My Chicken Died after a week with leg paralysis

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by chicoletta, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. chicoletta

    chicoletta Hatching

    Jun 28, 2014
    About a week ago, I noticed that my 12 week old pearl leghorn was limping on one leg. I took her out and checked her over and tested the leg, but she showed no signs of pain and still had movement. I thought she might have injured herself jumping around the coop or the yard, so I decided to keep an eye on her and see what developed.

    By the next day, she had no use of the leg and was dragging it behind her, pecking at it and just generally flopping around. She still had use of the other leg, and was eating and drinking normally. I checked her foot very carefully for signs of bumblefoot, and didn't see any. I turned her over and moved her leg around. Still no protest or signs of pain, but there was no resistance and the leg was very loose and almost "hanging". I checked to make sure that her tendons were in place, and that wasn't it.

    A day or so later, she had lost the use of her other leg. The toes still curled but there was the same general weakness as I saw in the first leg. The toes were curled under and her feet looked like little fists. At this point, I had her separated in a small area. She was still alert and sweet and eating and drinking normally. Her stools were also normal.

    I was afraid it might be mareks, but she had been vaccinated as a chick and I wasn't seeing any further progression of the "paralysis". I wasn't even sure that it WAS paralysis, but she definitely didn't have use of either leg. I had read about vitamin B deficiency, so I started her on liquid B in her water and she drank it right up. I was also giving her mash of egg yolk, chicken feed, yogurt and a few cut up grapes or grated carrot and apple.

    For a day or so, she seemed better, creeping around on her hocks and foraging a little. I still kept her separated during the day, but was in the coop at night with the others, where she kept to herself in a corner.

    This morning, I went out to the coop and it looked like a bomb had gone off. There litter was everywhere, the food and water had been overturned and my poor chicken was lying half buried in the shavings. I let the others out first, then went to see about her. She was lying in what turned out to be a puddle of her own blood and feces. It seemed like a lot of blood loss... At first, I thought she was already dead, but she was still breathing. She opened her eyes, but didn't move. I placed her on a towel in a pet carrier, and she just lay here. I cleaned off the shavings and checked her over. She was not pecked or injured but her vent was slimed with the bloody feces.

    I attended to the other chickens and then went back to her. She had pooped all over the towel and it was mostly blood. She couldn't lift her head. At this point, I had to say goodbye and put her down. There was no way that her life was bearable with what looked like a lot of suffering. Her sweet little light had gone out of the world.

    I'm posting this to ask that if any of you have any experience with this, please tell me what likely happened and how to prevent it from happening to my other chickens. Also, so that if anyone is having this experience now, maybe you can learn from mine.

    Be peaceful, my beautiful Chicoletta.
  2. Nambroth

    Nambroth Fud Lady

    Apr 7, 2011
    Western NY
    My Coop
    I'm so sorry for your loss. I am not personally experienced with these specific symptoms, so I hope someone is able to help you more specifically and answer your questions.

    A few things to note: Marek's vaccination is not an immunity to Marek's. It only helps chickens build resistance. It helps often, but not all the time. Vaccinated birds can still suffer from Marek's disease.
    Vitamin deficiency, as you mentioned, can surely cause neurological problems. Your experience was pretty rapid, so while it's important not to rule this out, it is somewhat less suspect.

    Personally, I would suspect two main causes:
    1) Disease causing paralysis and lameness, with a secondary infection causing the bleeding out as you described. When a chicken's immune system is compromised by disease, they are much more succeptible to secondary infections and problems, such as Coccidiosis. Cocci seems to love pairing up with immuno-supressing diseases such as Marek's, which can make diagnosis more complicated. There are a number of diseases and problems that can cause paralysis, or partial paralysis/loss of leg use. I will list some below.
    2) Lead or other heavy metal toxcity. This manifests often as leg issues and paralysis. In cases where small amounts of lead were consumed (some leaded paint chips, a single BB shot, etc) sometimes it just manifests as leg issues and sometimes mild seizures. If a larger amount of lead were consumed (several BBs, a piece of waste metal, etc), one would generally see (partial or more) paralysis issues, followed by worse seizures and bleeding through the vent. This might be the aftermath of what you found in the coop-- a bad seizure or series of seizures followed by vent bleeding.

    A few possible symptoms of lead toxicity (you may see only one symptom, or many):
    • Weakness - falling over -called Ataxia; falling of perch; unable to walk, stand or fly straight
    • Shallow respiration
    • Anorexia / reduced appetite
    • Decreased body weight
    • Polyuria, polydipsia
    • Diarrhea
    • Hemolytic anemia
    • Kidney dysfunction
    • Cyanosiss
    • Possible liver and pancreatic abnormalities
    • Regurgitation
    • Pale mucous membranes
    • Shivering
    • Melena
    • Leg issues, paralysis, lameness
    • Vomiting of food.
    • Seizures
    • Bloody, watery droppings
    • Severely affected birds may die suddenly

    This is all speculation of course, but it is the best thing I can think of. Chickens love to dig and can unearth old lead that homeowners never even knew was there. This is especially true for properties that had houses, farms, or other living areas prior to the 1960s. Lead was used very often in components and as we know lead paint was everywhere. Leaded fuel, etc... it was used a lot. Even now, lead shot is used by hunters frequently (banned for waterfowl hunting, but still legal for all other bird hunting) and a single shot blast can contain anywhere from 50 to over 500 lead bb pellets. These pellets look perfectly like grit to birds and they are often ingested. I have been told by vets and rehabilitators that they see hundreds of birds with lead poisoning every year from this. It takes very little. Is there any chance at all that your bird could have found some lead?

    Anyhow here is a list of things that can cause leg paralysis and issues, in case anything rings a bell for you:

    Wyorp Rock, zeppley and Jynuine like this.
  3. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

    Oh, so sorry for your loss. :( Did you happen to get a necropsy done?

    I am experiencing exactly what you describe right now... just leg paralysis and no progression. Today is day 3, chick is fully alert with regular feces. And no other symptoms.

    Possible causes I have identified are vitamin E deficiency, Marek's, botulism.

    Since neither Marek's or botulism line up, I am treating for E deficiency. Next question would be what caused the deficiency. I feed a formulated ration and keep treats to a very minimum. Which leaves genetics, or parasites.

    This is a Silkie cross of some sort, not from my stock. And silkies are specifically known for getting the E deficiency... No other Silkie in my flock has shown symptoms. Nor have I supplemented anything, other than electrolytes for shipped chicks.

    Next is parasites. I regularly check and treat if needed for lice/mites/ anything else. So that leaves worms. I will get a fecal float done at the vet to confirm before treating for what I may not have... and making sure I do treat for the correct parasites if any are found. Noting that a chicken in a weakened state can be more susceptible to things that might not normally be a problem. For example coccidia that is always around.

    @Nambroth - Great necropsy links in your signature line, will be very helpful to me in the future! Thank you. :highfive:

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