Cellulitis/Dermatitis in Turkeys

By Donna Carver, Associate Professor of Poultry Science and Extension Veterinarian, North Carolina State University - Condemnations of turkeys due to cellulitis or dermatitis are on the rise according to some turkey producers in North Carolina.
calendar icon 19 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Commonly called cellulitis, this condition is also known as gangrenous dermatitis, necrotic dermatitis, and gangrenous cellulitis. The condition is most commonly caused by Clostridial bacteria. Clostridia form spores which are extremely persistent in the environment.

While sporadic outbreaks have been reported in the past, usually in birds 12 weeks of age or older, current outbreaks are occurring in turkeys of all ages and with increased frequency. Clinical signs observed in turkeys with cellulitis can include: varying degrees of depression, incoordination, lack of appetite and leg weakness. Because the period of illness is short, birds are often just found dead. Gross lesions generally consist of extensive blood-tinged edema, with or without gas between the skin and the muscle layers. The skin itself may or may not appear to be affected.

Diagnosis of cellulitis consists of isolating one of several Clostridial organisms from the lesions. Other organisms are often also present especially Staphylococcus organisms. Submit turkeys to a diagnostic laboratory for bacterial isolation and antibiotic sensitivity testing. Outbreaks of cellulitis have been successfully treated by administration of chlortetracycline, oxytetracycline, erythromycin, penicillin or copper sulfate in the water. If antibiotic treatment is unsuccessful then an underlying immunosuppression is suspected. Water acidification, with citric acid and proprionic acid, have been used to reduce but not eliminate mortality in flocks where antibiotics are not effective.

Total clean out of farms, followed by thorough cleaning and disinfection of the house and floor have helped resolve farms with historical problems. Large amounts of water mixed with phenolic disinfectant (1500 gallons per 20,000ft2) must be used to achieve a saturation depth of 3-4 inches of the dirt floor pad. Treating the floor with salt at 60-100 pounds per 1,000ft2 prior to placement of bedding material has decreased the incidence of cellulitis on problem farms. Water and litter acidifiers have been used to control clinical signs and lesions.

Clostridia occur in soil, feces, dust, contaminated litter or feed and intestinal contents and survive under extreme conditions. Good biosecurity practices will not eliminate the Clostridial spores but should prevent introduction of viruses that can compromise the immune system of the birds. Increasing down time between flocks may help in preventing repeat outbreaks.

Reproduced Courtesy

Winter 2006
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