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Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of hardened plaque on artery walls. Plaques typically contain cholesterol from low-density lipoproteins (LDL), smooth-muscle cells and fibrous tissue, and sometimes calcium. When arteries narrow, it can restrict blood flow and prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the bird's heart and other parts of their body. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the bird's body, including arteries in the heart, brain, legs, and kidneys. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected.
Nutrition plays a significant role in its onset and is most frequently seen in chickens who receive a diet low in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and high in saturated fatty acids, high-cholesterol diets, and high-fat diets enriched in linoleic acid.
Signs of Atherosclerosis in Chickens
Atherosclerosis usually doesn't cause signs and symptoms in birds until it severely narrows or totally blocks an artery. Many times, the first indication of the disease is apparent sudden death related to an unknown cause. When clinical signs do occur, they are usually associated with the complications caused by reduced blood flow through the arteries. This can cause chickens to demonstrate signs associated with cardiac failure, such as lethargy, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, ataxia, and behavioral changes.
Gylling, H., et al. European Atherosclerosis Society Consensus Panel on Phytosterols. Plant sterols and plant stanols in the management of dyslipidaemia and prevention of cardiovascular disease.. Atherosclerosis (2014)