Renal disease is a major cause of illness in captive and wild avian species. Current renal disease markers (e.g., uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine) are insensitive. Two endogenous markers, creatine and N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase (NAG), were selected for study in the pigeon (Columba livia). Representative organs from four pigeons were surveyed to determine those exhibiting the highest level of each marker. In a separate study, NAG and creatine from plasma and urine were assayed before and after gentamicin (50 mg/kg twice daily), administration for up to 9 days. Observer-blinded pathologic scoring (five saline solution controls, 17 treated birds) was used to verify the presence of renal disease that corresponded to marker increases. The first study revealed that kidney tissue had the highest NAG activity (by approximately six times), and pectoral muscle had the most creatine (>900 times). In response to gentamicin, plasma creatine (>five times) and NAG increased (approximately six times), which paralleled uric acid (>10 times). Urine creatine (approximately 60 times) and NAG increased dramatically (approximately 50 times) in response to gentamicin. In conclusion, NAG, especially in the urine, may be of value to noninvasively detect renal toxin exposures and to monitor potentially nephrotoxic drugs, and might be of value to screen free-ranging birds in large exhibits or in the wild by assaying fresh urate samples at feeding stations.
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Vol. 40 • No. 3