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Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease which occurs frequently in chickens. It is defined as 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.

Clinical Presentation

Many chickens with atherosclerosis won't show any clinical signs of being affected, other than sudden death. However, when signs do present, chickens may develop neurological signs such as ataxia, twisted neck, paresis, blindness, convulsions or sudden falling.

Clinical Signs

Difficulty breathing
Enlarged abdomen
Exercise intolerance
Behavioral changes
Weight loss
Chronic weakness
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
Statin drugsThese are products used in the management of the disease in humans, which have been proposed for use in birds.
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.
  • High rat diets
  • Reduced exercise