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Ostrich (Struthio camelus) gastric diseases in Minas Gerais, Brazil, from 1997 to 2009

Doenças gástricas de avestruzes em Minas Gerais

J.F.P. Mendonça S.Q. Lopes A. Aichinger A.C. Horta A.M. Siqueira L.B. Carvalho J.S. Resende N.R.S. Martins About the authors


Ostrich (Struthio camelus) gastric diseases in Minas Gerais, Brazil, from 1997 to 2009

Doenças gástricas de avestruzes em Minas Gerais

J.F.P. MendonçaI; S.Q. LopesII; A. AichingerII; A.C. HortaII; A.M. SiqueiraIII; L.B. CarvalhoIV; J.S. ResendeV; N.R.S. MartinsV, * * Autor para correspondência ( corresponding author): E-mail:

IAluna de pós-graduação - UnB - Brasília, DF

IIMédico veterinário

IIIIBAMA - Belo Horizonte, MG

IVMAPA - Brasília, DF

VEscola de Veterinária - UFMG. Av. Antonio Carlos, 6627. 31270-901 - Belo Horizonte, MG

Keywords: ostrich, gastric impaction, Macrorhabdus ornithogaster, Libyostrongyllus douglassii, Brazil


Descrevem-se as doenças gástricas de avestruzes diagnosticadas em um Laboratório de Doenças das Aves, Belo Horizonte-MG, entre 1997 e 2009. As afecções gástricas corresponderam a 46,2% de todos os casos de doença, com quadros que incluíram impactação (83,3%), infecções e parasitoses (16,7%). As impactações foram causadas por material não alimentar diversificado e as infecções e parasitoses incluíram o fungo Macrorhabdus ornithogaster (megabacteria) e o nematódeo Libyostrongylus douglassii.

Palavras-chave: avestruz, impactação gástrica, Macrorhabdus ornithogaster, Libyostrongyllus douglassii, Brasil

In ostrich farming, gastric diseases are usual causes of increased mortality and economic losses. Infectious and non-infectious pathogens can damage the gastrointestinal tract, affecting the digestive process. Gastric impaction may be characterized by anorexia, cachexia, dehydration, apathy, decubitus, and dry and reduced feces. Chronic anorexia result in progressive loss on the reproductive performance and may culminate in death, causing significant economic losses in ostrich farms (Gulbahar et al,. 2000; Yusek et al., 2002; Komnenou et al., 2003).

This paper presents the ostrich gastric dysfunctions diagnosed at the Escola de Veterinária at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, from 1997 to 2009, and the preventive strategies recommended. Clinical records with data of necropsies, clinical and laboratory results collected from 1997 to 2009 were divided into general and gastrointestinal dysfunctions, which were classified into impaction and infectious and parasitic gastritis.

According to the clinical records analyzed, 46.2% of diagnosed dysfunctions in ostriches were gastroenteric diseases and 53.9% were dysfunctions of various origins. Among the gastrointestinal conditions, 83.3% were gastric impaction and 16.7% infectious or parasitic gastritis caused by megabacteria and/or Libyostrongylus douglassii.

Gastric impaction was characterized by chronic anorexia and the clinical description of cachexia, dehydration, apathy, decubitus, and dry and scanty feces. As described in literature, chronic anorexia may eventually result in death, being a cause of productive loss and inferior reproductive performance (Gulbahar et al., 2000; Yusek et al., 2002; Komnenou et al., 2003). At necropsy, undigested material and foreign bodies (hair, metal rings, feathers, leaves, seeds, hooks, bones, stones, glasses, and sand) were observed in ostriches proventriculus and/or ventricle (Figure 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d), as previously described by Mushi et al. (1998), Martins et al. (2006), and Aichinger (2007). Erosions, ulcers, and bleeding were observed in proventriculus and ventricle (Figure 1e), as well as mucosal edema and necrosis, similar to previous reports (Crabill and Honnas, 1996; Gulbahar et al., 2000; Yusek et al., 2002). Peritonitis (Figure 1 g) due to ingestion of sharps, leading to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract and abdominal distension, was also observed (Figure 1h). Gastric impaction in ostriches occurs mainly by access to foreign materials which should not be within the reach of animals and / or as a result of behavioral problems which reflect errors in the flock management, including stressful conditions, animal translocation or ambient change, poor sources or low fiber nutrition, sudden changes in feeding schedule and/or composition, changes in bedding or introduction of it for adult animals, lack of space for handling, and high density of animals (Sato et al., 1994; Shwaluk and Finley, 1995; Gulbahar et al., 2000; Yusek et al., 2002). Besides, the hipocontractility of gastrointestinal tract smooth muscle may be an important contributing factor related to nutritional and primary management causes (Speer, 1996).

Regarding infectious and parasitic gastritis, M. ornithogaster and L. douglassii were the most diagnosed pathogens and accounted for 16.7% of the gastric diseases causes during the analyzed period. Cachexia, conjunctival and mucosal paleness, and extreme prostration were observed in gastritis by M. ornithogaster in animals treated during the study period. At necropsy, distended flaccid heart; coronary fat atrophy (Figure 1i); proventriculus and gizzard distended by food, initially without impaction; and mucosal erosions, ulcers (Figure 1j), and bleeding were noted. Infections by M. ornithogaster can produce gastric changes similar to those observed in impaction and require laboratory diagnosis. Impressions of the ventricular coilin membrane and subcoilin mucosa and proventriculus mucosa were made on glass slide and observed under light microscopy (100 and 400x) for differential diagnosis, enabling the visualization of typical large rods (Huchzermeyer et al., 1993; Martins et al., 2006), bacillary structures visible from 100 times magnification and without staining (Figure 1k). At microscopy, rods are easily visible on the proventriculus and gizzard, but for the inspection of fecal material, should be visualized first at 100x magnification for avoiding confusion with large filamentous bacteria which are motile, thinner, and longer. This type of confusion occurred in a previous report (Martins et al., 2006). Parasitic gastritis by L. douglasii was the most consistently detected helminth-associated gastric lesions in ostriches during the period. Clinical signs included apathy, loss of appetite, and pallor, indicating anemia which, according to the literature, is associated to these burrowing parasites digging into the inner lining of proventriculus and gizzard, sucking blood, and causing a severe inflammatory reaction, resulting in the death of young individuals (Gordo et al., 2002). Larvae of the parasite were observed at coproculture, and eggs were observed in stools (Figure 1 l). At necropsy, hemorrhagic erosions, ulcers, mucosal edema, and mucus were found, similar to previous reports (Crabill and Honnas, 1996; Gulbahar et al., 2000; Yusek et al., 2002).

The casuistic of ostrich diseases here reported reflects the perception of farmers and may indicate inadequate farming, possibly representing aggravated conditions. Gastric disorders important to ostrich farming in Minas Gerais were present and their prevention may include the adoption of good farming practices, namely the provision of adequate nutritional requirements, permanent monitoring for quality raising ambient, designed to ensure biosecurity, welfare, and technical assistance with laboratory diagnosis.

Recebido em 22 de fevereiro de 2010

Aceito em 4 de outubro de 2010

  • *
    Autor para correspondência (
    corresponding author): E-mail:
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    * Autor para correspondência ( corresponding author): E-mail:

    Publication Dates

    • Publication in this collection
      03 Jan 2011
    • Date of issue
      Oct 2010
    Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Escola de Veterinária Caixa Postal 567, 30123-970 Belo Horizonte MG - Brazil, Tel.: (55 31) 3409-2041, Tel.: (55 31) 3409-2042 - Belo Horizonte - MG - Brazil