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Other Names: Waterbelly, Pulmonary Hypertension Syndrome, Dropsy
Ascites refers to the accumulation of fluid within the peritoneal cavity. Mild or early stages of ascites may have no associated clinical signs; however as more fluid accumulates, it will cause chickens to appear bloated with an enlarged or swollen-looking abdomen (called abdominal distention). The fluid present (ascitic fluid) is usually serous in nature, which is a pale yellow and clear. Ascites can be caused by pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), liver disease, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and a manifestation of advanced cancers of the organs in the abdominal cavity.
Portal hypertension-related Ascites: This form of ascites is caused by increased pressure in the blood flow to the liver as the main contributor. It is associated with excess oxygen demands placed on the chicken's body. What happens is that the chicken's heart and lungs will continue to attempt to supply the body with enough oxygen, and in doing so, eventually it will pump excess blood into the lungs. Over time, the chicken's heart muscle will get larger and thicken as a result of the increased work, preventing the right heart valve from closing. This results in the accumulation of blood within the liver, which eventually leaks into the body cavity, causing ascites. Contributing risk factors include
Malignant-related Ascites: This form of ascites is typically a manifestation of advanced cancers of the organs in the chicken's abdominal cavity. The growth of the mass (or tumor) pressing on the portal vessels inside the abdominal cavity result in leakage of fluid into the body cavity.