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Atherosclerosis is a common disease in older chickens and often associated with sudden decline in health and unexpected death of the bird. Birds are particularly susceptible to developing this disease, with incidence rates ranging from 1.9 to 91.9%.

Atherosclerosis occurs as a result of the hardening of the arteries, related to intimal thickening and lipid deposition in the vessel wall. This results in reduced blood flow and the supply of oxygen to cells and organs. The type of artery affected and where the hardening develops varies.

Atherosclerosis Clinical Signs

The most common sign seen in chickens with atherosclerosis is sudden, unexpected death. When clinical signs do occur, they are usually associated with the complications caused by reduced blood flow through the arteries. This can manifest as lethargy, exercise intolerance, pelvic limb ataxia, difficulty breathing, ataxia, behavioral changes, and/or congestive heart failure.

Clinical Signs

Sudden death


  • History
  • Radiographs
  • CBC
  • Necropsy


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Modification of dietSwitch to a low fat diet with supplemental omega 3 fatty acids
IsoxuprineA peripheral vasodilator that was used successfully in managing clinical signs in a parrot with presumed atherosclerosis.



Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Chronic inflammation
  • Infection with Marek's Disease virus (MDV) or Chlamydia spp
  • Heavy "meat-type" birds such as "broilers" and turkeys.
  • Aging - Older birds have an increased risk.
  • Reduced exercise