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Spotty Liver Disease

Other Names: Avian Vibrionic Hepatitis, Campylobacter Hepaticus, Miliary Hepatitis, Summer Hepatitis

Spotty liver disease (SLD) is an acute infectious disease of free-range egg laying hens caused by Campylobacter hepaticus. Cases have occurred in Australia, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Most cases occur during the warmer months of the year, although it has been reported year-round depending on the geographical region. Hens are most at risk during peak lay.


C. hepaticus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route.


The Campylobacter bacterium can be cultured from the liver and bile of infected birds. A presumptive diagnosis can also be made postmortem by the detection of characteristic small yellow-white necrotic hepatic lesions, together with a fibrinous perihepatitis, excess pericardial and peritoneal fluid, and usually enteritis with diarrhea. Histopathology reveals a multifocal acute hepatocellular necrosis with fibrin and occasional hemorrhage.


The current treatment consists of an antibiotic (often chlortetracycline) and feed additives. However, there has been an emergence of chlortetracycline-resistant strains.

Clinical Signs

Dull, ruffled feathers
Change in feather color
Beak/nail overgrowth
Shrunken combs
Lighter egg yolk color


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests


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.
ChlortetracyclineS Sakur et al., 2024
Diet modificationAdditional Omega-3 fatty acids
Sanguinarine1 ppm reduced some of the negative impacts of SLD in layer hens. These improvements include a better egg mass, a reduction in the number of liver lesions, an improvement in the weight of the hens and feed consumption, and a reduction in the expression of proinflammatory cytokines.J Quinteros et al., 2021



  • Biosecurity
  • Reduce stress
  • Don't overcrowd birds

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Stress
  • Rescued ex-factory or pastured/free ranged laying hens are more at risk.