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Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease of the arteries that is characterized by the buildup of fat deposits inside the arterial wall. Eventually the accumulation of fat deposits will lead to restriction in blood flow and prevent oxygen from reaching cells. It occurs commonly in older chickens.

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.

Most of the time, 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 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


Change in 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.



  • Diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly long chain EPA and DHA sources.
  • Feed low fat, low cholesterol diet

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Diet low in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and high in saturated fatty acids
  • High-fat diets enriched in linoleic acid
  • High cholesterol diet
  • Heavier birds
  • Female sex
  • Infection with Marek's Disease virus (MDV) or Chlamydia spp
  • Heavy "meat-type" birds such as "broilers" and turkeys.
  • Aging
  • Reduced exercise
  • Birds with existing reproductive or hepatic disease