What is Ascites?
Also known as water belly or avian edema, ascites is a condition where there is accumulation of fluid
in the abdominal cavity due to liver, heart or lung damage. It is related to rapid growth rate and high
oxygen demand. It mainly kicks in during winter when environmental temperatures are low. It
mostly affects birds aged 4 weeks and onwards.
What causes Ascites?
Lack of oxygen inside the poultry house causes the right side of the heart to work harder in order to
push large volumes of blood to the lungs to be oxygenated. When more blood is forced into the
lungs, pressure builds up in the rigid arteries and the right side of the heart keeps on working harder
until it enlarges and weakens. It then fails to cope with the receipt of the blood coming from the
body. This causes organs in the abdomen to swell up with blood. Clear liquid known as blood plasma
is squeezed from the liver and this damages liver tissue.
What are the symptoms?
Abdominal fluid accumulation
How do you avoid Ascites?
Ventilation – Good air quality has to be maintained and this is achieved by allowing proper air circulation. Curtain management is important. Always leave a 10cm gap at the top of the curtains at first and roll the curtains down until 21 days. At 21 days take away the curtains or completely roll them down.
Temperature – Prevent cold temperatures and avoid temperature fluctuations which are greater than 2Oc at any given time. Use heating sources during brooding and always monitor the behaviour of the birds to check if they are cold or hot.
Lighting - In darkness, heat production goes down and demand for oxygen decreases. This avoids the right side of the heart from overworking.
Good litter management avoids a oxygen deficiency. Always use litter that absorbs moisture well like wood shavings. Remove any wet patches especially areas under drinkers.
When using charcoal heaters, light the fire outside and never allow smoke
What happens around week 4/5?
When you start to feed Grower pellets or Finisher pellets which is meant to lay up muscle and fat, it has to be done on birds with organs that are fit to sustain the bigger body that is coming. If or have been damaged the bird will not cope with the increased weight and the heart will fail suddenly causing the bird to die. It is not the feed that kills the bird but it is the condition of ascites that has been silently developing and progressing du death and normally they die on their backs with legs up. This is Ascites and unfortunately there is no treatment for it.The easiest way to avoid Ascites is good management especially first 21days.