly diagnosed at 4 - 5 weeks of age, although signs ofascites have been recorded in day-old birds Low oxygen status of embryosduring incubation may be related to the onset of ascites. Panting is oftenobserved in ascitic birds even in the absence of apparent heat stress. Thispanting in ascitic birds is due to physical restriction of the large abdominal airsacs. The excessive abdominal fluid accumulation results in a reduction in thevolume of air that is exchanged per respiration. Gurgling sounds oftenaccompany panting. Their breathing sounds labroured and gaspy, and they maybe crouching and have ruffled feathers. Birds may also die without any obvioussymptoms. the abdomen of ascitic birds is often dilated (enlarged) because ofascitic fluid in chickens that have an increased respiration rate and reducedexercise tolerance.Older birds which are mildly ascitic may show signs of cyanosis (a bluediscolouration of the skin) especially around the comb and wattles. Cyanoticbirds have been observed to die spontaneouly, especially when excited. Postmortem analyses of ascitic birds indicate that the skin and tissues arecongested and they are often a dark red colour. Opening the abdominal cavityof an ascitic bird reveals an amber or clear fluid (lymph) that resembles bloodplasma. This abdominal fluid is called ascitic fluid. The heart of ascitic birds isenlarged and there is fluid in the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart).The liver may be edematous (swollen and congested) and may have fibrin(blood clotting protein which is soluble in the blood) adhering to the surface.Blood plasma builds up in the low-pressure liver venous system because it isunable to return to the heart in suficient volume. Classically, the right ventricle(RV) is grossly dilated and can make up as much as 40% of total ventricleweight, compared with the normal 20%. Varying degrees of lung damage areseen. Lungs of ascitic birds often appear pale or grayish. The lungs areextremely congested and edematous. 
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