All Cooped Up: Salpingitis/Lash Egg
What is it? An infection of a hen’s oviduct.
Causative agent: Can be either a virus or bacteria. It is the introduction of any common pathogen into the oviduct. Common infectious agents are E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, or avian influenza.
Incubation Period: Varies.
Disease Duration: This infection can last for months and resolves in successful treatment or death of the bird.
Morbidity: Noncontagious, but may be seen more often in heavy layers.
Signs: Decreased egg production, abdominal swelling, weight loss, and lethargy. An obvious sign is the presence of a waxy, cheesy “egg.”
Diagnosis: Clinical signs and symptoms and veterinary determination.
Treatment: There is no treatment for viral salpingitis. Bacterial salpingitis can be treated with antibiotics with the help of a veterinarian if caught early enough.
Often in the case of salpingitis, or lash egg, owners don’t realize that one of their hens is sick until they find a tan, yellow, potato-looking mass instead of an egg. Medically, salpingitis is the inflammation of the oviduct in hens. The oviduct is a tube connecting a hen’s ovary to her cloaca; it’s the passage that an egg follows before being laid.
The inflammation is a result of an infection. Multiple types of pathogens can cause a secondary salpingitis infection, and commonly it is one of the types found around the vent of the hen. Infections may spread upward from the cloaca or downward from another infection in the hen’s body. Respiratory infections are known to lead to salpingitis.
Under normal circumstances, hens do not get infections in the oviduct because microscopic cells constantly push debris and mucous out of the body. If this process slows or the cells are damaged, there is a higher risk of infection.
The hen’s immune system will fight the infection by walling it off from the rest of the body. The “lash egg” is a result of that mechanic. A lash egg is egg-shaped because it too travels through the oviduct before the hen passes it. The egg may contain pieces of normal eggs, but it also could have caseous material (pus), blood, tissue, white blood cells, and other exudate bundled up in a yellow/tan mass.
Unfortunately, although a lash egg is one of the most apparent signs of salpingitis, it is also one of the last. By the time hens pass this coagulated mass, they have been fighting this infection in their body for a while, sometimes months.
Other less obvious and less acute signs of salpingitis include decreased or irregular egg production, weight loss, listlessness, and standing upright due to a swollen abdomen. Untreated, salpingitis often results in the bird’s death, and a postmortem examination may reveal gross lesions on the oviduct.
This disease mainly affects hens bred for high egg production, so keeping those chickens is a risk factor. Other risk factors are advanced age, obesity, respiratory illnesses, and vent picking. Respiratory diseases, such as infectious bronchitis, can lead to secondary bacterial infections and salpingitis because of the proximity of the abdominal air cavity to the oviduct. Birds that are overweight are more at risk for vent picking by flock mates. The cloaca in overweight birds stays out longer, allowing for damage leading to the introduction of pathogenic bacteria.
Salpingitis is not contagious in the traditional sense, but there should be attention to why the disease developed. If it developed due to another infection, the primary infection might be contagious to the flock.
Good biosecurity is always key to flock management. In this case, it prevents diseases that may lead to salpingitis. Additionally, if keeping birds for pets, avoid highly producing breeds of chicken. Regarding obesity, limiting the number of snacks the birds get and monitoring body weight is essential in preventing salpingitis and overall health.
Treatment is different depending on whether the infection is bacterial or viral. Viral salpingitis is not treatable, but bacterial can be treated with antibiotics assuming the infection is caught early. Any antibiotic use needs to be prescribed and used under the surveillance of a licensed veterinarian.
Prognosis is typically poor in these birds, especially if they are older. If a bird does survive, there are lasting health consequences, including reoccurrence of the infection, and the bird may not lay normally again.
Kathy Mormino, The Chicken chick. https://the-chicken-chick.com/salpingitis-lash-eggs-in-backyard/
Lash egg photo courtesy of Janet Garman, Timber Creek Farm.
All information in this article has been vetted for accuracy by Dr. Sherrill Davison, Poultry Specialist at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Originally published in the August/September 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.