Avian Hematology and Biochemistry Panels

Key Points

  • The average blood volume of most birds is approximately 10% of body weight. Ten percent of this volume or 1% of the bird’s body weight may be removed for testing.
  • Avian red cells are nucleated which is why manual white cell counts are typically not possible.
  • White cells are similar to mammalian lines, except that mammalian neutrophils are replaced with heterophils and mammalian platelets are replaced with thromobocytes.
  • Important differentials for leukocytosis with profound heterophilia and monocytosis include chlamydophilosis, aspergillosis, and tuberculosis.
  • Heparinized samples are suitable for biochemistry.
  • Muscle damage, which may include intramuscular injections, can cause elevations in the enzymes creatine kinase, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).
  • Liver damage is associated with elevations in the enzymes glutamate dehydrogenase, LDH, and AST.
  • Hypercalcemia, hypeglobulinemia, and an elevation in alkaline phosphatase may be seen in the laying hen.

Although hematology and biochemistry are an important part of the clinical picture in the avian patient, this bloodwork remains just 'part of the picture'. All too often, when a clinician is unfamiliar with a species, the reaction is often to rely on laboratory results to hang a diagnosis upon. Although we have all been guilty of this, such an approach is inappropriate. For each sick bird, the following diagnostic tools should be applied: complete history, visual examination of the bird and its environment, physical examination, clinical pathology sample collection (blood, feces, swabs, aspirates, etc.), and radiography.

White blood cells are . . .

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Altman RB, Clubb S, Dorrestein G, Quesenberry K (eds.) Avian Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1997.

Campbell TW. Avian Hematology and Cytology. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2nd edition; 1995.

Fudge, AM. Laboratory Medicine: Avian and Exotic Pets. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2000.

Lumeij JT. Avian Clinical Biochemistry, In: Kaneko JJ, Harvey JW, Bruss ML (eds). Clinical Biochemistry of Domestic Animals, Academic Press; 1995: 857-883.

To cite this page:

Forbes N. Avian hematology and biochemistry panels. January 29, 2008. LafeberVet Web site. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/avian-hematology/