Heart Failure in chickens


7 Years
Mar 7, 2012
I have a hen who was just diagnosed with heart failure. Does anyone have experience w/ this -- is there any treatment at all, how long did the bird live for after diagnosis, and what were the symptoms?

My vet seems to think there is no treatment, but I thought maybe someone else has had experience with this. Thank you!
How did your vet make his diagnosis? I had a hen that was found to have a heart defect on necropsy. That explained her symptoms prior to death but it was not diagnosed before she died. This hen was 2 years old and had shown no sign or symptoms until about 6 weeks before she died. Symptoms at that time were tiring easily, ascites, and her comb would occasionally turn bluish. And no, there is no treatment for it.
Well, yes -- those are her symptoms. She went from being the most robust hen in the flock to suddenly wanting to sit down all the time, falling asleep, not eating very much, and her comb turns purplish. At the vet's office, the doctor said, "She has a very bad heart murmur." We did a blood test and she was not anemic, so the vet is almost positive it is heart failure. I still have hope it might be an infection that went to her heart, so I am giving her Clavamox.

That is a bummer to hear that your hen had the same symptoms and that you know there is no treatment. I thought there might be drugs like diuretics or the other things they give to people to make the heart not have to work as hard.

How long did your bird have those symptoms before she died? I am wondering how long she has left-- like is it days, weeks, or months?
My bird had shown gradually increasing symptoms for two or three months. I don't know how long she would have gone on because when I took her to the vet she died while they were trying to x-ray her. She also had ascites so she was swollen with fluid and she just could not get enough breath, that coupled with the stress and the bad heart took her right there. I have no idea how long she could have gone on living, just that day she'd been up and about, out in the pasture with the other birds, she just rested frequently but seemed to get around ok otherwise. I've always really wished I hadn't taken her in that day and just let her live out whatever time she would have had.

Wish I could be of more help. I have no idea about medication to help with heart function for a chicken. You'd have to have a vet very knowledgeable in avian medicine who was willing to give it a shot.

As far as the Clavamox... no reason not to try. I've saved more then one bird over the years by taking a shot in the dark and treating when I didn't know what was going on. Sometimes all you can do is try and if it doesn't work at least you know you tried.
What a bummer. Sorry to hear that. My sister had a dog born with heart problems. It was always like an old dog even when young if that makes sense. It didn't live to old age but did make it to I guess middle age.

Birds are different if course but hopefully yours with a stress free life will also make chicken middle age.
Well, that is helpful, because I was wondering if she needed to be kept inside or not. She seems content to sleep inside at night but today she ran outside at the first opening she got, so I guess she wants to be with her sisters.

I also ordered 5,000 live meal worms in the mail so she can have some good final meals. She is also only 2 years old but is my favorite hen here (of course). I guess I'll just give her all the treats in the world and maybe look for some watermelon, since that is her favorite. It sucks because she's my favorite and I would go into bankruptcy to save her.
So sorry you hen has this malady. While there is very little to do to help her failing heart, you can make her as comfortable as possible. You'll want to avoid excessive heat, excessive cold, and the stress of dealing with her flock. If you do decide to separate her from the flock you can keep one hen with her for company. Just let her be a chicken. She has no idea she is ill and you can spoil her all you want.

While her heart condition could be a congenital defect she could have also contracted a sub-clinical viral or bacterial infection that affected her heart valves. In this case antibiotics are a good idea, but watch her for diarrhea and treat accordingly. Normally, in mammals, drugs can be given to help remove fluid (diuretics). But in chickens these types of products can't be used due to the super efficient kidney function in chickens. Drugs used to increase the cardiac output don't work well in chickens simply because the research has not been done and which medicines to use at what dosage is not known.

Pet Poultry medicine is in its infancy and it's people like you who make veterinary medicine move forward. Enjoy her and give her a mealworm for me.
Oh I totally know what you mean, it always does seem to be our favorite ones doesn't it? I lost my favorite bird of all time just over a year ago, it really sucks. I've gone to the vet with a few birds and on one I really did spend a wad trying to save her, lost her anyway. It never does get easier when it's the ones we've gotten really attached to.
I just happened across this thread . I have 2 hens right now that have combs that turn purple, and when they nap it's even more purplish and they do some gasping while they breathe. I had one that did that for 2 years and died last month. They are Jerseys, but not related, and are all 5-6 years old. Does that sound like a cardiac problem?
Well, that is kind of what my chicken acted like before she was diagnosed. She would also sometimes be standing and her head would drop to the ground like she was falling asleep or just really, really weak. I would take your chickens to the vet and have her listen to their hearts.

Eventually, what happened with my hen (she is still alive!) is that she got a prescription for Elanapril from a compounding pharmacy, then we added Lasix. It seemed to help, but what REALLY helped is that she eventually got a Deslorelin implant to stop her from laying eggs -- due to a totally unrelated problem. She wound up with an impacted oviduct and had to go into surgery to remove the impaction. (Super risky with a heart failure hen, I know.)

Anyway, since the burden of egg production was lifted from her, the change in her energy and overall health is unbelievable. She is back to her old, pre-heart-failure self. Like, I would never guess there is anything wrong with this chicken, she is acting so strong and vigorous.

I don't know why the implant helped her so much, but it's like a miracle. In case you're wondering, it's about $200 and it's supposed to last 3-6 months. I have another hen with the implant, and it lasted a full 6 months.

But I guess the first step is getting her to the vet and determining if there is heart failure. The Elanapril kept her going for a while. I still have no explanation for why the Deslorelin implant helped her heart failure, but it was really a dramatic and immediate change.

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