Glucocorticoid Use in Avian Species: A Survey of Veterinary Practitioners
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
J. Jill Heatley1, DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian); Margaret R. Slater2, DVM, PhD; Sharman Hoppes1, DVM, DABVP (Avian)
1Zoological Medicine Service, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA; 2Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA


Glucocorticoids have immunomodulating, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects in some avian species.1,2 However in birds, immunosuppression and systemic life threatening fungal infection can occur secondary to prolonged glucocorticoid administration.3 The incidence of adverse steroid related events based on steroid administration to birds has not been compared and differential species susceptibility has rarely been examined.4,5 This survey provides a baseline for investigation of appropriate glucocorticoid administration in avian species.

Veterinarian attendees of the 2007 Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV) Annual Conference and Expo and the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) Annual Conference were surveyed onsite at their respective meetings. Survey responses were collected confidentially; personal information was only used in summary format in the final results. Surveys (n=431) were collected with a response rate of 58%.

Within the year preceding the meetings, 54% of veterinarians surveyed had administered exogenous glucocorticoids to an avian patient; 51% of veterinarians surveyed reported positive outcome in these cases, while 25% reported negative case outcomes. The majority of respondents (40%) had administered glucocorticoids to only 1–10 avian patients within the last year. The predominant indication for administration of glucocorticoids to the avian patient was trauma (39%) followed by shock (32%). The most common route of glucocorticoid administration in the avian patient was intramuscular (46%). Common steroid preparations used included dexamethasone and dexamethasone s.p. (27 and 28%, respectively). The findings of this survey support the hypothesis that glucocorticoid administration in avian species is not uncommon and may have beneficial effects in the avian patient.


The authors would like to thank the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center for funding this survey and the many people who helped to administer the survey and to decode, enter and manipulate data for this survey: Allison Bradley, Sara Luciano, Bruce Nixon, Rachel Goodman, Miguel Saggesse, Jim Davis, Hilary Ross, Anh-Thu Nguyen, and Ruth and Ellie Chitty.

Literature Cited

1.  Machin, K.L. 2005. Avian analgesia. Sem. Avian Exotic Pet Med. 14: 236–242.

2.  Machin, K.L. 2005. Controlling avian pain. Comp. Cont. Ed. Pract. Vet. 27(4): 299–309.

3.  Verstappen, F.A.L.M., and G.M. Dorrenstein. 2005. Aspergillosis in Amazon parrots after corticosteroid therapy for smoke inhalation injury. J. Avian Med. Surg. 19: 138–141.

4.  Westerhof, I. 1996. Pituitary-adrenocortical function and glucocorticoid administration in pigeons (Columba livia domestica). Utrecht University, Utrecht.

5.  Martin, L., J. Gilliam, P. Han, K. Lee, and M. Wikelski. 2005. Corticosterone suppresses cutaneous immune function in temperate but not tropical house sparrows, Passer domesticus. Gen. Comp. Neuroendocrinol.140: 126–135.


Speaker Information
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J. Jill Heatley, DVM, MS, DABVP (Avian)
Zoological Medicine Service
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX, USA

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