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Dr Scott Nimmo
Dr Scott Nimmo, Small Animal Veterinary Surgeon.
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 158
Experience:  BVMS, MRCVS. { Glasgow UK }
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I have a chicken that is gaping for air and her wattles are

Customer Question

Hi I have a chicken that is gaping for air and her wattles are turning purple. I have been searching for hours on the internet and the only thing that sounds familiar is gapeworm. I feel a little helpless
JA: I'll do all I can to help. There are all sorts of infestations the chicken can pick up. I'll have you talk to the Veterinarian who'll sort out what is wrong and help you decide what to do about it. What is the chicken's name and age?
Customer: Dora and she's a blackrock approx 6 months
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Dora?
Customer: No she was really good yesterday then i noticed she distanced herself from the other chickens. She is eating and drinking but not her usual lively responsive self.
Submitted: 16 days ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 16 days ago.

Dr. Michael Salkin is typing. Please be patient.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 16 days ago.

I'm sorry to hear about this with Dora. while gapeworm is possible, it's not common in chickens and more commonly seen in waterfowl. Her clinical signs of gapeworm are also consistent with respiratory infections such as wet pox and laryngotracheitis.

In any case of respiratory illness, it's important to know if you're dealing with a viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic disease. The treatment for one disease may be ineffective or even harmful to others. To make a diagnosis, an avian vet (please see here: will perform several tests including bacterial cultures of the airways, blood tests, and necropsies of dead birds if they're available. Dead birds should be refrigerated - not frozen – until they can be necropsied. Microscopic evaluation of affected tissues is helpful and can be performed at a diagnostic laboratory such as a county animal disease diagnostic laboratory. A fecal test for parasites also should be done. Attempts to isolate virus may be required. Respiratory infections in poultry have several causes but outward signs may appear similar to the flock owner.

If you have no access to an avian vet, presumptive therapy is now limited by the FDA to over the counter (feed store/online, not in all states) tylosin in the form of injectable Tylan-200 dosed at 5 - 15 mg/lb into the breast muscle daily for 5-7 days. It doesn't matter which species the product is labeled for. Tylosin is tylosin. Tylosin has good activity against both mycoplasma and chicken coryza (Avibacterium paragallinarum) - two important considerations in respiratory infections of chickens. No antibiotic, however, is able to completely rid my patient of these infectious organisms. Birds remain carriers and sources of infection others. (Please note that we have limited data of tylosin administered orally to chicken layers. For the use of injectable tylosin in laying hens, FARAD now recommends an 8-week egg discard period.) Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 16 days ago.
I understand the cause could possibly be another respiratory infection. The only reason why I thought it could be gapeworm is that we were digging up alot of soil and the birds were feeding heavily on earthworms and from what I have read, they are the carriers of eggs???
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 16 days ago.

You're correct. The life cycle of the gapeworm is peculiar in that transmission from bird to bird may be successfully accomplished either directly (by ingesting embryonated eggs or infective larvae) or indirectly (by ingestion of earthworms containing free or encysted gapeworm larvae they had obtained by feeding on contaminated soil). Testing for gapeworm involves attempting to identify the gapeworm eggs in the droppings. Please continue in this conversation if you wish.