Uremia in Birds

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    What Is Uremia?

    Uremia is an abnormal accumulation of urea and other metabolic waste products in the bloodstream. Uremia is caused by impaired kidney function and occurs when the kidneys are unable to filter the waste products from the blood. The urinary products in the bloodstream exercise a poisonous reaction upon the body tissues, particularly nerve tissues. It is sometimes called acute avian nephritis.


    This condition can sometimes be caused by exposure to cold temperatures when the bird’s body temperature causes the almost solid urine to crystallize in the small uriniferous tubes, thereby plugging them.


    There are two distinct forms of acute uremia.

    First Form

    In the first form a bird that has been in perfect health is left in a draft, or, there may have been a sudden change in the weather which caused a draft of cold air to play upon the bird during the night while it was sleeping. A short time later he is discovered puffed like a ball. He eats or drinks little, if at all. He shivers, seems cold and wants to sleep while you are talking to him. He becomes weaker by the minute, which is evident from the fact that he cannot cling to the perch and has sought a corner of the cage where he finds it very difficult to keep from falling over. He soon gets into a state of coma from which he can only partially aroused.

    As the illness progresses toward a fatal termination, the breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, without mouth breathing. The bird just sits quietly in his corner until he falls over, dead. Death may occur within from 2 to 24 hours of the onset of the attack. This form of the attack occurs almost exclusively in birds that are chilled during sleep.

    Second Form

    In the second form of this condition, the bird suffers from muscular cramps which appear to extend to the involuntary muscles of the kidneys. In any case, there is an immediate and complete suspension of kidney functioning. There maybe a cataleptic contraction of the muscles of one side of the body which lasts for a few moments and is followed by a rhythmic jerking of all muscles of the affected side.

    The beak opens, the eye blinks, the wing jerks down against the side, the foot jerks upward. The period of this jerking may be from 10 to 90 per minute, but it is fairly uniform throughout the violent period of the illness. There is no kidney action, no droppings. Without treatment, the bird will die within from 2 to 6 hours. If kidney action can be re-established, the frequency of the jerking will become slower until it finally ceases, though this may take from 2 to 48 hours from the time the first droppings appear.

    Treatment of Uremia

    If treated in time, all cases of acute uremia can be cured. The bird must be put in a warm place at once, and the cage should be covered with a cloth. Many birds will recover within a few hours without any other treatment. They should always be watched to see that they do not become overheated, which would do more harm than good.

    In some mild cases of uremia, complete suspension of kidney functioning does not occur, while other birds may not completely recover after an attack and will develop chronic nephritis as an after fact, and will die within 2 years from nephritis.


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