This is going to be an ongoing (at least until I have a resolution to the entire thing) documentation of a current (as of 10/19/2015) infection, diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of a series of symptoms in my flock.
About three weeks ago, a mysterious chicken (rooster I think) chicken showed up in our yard. We think some soul thought since we raise chickens that we would take in and house the thing, or they were just trying to get rid of a rooster and wanted someone else to take care of it. Either way, this mangy thing showed up, unquarantined, and started hanging out with our flock of eleven chickens.
Time = 0
Last week (let's call this Time (T) =0), I noticed that three of the chickens looked swollen in the face, the rest looked fine. Let's call these chickens #1 (americana 2yo), #2(silver lace wayandotte 2yo), #3(black jersey giant 4yo). Their eyes were still open but it looked like they went full rounds with Rocky Balboa and barely escaped. The swollen faces were typical indications of mycoplasmosis and/or infectious coryza. Both infections can be treated with Tylosin (Tylan). I placed an order on Amazon for Tylan50 and Sulmet, and another order from JeffersPet for syringes, Oxytetracycline HCI Soluble Powder, and SulfaMed - All antibacterial and antibiotics. The Amazon order was slated to arrive first.
Time = Day 2
At T=2 days, I started to keep a closer eye on the behavior of each chicken in the flock. Chicken #4 (RIR 4yo) had no swelling, but was not eating, and though normally very active and voratious, was sulking in the bushes a lot. Everyone else still seemed normal. I brought #4 inside (she's sentimental favorite), and watched her carefully. #4's symptoms: Looked at food, but would not eat. Would not drink. Crop was empty. Belly was not distended or retaining fluid. Her poop was bright green, very narrow in diameter, very wet, and stunk. Apparently, the bright green is a sign that she has been starving - the excess bile is causing the bright green color and smell. Her eyes were still bright, clear, and alert (when she did not have them closed...but she was nodding off a bit too much for daytime). As she was starving, I decided to tube-feed her, and give her some of the old sulfa meds let over from a vet visit (for another chicken) two years ago. on T=2, #4 started getting 0.85ml of 50mg/ml Sulfatrim two times a day orally as an antibacterial, and 0.85ml 1.5mg/ml Metacam two times a day for inflammation. I was feeding her 35cc mixes of Kaytee bird hand feed formula mixed with Vitamin Water (I know, it was all I had immediately available), and pork liver pate.
Update - what I would have done differently - After consulting with Vet#1 apparently, if the bird is not too sick, and just starving, you can tube feed until the crop is distended - it turns out that I can very easily tube feed her about 100cc's of this mixture. The vet also said that it is almost never a bad idea to tube feed a bird.
The swelling of #1 and #2 receded, and started to look more normal. #3 looked worse - her face got puffier, and foamy discharge came out of one eye. This was a classic symptom of mycoplasmosis - a common bacterial infection of chickens. This was still with no treatment. #3's behavior was still good, and her appetite was still good, so I did not administer an antibiotic. #4 was not getting any better. she still had to be tube fed. The Tylosin arrived, and I started treatment (Tylan50 50mg/ml; 25mg/kg of body weight, administered as a shot (29 gauge diabetic needle, in two different areas of muscle (the easiest for me to find were two parts of the right-side breast)), twice a day. Chicken #5 (Dominique, 2yo) looked overly thrifty, and her crop was empty. No other symptoms in #5. Rest of flock looked good.
Update - Vet #1 said that he typically doses at 25mg/kg of body weight, only once a day. I found on a BYC forum, and verified with some additional reading on Tylosin that Tylosin leaves pretty bad bruising and decay around the muscle at the injection site - too much, and it's bad for the muscle, hence, two different injection sites for each dose). You can buy diabetic needles in many states without a prescription - I got mine at the Walgreen's pharmacy counter for $0.50 apiece) The needles I had from JeffersPet were 25 gauge, which were do-able, but the 29 gauge for diabetics was perfect. They sold 30 and 31 gauge, but I have a feeling needles that thin would not make it through the chicken skin easily.
#1 and #2 look pretty normal and recovered. #3 still a bit puffy, but no more foam, and swelling is down a bit. Good appetite on #1,2,3. #4 is the same - loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargic. Continued tube feeding (100cc for each meal, three times a day), Tylosin, Sulfatrim, and Metacam. #5 still was not eating much - this is very troubling behavior for her. She would look longingly at the food, take a few bites, and stop. #5 looked normal, but would hide in the bushes, and her poo was also had that watery/egg-white texture. I administer Tylan50 to #5 as well.
#4 is still the same: lethargic, loss of appetite, diarrhea, watery poo (not really poo...there were two types. one: water, like clear eggwhites, with bits of green pellets the size of Swiss Miss cocoa mix marshmallows), and two: big green, very watery diarrhea. Still tube feeding. After feeding, she constantly opens her mouth and stretches, like someone who's trying to pop their ears to equalize pressure; and smacks her beak as if she's trying to lick peanut butter off the roof (there's nothing stuck up there). I put my ear next to her belly, and every 15 seconds or so, I hear soft, mild crackling. #4's balance was good, had good mobility, just didn't want to move around or eat. She could bend back and reach her tail to start cleaning herself, but when she got to her breast area to bend down and clean, she would stop. #5 is the same. #6(Grey Dorking 4yo) presents with one side of her head and eye swollen, but appetite and behavior still normal.
Update - Vet #1 said the not bending over is not a shocker if #4 had mycoplasmosis and had bad head congestion. Bending over with a bad head cold would be quite painful, and her sinus were probably very painful. I asked Vet #2 about the crackling sound (I forgot to ask Vet#1), and she said that chickens have multiple air sacs - including down by the abdomen (close to the butt/belly). If #4 has a bad respiratory infection, the crackling sound is likely fluid buildup in some of the air sacs. Once the infection clears, the fluid should clear too. Vet #2 also said that the clear/egg-white textured poo with the tiny green chunks was a sign that water absorption in the intestines was incorrect, and that it was likely happening in the large intestines if the poo was that watery. Vet #2 said that whenever a chicken looks at food, wants to eat it, but can't, there's likely an obstruction somewhere in the digestive track.
I drive up to UC Davis and submit fecal samples of both #4 and #5 ($11.50 per bird!) That evening, I brought #5 into the house to tempt it with some cooked rice and grapes, the only things she was willing to eat. While #5 was waiting at my feet, she pooped out a 5" long roundworm (Ascaridia galli). You don't know how happy I was to see that worm, but EEEeeewwwww. I start #4 and #5 on fenbedazole (50mg/kg body weight; brand: SafeGuard Suspension 10% 100mg/ml), and #4 also on albendazole (brand: Valbazen 113.6mg/ml; at 15mg/kg body weight). I'm now anxious to see what the UC Davis fecal float results come back with. #6 still looks swollen. #1 and #2 look/act completely normal. #3 almost looks normal again. All others in flock seem normal.
Update - While at UC Davis (This is where Vet#2 is), Vet #2 mentioned that fighting off an infection (for example mycoplasmosis) can leave the bird susceptible to secondary infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic). Often times, a chicken's system reaches a balance with certain bacteria...a virus may be dormant, or parasite in check. The moment the immune system is taxed or under pressure, these other things may take over. Vet#2 said she would not recommend trying to get intestinal swabs for fear that the procedure would introduce even more potential pathogens into the system. But swabs of the beak area are fine, but if the mycoplasmosis was already addressed, it might not be worth running more tests on the head area. My analysis, worms fit this situation (at least for #5) very well. #5's poo suggests poor water absorption in the large intestines due to obstruction. Adult ascarid are found in the small intestines (Foreyt, 2001)...which would block access to the large intestines. This would also explain why #5 wants to eat, but is starving. I'm still puzzled by #4, unless she just has a bigger worm burden and the lack of nutrients has affected her appetite as well?
******to be continued.****
Foreyt, W.J. (2001) Veterinary Parasitology. 5th Ed. Blackwell Publishing, Ames, IA. ISBN 0813824192.
Edited by tgooberbutt - 10/20/15 at 11:48pm