Water Belly or Ovarian Cyst? AND Internal Layer? GRAPHIC PICS

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Mountain Lori, May 6, 2011.

  1. Mountain Lori

    Mountain Lori Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    EXTREMELY GRAPHIC! I have attached autopsy pictures at the end of this post to illustrate her condition. Look or don't look, but I felt, for the sake of informative discussion, it had to be done.

    One of my girls developed a hugely swollen and squishy abdomen and lost all the feathers in that area. I researched the condition on here, but couldn't find a description or picture that exactly matched her condition. I did find some posts about draining fluid with a needle or catheter, but was unsure of how or where to insert the needle, as I didn't want to hit anything vital or cause more damage. I was going to start a post about this to see what I could do to help her, but unfortunately, I found her dead yesterday morning. And so I performed my first ever CHICKEN AUTOPSY to find out exactly what and where the mass was. I now know that I could have inserted the needle pretty much anywhere in her lower abdomen without hitting any organs, but the fluid WAS NOT free-floating as I had expected, but was encased in a sack of tissue like a water balloon - I wonder if I might have done more damage by inserting a needle to drain, and thus allowing the fluid to seep into her abdomen from the ruptured sack.

    I don't cull my birds and so had no idea what a chicken looked like or is supposed to look like on the inside. This has been an eye-opening experience and I have several questions for you all.

    First, as mentioned, the water was not free-floating in the abdomen. It was contained in a veined sack that was attached to the lower right side of the abdomen. When I cut through the abdominal wall, the sack rolled out like a water balloon, exposing the intestines and left oviduct, which were beneath. Smaller water sacks were beneath the main sack, but attached to the same structure. There was a tiny amount of creamy fluid (infection? no smell) within the abdomen, but barely - not as much as I would expect if it had been a massive infection. The sack itself contained clear, odorless fluid.

    Crop, liver, spleen, gall bladder, gizzard all appear a normal healthy color - no spots, hard tissues, or off-colors. Crop and gizzard contents as expected for a healthy, feeding chicken. No sour smells and no sign of intestinal parasites. Heart is kind of odd (I think). It seems rather large and appears to bulge on the upper right side.

    Ovaries functioning - BUT are they normal? Clusters of dozens of little yolks in various stages of development attached to ovary. Yolks everywhere. Yolks of various sizes passing through left oviduct - no sign of shell formation though. Several loose yolks encased in red tissue (kind of look like cherry tomatoes) of various sizes loose in abdomen. I'm not sure whether this was their original position, or if they rolled from their original location when the mass was released.

    So my questions are:
    1: Is this truly 'water belly?' I'm wondering because the water was encased in some type of structure and not free floating in the abdomen.
    2: Could this tissue sac have been the right oviduct?

    I've read that water belly or 'ascites' can be caused by a couple of things, including high altitude and unstable temperatures - puts too much strain on the heart which causes a build up of fluids, which leak from the liver into the abdomen. Large broilers and breeds developed for high egg production are especially susceptible and while there is no cure, the symptoms can be managed by draining the fluid regularly. But is that what this is?

    3: Is the above statement accurate?
    4: Is the shape of the heart a sign of congestive heart failure?
    5: Is the fluid build up associated with the above?
    6::Could this be an cyst in the oviduct?
    7: If so, what causes this????
    8: And what can be done about it?
    9: Also: Might she have been an internal layer or is this normal egg development? If she was laying internally, what are the initial symptoms and what can be done?

    NOTE: This was not easy for me - I love my girls - but I felt I needed to do it to help me learn to help them. She did receive a proper cremation following the autopsy.

    I will never look at my favorite kitchen knife the same way again... [​IMG]

    WARNING: BELOW ARE EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PICTURES - I appreciate any comments on her condition.

    This is what her abdomen looked like. This condition became noticeable rather suddenly - I'd say within a month.

    This is a picture of her heart and liver, etc. Note the bulge on the upper part of the heart - congestive heart failure?

    The next two images show the fluid-filled mass that was inside her abdomen:

    #1: In place (before I cut through the abdominal wall). Note how it fills the entire abdominal cavity.

    #2: After I opened the abdominal wall, the mass just rolled out like a water balloon. Note that it is enclosed is some type of tissue (right oviduct?) and attached to the lower right side of the abdomen.

    The next several images show egg development.

    There were a series of egg yolks of different sizes inside the left oviduct, but also several free-floating yolks throughout her abdomen. Not sure if these may have rolled out of position after I removed the intestines, or if they truly were scattered about like this.

    This picture shows the water balloon, the left oviduct (upper right) with yolk enclosed, and several free-floating cherry red yolks that were found throughout the abdomen (in places where I wouldn't think they could reach the oviduct)

    This, I'm assuming, is a mass of yolks developing in her ovaries. Is this normal production? Until recently, this hen laid an egg every day - sometimes twice a day.

    This image is the mass after it was drained. The fluid drained was clear, odorless and a little thicker than water.

    Thanks for any feedback.
    Last edited: May 7, 2011
    1 person likes this.
  2. KlaHaYa Gardens

    KlaHaYa Gardens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2011
    Thank you for the pictures.

    Yolks will be found in various stages of development. The shells are formed last. Beyond that I cannot help you. But I will forward this link to a friend who has been dealing with "apparently" the same issue.

    It would be nice to have an avian vet weigh in.
  3. pattgal

    pattgal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2010
    New Brunswick, Canada
    well something def. went wrong. but that's about all I can say unfortunately
    2 eggs a day seems quite high tho eh? other than that for the eggs that weren't near the oviduct... the only thing I can think of is when you have a mass that big in your body (ex: pregnany, tumors...) things tend to get shifted around. the enlarged heart seems to be a trend from some internal layer's pictures ive seen
    I wonder what all those veins in the mass are about, it almost reminds me of a growing egg, scary
  4. Michie

    Michie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 28, 2010
    San Antonio
    What was the tumor attached to? I am very new to chickens(Sept) and I have never opened one up, but with humans I am pretty good! This is a complete guess and I am not familiar with a chickens anatomy, but I wonder if it was some kind of ovarian tumor?? Again I dont know about the chicken anatomy lol But if it was and it was there awhile growing, the heart would enlarge to help keep feeding the blood supply of the tumor like in a human. Humans who grow huge ovarian tumors and leave them end up with with all kind of problems. Again, just a theory, if it was a serous fluid, it is possible that the fluid that was in the abd cavity could have come from the tumor leaking, over and over and resealing itself. Thats my guess!!! It would be very neat to see what a vet. would say!!! Thanks for posting, hopefully you wont have that happen again!
  5. nursrose3

    nursrose3 New Egg

    May 22, 2010
    I was a nurse for 10 years (for humans) and have a couple of opinions on what happened with you chicken. What you found looks much like an very large ovarian cyst. They are absolutely no fun to deal with in humans, let alone chickens. when they grow big enough and no room is left it start causing the tissue it presses against to die off. The heart looked like it had built up muscle from working to pump enough blood through to maintain her body and the growth. The vessels started growing around to help maintain the structure even though it was not good for the body.

    From the looks of things, draining the cyst would not have done good things for this girl. Her heart looked damaged enough that she would most likely have not gone on for much longer. And, if any tissue had started to die off that would have been an infection that would have most likely not allowed her very long to live either.

    I love my chickens to, and I would do whatever it took to find out the cause of a bad thing in case it was something that could harm more than just one.
  6. TeamChaos

    TeamChaos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2009
    Thank you for posting these pictures! I have a hen with similar symptoms that has split her abdomen and I'm wondering if she's got a similar thing inside. I'm sorry for the loss of your hen.
  7. DickGJ

    DickGJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2011
    Sumter, South Carolina
    Quote:Though I'm sorry for your loss...I do find this extremely interesting. I'm not a veterinarian, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night. I agree with Nursrose3 that this seems to be a dangerously large ovarian cyst. (Cysts are usually fluid filled "sacs"). This cyst does appear to have been large enough that is likely began blocking digestive passages, and definitely put a strain on the heart and likely other organs in the chicken's body. There's not likely much you could have done, even if it were discovered earlier...but I applaud you for your interest in this phenomenon and the courage to perform a post-mortem study. [​IMG]
  8. Elite Silkies

    Elite Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 17, 2009
    My Coop
    Quote:I was also thinking an ovarian cyst. Thanks for all of the pictures they were very interesting. I have my first year of nursing down, 4 more to go and enjoy the gory stuff [​IMG]
  9. arenea74

    arenea74 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 12, 2011
    [​IMG] Thanks for the pictures and sorry for your loss [​IMG]
  10. Mountain Lori

    Mountain Lori Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2011
    Alberta, Canada
    Thank you all for your kind words and your input. She was one of my first hens and although she was a skittish little 'B' (not friendly at all and impossible to catch), she would still allow me to stroke her every night when I tucked her in. Definitely full of character. I will miss her.

    I am inclined to think it was a cyst as well and not water belly as I've seen it described. It would be most helpful if a vet could weigh-in on the matter, though. I would like to know what might have caused this (too much of something in the feed? genetic predisposition?) and if I should be worried about others as well. I have one other bird from the same brood who shows no signs of this condition, plus 22 other hens of various lineage. I would also like to know about the abundance of eggs - is it normal for a hen to have so many going at once, or were some of them missing the oviduct and settling into the abdomen. The yolks were all yellow and runny - not rotten or hard as I've seen them described for internal layers. Just curious to know if this is going on in all my girls all the time. If it is, I will def give them more treats - poor things.

    @DickGJ - If you can handle a Holiday Inn, you can probably handle anything [​IMG]
    Last edited: May 7, 2011

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by