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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28971
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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My Australorp started out with a limp and progressed to

Customer Question

My Australorp started out with a limp and progressed to complete paralysis I had to put her down after doing all I could for her. Now five weeks later my Orpington has the same symptoms! I'm sick about this! They are 19 months old. They were vaccinated so I don't think it is Mariks...I was wondering if it could be a spinal issue and can any thing be done?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.

You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your hens, Gail. It's important to note that the vaccine against Marek's doesn't prevent infection but should lessen morbidity (severity of signs). It's important to clarify the etiology of these symptoms and pragmatically speaking that's done by having a necropsy performed on a newly dead bird that has been refrigerated (not frozen) or on a sacrificed severely ill bird. Necropsies are particularly important if you have a sizeable flock. An avian vet (please see here: can arrange for the necropsy to be performed or your county animal disease diagnostic laboratory can do this for you if you're fortunate enough to have such a laboratory in your county. A veterinary school pathology service is another good resource.

You're correct to consider other neurologic disorders. They include paromyxovirus, West Nile virus, and equine encephalitis viruses as well as any number of bacterial encephalitises. Any of these infections can extend down the spinal cord. Toxins are always a concern - mycotoxins (toxins in molds of grains) , insecticides, and other chemicals are considered. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
This is my first experience with chickens. I only had four chickens now I am down to three. They Free range in our back yard NB except at night they are locked up. I can't afford the test you spoke of.they are $6. Chickens I have for pets. Just wanted to know if there was anything I should do. I read somewhere to give them dog food if it was a spine issue?????
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 10 months ago.

I understand. It's best to approach the diagnostic process with a clear sense of Rosie's financial value to your operation. There's nothing wrong with offering dog food but it will have no effect on a central nervous system disorder - one involving the brain or spinal cord. You're necessarily constrained to provide good nursing for her. A few chickens will recover from Marek's and I can think good thought that Rosie will be one of those chickens.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.