Contamination by mycotoxins and leg weakness in poultry

Leg problems are very prevalent in poultry farms and cause more economic losses than other abnormalities. It is estimated that 2-6% of all broilers show clinical signs of poor leg health, especially in the grower and finisher stages. Lame birds cannot eat and drink properly, don’t grow up to their genetic standard, and spend much more time resting on the litter, which leads to skin infections. Furthermore, at the slaughterhouse, birds with lameness are difficult to process.

Mycotoxins negatively affect bone health through the following main mechanisms of action:

  1. Aflatoxins, DON, T2-toxin, fumonisins reduce the absorption of calcium and vitamin D3 in the intestine.
  2. Mycotoxins, mainly aflatoxins, cause liver damage. As a result, vitamin D absorbed from the diet fails to convert to its biologically active form; moreover the transport of calcium and vitamin A in the blood is impaired.
  3. Aflatoxins and ochratoxin cause kidney damage, increasing the elimination of calcium through the urine and lowering the levels of plasmatic calcium. In laying and breeding hens, this results in an increased mobilization of calcium from the bones in order to use it in the synthesis of the eggshell. If the kidney damage persists, the hens will be affected by skeletal problems.

The bones of the legs are the most affected by the presence of mycotoxins in feed due to their big size, heavy weight, and fast growth.

Skeletal abnormalities associated to mycotoxin contamination

Rickets and layer cage fatigue

Rickets occurs in young poultry raised for meat. The most characteristic sign is poor bone mineralization. Cage layer fatigue occurs in highly productive hens. The birds are paralyzed due to the collapse of the spinal bone.

Both diseases are caused by an imbalance or a lack of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3. Continuous exposure to fusariotoxins (deoxynivalenol, fumonisins, T-2 and HT-2 toxins) or aflatoxins is a risk factor for rickets and layer cage fatigue.

Tibial dyschondroplasia

Tibial dyschondroplasia is an abnormality in the growth plate of the bone where the cartilage (soft) is not properly replaced by bone tissue (hard). It usually affects the tibia, leading to lameness.

It has been associated with contamination by fumonisins, fusarochromanone, a mycotoxin secreted by the mold Fusarium roseum (both at high concentrations) and T-2 toxin (at a concentration as low as 1 ppm).

Articular gout

Articular gout happens when there is a high concentration of uric acid in the plasma that leads to the precipitation of urate crystals in the joints. Such elevated concentration of uric acid is caused by kidney damage and decreased renal clearance of urates.

High concentrations of aflatoxins, ochratoxin, citrinin and oosporein are associated with articular gout.

To sum up

Improving leg health brings economic benefits and addresses animal welfare issues. Managing mycotoxin contamination should be part of a broader plan to reduce the occurrence of skeletal problems.

The best approach to manage mycotoxin risk is to implement an integrated strategy that includes good storing practices of the feedstuffs, and frequent mycotoxin analysis, as well as the regular use of a mycotoxin binder. We at PlusVet Animal Health help poultry farms to set up a mycotoxin risk management program and to evaluate the risk posed by mycotoxin in their feedstuffs.

On the other hand, whenever the diets are contaminated by mycotoxins, it is recommended to administer an extra supplement of vitamin D3 (PhytoMax©).


PlusBind© is a mixture of carefully selected silicates intended for the prevention of diseases and productivity losses related to the presence of all types of mycotoxins. It is indicated in poultry, pigs, aquaculture and ruminants.

The silicates present in PlusBind© have a highly expandable molecular structure. This characteristic gives the product a wide surface available for the adsorption of mycotoxins and therefore allows a high effectiveness at lower doses (0.5-1 kg per ton of feed).

PhytoMax© is a combination of vitamins, chelated calcium, highly bioavailable microminerals and essential oils to be given through drinking water.

It is especially useful in cases of inadequate nutrient supply, low feed intake, high contamination by mycotoxins (together with our mycotoxin binder PlusBind©), stress, hot weather, episodes of high percentage of downgraded eggs, low fertility, poor hatchability, cage fatigue, rickets, and in general to boost the productivity of the birds.

For more information on this topic and on our products, do not hesitate to contact us through

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Posted in: Mycotoxin binders, Mycotoxins

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