Pancreatic atrophy in a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Case of young peregrine falcon with pancreatic atrophy

source: J.H. Samour and J.L. Naldo
Veterinary Record vol 151 no 4, July 27 2002
starts p124, 2 pages long

The pancreas is involved in the production of insulin, levels of which are lower in birds than in mammals. Pancreatic atrophy has been reported in a budgie and a macaw. This case involves a female peregrine falcon some eight-months-old, studied in the Falcon Medical Research Hospital in Saudi Arabia. The bird was initially in good condition, though trematode ova were found in her faeces, and the falcon was treated for this.

Nine days afterwards the falcon was checked again, and was found to have dropped in weight to 828 grams from 928 grams, though she was reported as eating normally. Mild air sacculitis and lung congstion were noted, and she was admitted to the hospital with a tentative diagnosis of air sacculitis and mild pneumonia. Her faeces were large and solid, and no endoparasites were found, while her white blood cell count was moderate high, and heterophilia was noted. Her weight dropped to 680 grams after a week, though she was eating well. High serum amylase was noted, suggesting pancreatic disorder. She still lost weight, though she was eating large amounts, and she developed coprophagia on the tenth day following her admission, eating her faces immediately after passing them. She died on the 14th day after entering the hospital.

A post-mortem found her pancreas to be dark grey-purple, small and mottled, and other findings were consistent with reactive pancreatitis and pancreatic atrophy. Clear diagnosis was not possible when the falcon was admitted. It is rare that clincial diagnosis can be achieved with living birds with pancreatic disorders, though serum amylase levels may be a helpful indicator. There is a need for more information on serum amylase ranges in normal birds. The peregrine in question had levels of 2508U/litre, which is very high, ie higher than the upper limit previously noted at the hospital. The peregrine was probably already too ill for therapy to have had any effect, though a tentative diagnosis was made that she was suffering from a pancreatic disorder.