Transportation stress and the incidence of exertional rhabdomyolysis in emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Deepa G. Menon, Darin C. Bennett, Allan L. Schaefer, Kimberly M. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Many emu farms are located in areas lacking processing facilities that can handle these birds. Thus, long-distance shipping of birds to an abattoir is necessary. Two experiments were conducted, wherein emus were transported in a modified horse trailer for 6 h to an abattoir. Changes in the indices of stress and metabolic homeostasis (hematology, serum biochemistry, enzymes, and body temperature and weight) were used to evaluate the physiological response to transport. The activities of enzymes alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and creatine kinase increased significantly (P < 0.001) from pretransport to slaughter, indicating muscle cell wall damages. The body temperature of emus was significantly (P < 0.001) increased from 37.0 to 39.6°C after transport in experiment 1 and from 37.2 to 38.9°C in experiment 2. Transport resulted in significant weight loss in both experiments (P < 0.001; 2.1 ± 0.2 kg vs. 0.6 ± 0.2 kg) and posttransport resting at lairage led to slight regaining (P < 0.01) of BW. Oral administration of supplements before and after transport was effective in protecting against muscle damage and faster recovery of BW losses during lairage. The clinical findings were suggestive of the incidence of exertional rhabdomyolysis and thus underlined the need for careful handling and improved transport conditions of emus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-284
Number of pages12
JournalPoultry science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and was administered by the University of British Columbia Specialty Birds Research Committee. Slaughter and laboratory facilities were provided by Lacombe Research Centre, Lacombe, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta, Canada. Dwayne Harder (TryHarder Emu Farms, Denholm, Saskatchewan, Canada) provided access to his emus and assistance throughout the study. June Kim (University of British Columbia Avian Research Centre), Laverne Holt-Klimec (Lacombe Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), and Edgar Harder (TryHarder Emu Farms) assisted in sample collection. Valerie LeMay and Tony Kozak (Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia) provided advice in data analyses. Raja Rajamahendran (Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia) provided critical comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. An anonymous reviewer has provided valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript. The hospitality of the Harder family was greatly appreciated.


  • Emu
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Stress
  • Supplement
  • Transport


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