Calcium tetany is a poorly defined disease of broiler breeder hens that results from acute hypocalcemia. It is characterized by impaired mobility, increased mortality, and absence of gross lesions that would explain the impaired mobility. To evaluate if hens with impaired mobility had calcium tetany or other abnormalities, blood values from normal and affected hens were determined using the i-STAT® handheld clinical analyzer. Three flocks were evaluated weekly prior to peak production (range 25–30 wk of age) comparing normal hens to hens with clinically apparent calcium tetany. Calcium tetany suspect (CaTS) hens from four additional flocks were also evaluated. Significant hypocalcemia (P < 0.001) was observed in CaTS hens (average = 1.14 mmol/L ionized calcium [iCa]) compared to normal hens (average = 1.53 mmol/L iCa) in only one of three flocks sampled weekly. Clinically affected hens from one of the other four flocks also had hypocalcemia. Blood value abnormalities in mobility-impaired hens without hypocalcemia included hypernatremia. Findings in this study indicate calcium tetany is one cause of impaired mobility in breeder hens, but mobility impairment without hypocalcemia can also occur. Calcium tetany should be confirmed by finding significantly decreased levels of iCa in the blood, as diagnosis based on clinical presentation and necropsy results can be inaccurate. The i-STAT® handheld clinical analyzer is an efficient, relatively low-cost method to determine iCa and other blood chemistry values that may be associated with impaired mobility in broiler breeder hens.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3