Let’s take a deep breath
In birds as well as in other animal forms the respiratory system plays a key role in the survival of the animals. It not only helps the body to regulate the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but also gets rid of excess heat, detoxifies and helps them to communicate.
Like other animals, chicken have a trachea (windpipe) and two lungs, which in principle have the same activity as in mammals but with some anatomical differences. The trachea is structured by fully closed tracheal rings in comparison with other animals and the lungs are fixed to the rips with little to no movement. The act of breathing is accomplished, due to the lack of a working diaphragm, by the movement of the rib cage and breastbone. Beside two lungs they have voluminous and connected air sacs that help making the total oxygen volume in the system higher (Fig. 1).
Poultry and in general birds must be capable to a higher rate of gas exchange due to the fact that their oxygen consumption is higher than other vertebrates (even higher during flight).
As explained before the respiratory system not only helps to oxygenate the body but also is an important element for thermoregulation, specially with maintaining thermal homeostasis in warm conditions. Birds in general tend to have a higher body temperature than mammals (3-4°C), that combined with their lack of sweat glands (and thermal insulations thank to the feathers), make the heat loss by evaporation from the general body surface much less effective. Therefore the heat elimination regulated by the evaporative cooling from the respiratory tract (panting) is the most important thermoregulatory mechanism once the ambient temperature exceeds the one of the body. Panting is an efficient and direct way to reduce body heat, every gram of water evaporated via the respiratory tract, represents the same quantity of heat removed from the body. The respiratory system is also used by birds for communication. The syrinx (also called Voice box) is a structure at the end of the trachea that will help to produce sounds.
Challenges for the respiratory system:
- Heat and stress:
A condition called heat stress can cause major impact in the production. It is caused by the rising of ambient temperatures, with high relative humidity and low air flow. Some of the predisposing factors for heat stress include genetics, drinking water availability, feather coverage and compromised respiratory system. Heat stress can cause drops in production, higher mortality and reduction in growth rates, egg production, and hatching rates.
- Poor air conditions:
A mixture of dangerous gases and dust create the perfect atmosphere for problems to start during poultry’s husbandry. Toxic gases can be present in intensive animal production, being the most dangerous and common ones: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and ammonia. Most of them coming from animal respiration, microbial decomposition of manure or heating equipment.
Dust in animal houses comes from the bedding material such as straw or wood-shavings, this combined with feather dust and suspended in the air due to the movement of the animals.
There is the saying: if you can’t breath in the farm, how can the animals breathing good?
The control of dust and gases at farm level plays an important role to prevent respiratory problems in our animals or predisposition for respiratory pathogens.
- Pathogen pressure (virus, bacteria and fungi):
Viral diseases such as fowl pox, infectious bronchitis, newcastle disease, avian influenza or infectious laryngotracheitis have a predilection for tissues found in the respiratory system. Once the virus attaches to the organs, the immune system gets compromised and the tissues weakens; facilitating the attachment of other pathogens such as diverse bacteria on the system.
Bacteria such as Haemophilus paragallinarum (Coryza), Chlamydia, Bordetella bronchiseptica , Pasteurella multocida, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale or Mycoplasma spp are common pathogens that create major loses in poultry productions. The only way to fight this pathogens is with use of antibiotics, which generate another waterfall of problems. To avoid getting to that point is better to have preventive programs against pathogens as well as proper biosecurity measures.
If the system is compromised is easy for fungal diseases to get stablished at different levels of the respiratory system.
How can we help our animals?
The proper way to support the respiratory system and in general the well-being of the animals is by properly addressing every challenge previously listed. Avoiding uncontrolled high temperatures, poor air conditions as well as strong biosecurity will help us to prevent future problems.
A really important approach to fight this challenges is the usage of feed or water additives specialized for the respiratory system. The usage of essential oils has been proven to have a direct effect on the well-being and performance of chicken flocks not only having an effect on the respiratory system but in the digestive system as well.
In XVET we count with one top product that supports the respiratory system from different perspectives: Aromax. Aromax is a smart formula with a high concentrated mixture of essential oils that targets not only respiratory challenges by improving oxygen provision but also helps to increase the feed and water intake for the flock. With ingredients such as Thyme, Eucalyptus and Mint oil, Aromax provides different beneficial effects on the animal body. Scientific studies have shown that these ingredients have antibacterial, fungal or antiseptic effects as well as appetite enhancer effects. By using Aromax in our farm we can decrees respiratory syndromes that might come after vaccination, improve climatic conditions in the farm when used via spray , decrease the dust on the farm (when used as spray) or improve performance parameters by enhancing the water and feed intake. Previous trials done with Aromax have shown as well, that the usage of Aromax can enhance the vaccination immune response of the chicken when used along vaccination programs.
The smart formulas of XVET GmbH products helps to have a better and more profitable production. For more information please contact us by firstname.lastname@example.org .