Weird slowly progressing fatal (respiratory?) disease

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Kiawaki, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. Kiawaki

    Kiawaki In the Brooder

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    Hi all,

    We lost quite a few chickens this year and a few years ago to something that might be a recurring disease. Lately, our last little Silkie hen was mildly sick for a few months, but getting worse in the last 10 days. I browsed other topics but didn't find anything that would quite fit, so I'm posting this just in chance somebody might help.

    First time a similar thing happened was 4 ys ago when we had a very rainy autumn, and it seems to come back when we have a prolonged period of wet weather (not necessarily cold, because our summer was very rainy this time). It seems to spread, but quite slowly. With older (adolescent) chickens, like few years ago, about each week or two one would start acting weaker, usually coughing, gurgly breath, stretching its neck upwards and opening its beak, and would get weaker and weaker until it died, after a few weeks. No bloody poop or other symptoms.

    With young chicks, like we had this summer, it was much faster - about every other day one of them would just start looking weak - they didn't even cough or have any other symptoms - breath sounded ok, no discharge, no blood from vent, normal poop, everything looked normal from outside except weakness - but within a night or two they would be dead. I'm not even sure it's the same disease except that it seems to be encouraged by prolonged wet weather, and it spreads slowly. We lost a lot of smaller chicks this year (1 - 3 months), but some survived and adults didn't seem to be affected.

    We gave them antibiotics a few times - something that is supposed to fight coccidiosis and also saved some chicks with respiratory problems last year. But this time it didn't help at all. Our chickens free range most days, but trying to keep them closed for a while didn't help either. I put a terrarium heather where they were sleeping, but it didn't make a difference.

    Now this young Silkie was one of the summer survivors (and the only Silkie to survive - we had 5). But she started acting a bit weaker and coughing in October, so we kept her in the house, and would let her out only in warmer days. She was stable, but coughing a bit and rather sleepy and very calm for quite a few weeks, then around New Year seemed to feel better and for 2 days spent a few hours outside foraging with other chickens. But after that, she suddenly got worse - she started coughing and sneezing much more, looking weaker, and 10 days ago she had 2 days of strong bleeding from her vent (mostly during the nights). Not just bloody poop - more like period bleeding, without any obvious reason. After 2 days, that stopped, thankfully.

    Of course, after that she was a lot weaker. She still wants to eat, but last 5 days either her neck is stiff, or she has problems with coordination, because she keeps pecking, but rarely succeeds in picking up food. It gives me some hope that she still wants to eat, but I'm not very hopeful. She still lifts her head with every breath and coughs and sneezes often.

    We gave her 2 types of antibiotic and some deworming powder, but nothing made a difference. Last few days her eyes are mostly closed with (mostly clear) pus, there is some nasal discharge and unpleasant smell. We give her milk mixed with egg yolk and vitamins to drink, and she is eager enough to drink, but very weak so we have to help her. I think without that she'd be dead by now. I'm quite awed, actually, that she's still alive. Quite a little fighter.

    Except for those 2 days of vent bleeding and willingness to eat and drink, this seems pretty much the same as whatever killed our first flock of adolescent Wyandottes 4 ys ago. At that time, we also had some adult mongrels, who looked a bit sick for a week or so, but recovered without long term consequences. Our chickens free range, and their coop is built on bare ground rather than concrete flooring, so it's difficult to sanitize.

    I read about CRD (chronic respiratory disease), mycoplasma, and choryza, but the symptoms don't quite fit. Infectious bronchitis seems the closest, but I'd expect it to spread faster through the flock.
    Any thoughts?
     
    Shadrach likes this.
  2. Cragg Klefor

    Cragg Klefor Crowing

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    Sorry to hear all this has and is happening to your flock.

    Can you say what antibiotics you have used? Have you used Tylan and/or any sulfa antibiotics? That could help people here make alternative suggestions. It would also help if you can say where you are located so we can know what medications you may have access to.

    The treatment for coccidiosis is not an antibiotic, I wonder was it corrid you used? I believe there is also a sulfa drug used to treat coccidiosis so perhaps this was what you used?? Did you direct dose any severe cases before they died?

    If possible it would also be helpful to see pictures of your sick chicken, and pictures of her poop please.

    In my opintion, it sounds like some sort of respiratory illness(s) - as you said. I know you said the symptoms don't quiet fit, but you could be dealing with multiple respiratory illnesses in your flock. The unpleasant smell does suggest coryza. I believe the treatment for this would be sulfa antibiotics.

    Your chicken bleeding from her vent is concerning. Did you take a close look at her vent? Normally, if a chicken is bleeding from their vent they have either been pecked by other chickens (did you see any injury to her vent?) or they have a prolapsed vent. This is where the tissue from inside the vent is exposed. Could you also take a picture of her vent so we can see what it looks like now? It is good it has stopped bleeding now.

    I know I have asked a lot of questions, but if you could answer them and post some pictures it would help a lot!
     
    Kiawaki, CCUK and Shadrach like this.
  3. AudieWarren

    AudieWarren Songster

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    Your best bet is to get a necropsy done. Some states offer free or low cost services. At least that way you will know exactly what is ailing your flock.
     
    LittleCheepers and Shadrach like this.
  4. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

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    My Coop
    Could you post a couple of pictures of the inside of your coop? This may help to rule out a fungal problem due to the damp conditions.
    Some pictures showing the ventilation in the coop may also be useful.
     
    Cragg Klefor likes this.
  5. rebrascora

    rebrascora Free Ranging

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    My guess would be Marek's disease. The fact that it is affecting mostly juvenile or adolescent birds is telling in this respect in my opinion. It can present with many different symptoms both from the disease itself and/or secondary infections like respiratory problems and/or coccidiosis and causes sporadic outbreaks like you have experienced. It sounds like you may also have witnessed neurological symptoms with the neck problems. Outbreaks are often triggered by stress which can be due to climatic conditions, so the wet weather may be relevant or milestones in their development.... being moved outside, integration into the larger flock and hormone surges at point of lay are common triggers as well as being subjected to over mating. Not saying any or all of these things apply but just things to be aware of if it does turn out to be Marek's. Keeping stress levels low is important if it does turn out to be Marek's. It is an extremely common disease. I would offer this bird vitamin supplementation (Nutri Drench or Poultry Cell) and good quality food.... plenty of egg and a wet mash make with chick crumbs and water. Keep her warm and as happy as you can and make enquiries about getting a necropsy done if she doesn't make it or you decide to end it for her.
    There is no compulsory cull policy with Marek's so don't worry about that and hopefully many of your older birds that have survived it so far will be resistant. Breeding from the survivors is the way forward in my experience and I am now 4 years down the line with this disease. Good luck with this one. As long as they are still interested in food there is hope but she will need lots of support. Once she loses her appetite, I would euthanize her, but make enquiries about a necropsy now so that you know how to proceed if/when that moment occurs. Their carcass needs to be refrigerated (not frozen) after death prior to being sent in. Many labs have a FedEx contract for samples to be sent in and have specific instructions for packaging, so knowing this info in advance will enable you to be ready if/when you lose the next one.
     
  6. Kiawaki

    Kiawaki In the Brooder

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    Thanks for all your interest! I live in Croatia, Europe. The medication I used is called Trisulfon (sulfamonomethoxine sodium + Trimethoprim) and Amoxicilin LT20 (amoxicillin trihydrate). I also tried levamisole in case of parasites. I'm not sure what else is available, but if you tell me the generic name of something you'd recommend, I'll look for it.

    Here's the sick Silkie, she's about 6 months old:
    sick Silkie.jpg


    We keep her in a shoe box by the stove these days so that she's warm.

    I didn't see any sign of prolapse or a wound when she was bleeding, and while a day before that she spent some time foraging with the rest of flock, I didn't see anybody bullying her. At other times we kept her inside. The feathers around her vent are now rather dirty with poop - I'm reluctant to try to clean it because she seems to be in pain if I handle her too much. I can't see much of her vent through the dirty feathers. I can post a photo but as she hasn't been bleeding for 8-9 days it probably won't be useful.

    Her last night's poop (she ate some cooked fish and drank some milk + egg yolk, with our help):

    silkie poop.jpg

    Our coop has *a lot of* ventilation - we have a small wooden "bedroom" (left on the first photo) which most chickens refuse to use anyway, they prefer to sleep perching in outer parts of the coop even in the winter. The rest of the coop is a wire mesh cage which is covered only from above. However, the coop is built on bare ground so it doesn't have a concrete flooring, which can be a problem with disinfecting. We let our birds forage most days.

    coop1.jpg coop2.jpg
     
    EggWalrus and CCUK like this.
  7. Kiawaki

    Kiawaki In the Brooder

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    @rebrascora, I didn't even consider Marek as the symptoms didn't seem to fit, but if you say they may vary, I won't exclude it.

    But if there will be a necropsy, I'll most likely have to do it myself. What should I look for?
    Local vet services are not very helpful when it comes to chickens.
     
    EggWalrus likes this.
  8. AudieWarren

    AudieWarren Songster

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    Where are you located? I'll help you look for a place that does necropsy. Mine was done by the state and not a vet. Vets here don't tend to chicken either, but the commercial chicken industry is booming.
     
  9. rebrascora

    rebrascora Free Ranging

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    Internal tumours are usually indicative of Marek's but obviously not an absolute diagnostic. PCR testing of abnormal tissue by a lab would be needed to confirm it, but if you find internal tumours as well as the symptoms you are seeing at the vulnerable ages for Marek's that you are experiencing them then it would be a reasonable diagnostic assumption to make. Tumours can vary significantly in appearance, size and location. With respiratory distress I would be checking out the lungs for tumour or disease and also the trachea but there may be other sites/organs with abnormalities which are not showing signs yet. The disease often causes muscle wastage even when they are eating well.
    If you do lose her and decide to do a necropsy yourself, take lots of photos of organs in situ and removed and anything that looks unusual and posting them here with a "GRAPHIC PHOTOS WARNING" added to the heading would be good or starting a new thread or there are Necropsy threads where some of us share our photos and history of illness and discuss possible diagnosis. There are a few of us with a bit of experience at it now and surprising how often you can pin point a problem with a little knowledge of chicken anatomy.
     
  10. rebrascora

    rebrascora Free Ranging

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    Your nearest veterinary university would probably be the place to contact to enquire about a professional necropsy or your government agricultural department.
     
    EggWalrus, Kiawaki and AudieWarren like this.

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