Research on host response to infectious disease often involves pharmacological induction of immunosuppression, frequently through administration of dexamethasone. Reports on the effect of dexamethasone in birds are largely restricted to poultry and pigeons. This study describes changes in white blood cell (WBC) differentials, hemoparasite counts, splenic histology, and splenic CD3 immunoreactivity in House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). Experimental group birds (n=9) were treated with a daily intramuscular injection of 25 μg of dexamethasone for 8 d; a control group (n=9) received daily saline solution. Smears were made with blood collected immediately before the first dose (day 0) and on d 4, 8, and 9, and stained with modified Wright. The WBC differential counts were performed by three blinded observers, parasite counts by two blinded observers, and histology by one blinded observer. Dexamethasone-treated birds experienced relative heterophilia and lymphopenia on d 4 (P=0.008); heterophilia was also present at d 8 (P=0.018). Hemosporidian counts were significantly increased in dexamethasone-treated birds on d 4 and 8 (P=0.048 and P=0.031, respectively). In contrast with control birds, all dexamethasone-treated birds lacked histologically apparent splenic lymphoid follicles (P<0.001). No significant difference was observed in splenic CD3 immunoreactivity between groups. Our results indicate that dexamethasone has an effect on the hematologic profile of House Finches and suggest that it may be a useful method to induce immunosuppression in this species.

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