Broilers were observed during 9 days for clinical signs after intratracheal inoculation at 8 days of age with 107 E. coli 506. It was determined if these signs were predictive for imminent death. Hourly observations were made daily from a distance of 1–2 m and nightly by camera observation, with respect to the following parameters: level of attention, locomotory activity, posture and appearance, interaction, and impairment of respiration. For deviations of the normal state for these five parameters (i.e., typical clinical signs of disease), scores were defined in up to four classes. The periods of time elapsing from attaining a score for the first time to death were registered per bird for each score for each parameter. Of 114 birds, 85 did not present typical signs of illness as described, and 29 presented the following clinical history: 25 died after presenting signs of illness, 2 died without previous signs, 1 fell ill but survived, and 1 fell ill and recovered. Extended clinical examination was performed in birds presenting clinical signs; temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and subcutaneous capillary refill time were measured. The level of attention, and posture and appearance were affected most often in ill birds; 25% of these birds died within 5 and 4 hr, respectively; 50% died within 12 hr; and 75% died within 20 and 19 hr, respectively. Any of these typical signs of illness visible from 1–2 m indicated imminent death, with 75% of the birds dying within 20 hr. Measurements resulting from extended clinical examination proved of lesser predictive value. From these observations, a protocol for intervention to prevent animal suffering may be designed.
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Vol. 61 • No. 3