Ascites - full recovery


6 Years
Jun 8, 2013
London, Ontario, Canada
I wanted to post my experience recently with a hen with ascites. I have lost 2 hens in 4 years to ascites. One I had drained and she never swelled up again and continued to live for 6 or 8 more months but never regained full health and was thin and basically starved to death. I had brought her to a vet who had nothing to offer except that draining her would kill her from shock. it never did but she never fully got better.
This time one of my very favourite hens, a 4 year old black sex link I noticed tail down waddling....and the dreaded water balloon. She literally went from great and healthy to in a couple days...droopy. I confined her in a cage and gave her a really nicely ventilated room and set out to read everything I could find about cures. It turned out she needed to be drained after only a day because she was having trouble breathing. We got out a ton of straw coloured hot fluid by draining her and she dripped the rest out overnight. I decided to give her a dewormer dose and noticed she had lice so gave her a treatment of revolution that I use on all my birds with lice (very effective but finicky with dosing) I had milk thistle already on hand and starting dosing her. After only about 3 days her balloon came back. What an awful feeling seeing her go downhill like this...truly helpless! She wasn't eating or drinking confined so during the day so I allowed her to free range with her friends but she hardly ate anything and was very still and droopy. I decided out of desperation to try dosing her with a soluble antibiotic of neosporin and tetracycline. Here in Canada it is available at TSC with no prescription and supposed to cover ecoli and a broad range antibiotic. I decided to measure out 1/16th of a tsp 2x a day and add a dab of water to make a paste and soak it up with a tiny piece of bread which I then rolled into a pellet and put down her throat. I did this for 5 days.
I noticed her poop was small with a bit of black solids and white. Not full and soft brown. But I also noticed an odor that was almost yeasty like gleet. So around day 2 of the antibiotic treatment (I had stopped milk thistle) I got a fluconazole tablet which I dosed her at 20 mg/kg. Just a one time tablet. Well now over a week and a half later she's almost fully herself and recovered. I decided not to drain her balloon a second time and see if her body could reabsorb it while being treated. Today she's gorging herself on everything she can find to eat out free ranging and when I put her to bed in the cage she was for the first time ever eating her regular pellet feed! She's running around and back to following me and sitting on my lap and clucking away. And her balloon is almost entirely gone. I wish I knew if it was the fluconazole and she actually had a yeast problem causing all of this. Or was it ecoli and the neosporin took care of it? Or simply the tetracycline? Either way whatever I did...something worked and I have hope that all ascites isn't totally a death sentence. Wanted to share my experience so it may help you as well!

Ashley & Donna Dame

5 Years
Aug 11, 2017
We are so thankful for this article. We have a leghorn that has ascites. We've taken fluid from her 3 times and although it helped for the day she still wasn't doing well. I read this and instantly was on the hunt for the fluconazole. We gave it to her in bread also and she hobbled it up. Its been a week now and her stomach has shrunk almost back to normal. She doesn't waddle anymore and she's acting more like a chicken every day.
The way we saw it was that if this condition will take them eventually, then giving them something that could potentially help is worth it. It was. I don't want to have to repeatedly stick a needle in her. This was much better and now so is she. THANK YOU A MILLION.

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