Veterinary Viewpoints


Question #1: My emus have started producing for the first time this year. I have several other babies that are doing fine, and one baby that was only 10 days old suddenly died today. He had been running in a pen, came inside, lay down and died. What could have happened and do I need to be concerned about the other babies?

Answer #l: Unfortunately, without a necropsy (autopsy) on your baby emu, it is difficult to determine what the cause of death was or if the other emu chicks might be affected. Common causes of death at that age include infections (especially yolk sac), cardiac problems, and impactions. Unexplained deaths should always be investigated, particularly if young birds are involved, to prevent or correct management or disease problems early in other birds in the collection.

Nicole Van Der Heyden, D.V.M., Diplomate, ABVP-Avian Practice Indianapolis, Indiana

Answer #2: The sudden death of an apparently healthy chick is most perplexing. It is important to find out the cause of death and whether or not there is contagious disease present. The remains of the chick should have been rapidly chilled by wetting and refrigerating (not frozen) and submitted for a proper postmortem examination. Ask your veterinarian to submit the remains to a competent pathologist.

James M. Harris, D.V.M. Oakland, California

Answer #3: Interest in ratites has increased astronomically in the last several years. A substantial part of this interest has been related to the perceived and actual possibility of extremely impressive profits. In part due to the profits potentially obtainable in the ratite industry, much knowledge has been gained in recent years towards the better understanding of the husbandry, nutrition, medical problems, and management of these primitive, yet interesting, birds. The significance of all this to you is that there are available resources for you to investigate towards the end of successful management and future profitable production with your emus. Among these sources include statewide and national ratite meetings, numerous excellent ratite magazines, knowledgeable avian veterinarians, knowledgeable ratite breeders and hobbyists, and improved commercially available life stage nutrition for ratites.

As to the cause of death of your neonatal emu chick, the possibilities are many. As the death of this individual was sometime in the past, its body may not be available or in a state amenable to a post mortem examination. So, please consider educating yourself, establishing a relationship with an avian veterinarian who has a knowledge or interest in ratites, and ideally present any additional deceased emu chicks to your avian veterinarian within 24 hours of its death. Good luck with your emus! Amy B. Worell, D.V.M.,

ABVP-Avian Practice

West Hills, California

Question #2: Can birds be allergic to the same sort of things as people? The two items I was particularly wondering about are monkey chow biscuits and antibiotics.

Answer #1: Birds can be allergic and have reactions to materials in their diet or environment. Food allergies are well documented in humans and other mammals and there is no reason to believe that birds would be any less likely to have food related allergic reactions. If a bird were sensitized to one of the ingredients in....