An increase in cases of metabolic bone disease (MBD) in chicks of six species of heron and egret (family Ardeidae) was identified at a wildlife rehabilitation center in the spring and summer of 2018. The outbreak affected 34.3% of birds in care for four or more days during the first 3 mo of the study and was the most common reason for euthanasia during that time. Cases were characterized by lameness, increased flexibility of multiple long bones, angular deformities, and bone fractures. Gross postmortem examinations were conducted on 145 nestlings and fledglings that died or were euthanatized either because of MBD or for unrelated conditions. Histology was performed in four cases and three controls. Histologic findings were characterized by multiple lesions in the appendicular long bones, including variable elongation of the physis, retention of cartilage cores in the metaphyseal primary spongiosa, poorly mineralized osteoid seams within the primary spongiosa, thinning or lack of diaphyseal cortical bone compaction, and folding fractures typically propagating through the physis-metaphyseal interface. Folding fractures were often associated with focal metaphyseal fibroplasia. The parathyroid gland diameter of birds diagnosed postmortem with MBD in care was significantly larger than that of unaffected birds. The authors hypothesized that a dietary deficiency of vitamin D3 because of low levels in the bird's captive diet of capelin (Mallotus villosus) was the cause of the MBD. Starting in mid-July every chick's diet was supplemented with 714 IU oral vitamin D3/kg body weight per day, after which the number of birds developing MBD declined to a rate of 4.3%. This study characterizes the clinical, gross, radiographic, and histologic features of vitamin D3-responsive MBD in young herons and egrets and provides evidence to support the recommendation that captive birds on a diet of capelin be supplemented with vitamin D3, especially during growth.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology