Gangrenous Dermatitis diagnosed in Bobwhite quail
By Martin Ficken, DVM, PhD
Seven dead, 16-week-old bobwhite quail were presented to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in Gonzales for necropsy. The history provided noted increased mortality of about 15 birds per day, with no clinical symptoms. The birds were in flight pens with no vegetation. Additionally, all birds had varying degrees of feather loss around the tail head and the caudal aspect of the back.
Upon necropsy examination, two of the seven birds had serosanguineous fluid present in the subcutaneous space above the tail head, fluid that had a rancid butter smell (Figure 1). A Gram stain of the fluid revealed the presence of large, gram-positive bacterial rods consistent with Clostridiumspecies.
Three of the seven birds had serosanguineous fluid present in the subcutaneous space along the inside of the thigh muscles and along the breast. Fluid that again had a rancid butter smell (Figure 2). A Gram stain of the fluid revealed the presence of large, gram-positive bacterial rods consistent with Clostridiumspecies.
The remaining two birds had feather loss around the tail head with no other gross lesions observed.
Findings led to a diagnosis of gangrenous dermatitis.
Gangrenous dermatitis is a bacterial disease caused by Clostridium hemolyticum,Clostridium perfringens, and Staphylococcus aureus. C. hemolyticumandC. perfringensare soil organisms that are ubiquitous. Staphylococci are also ubiquitous and common inhabitants of skin and mucus membranes of poultry and in areas where poultry are hatched, reared, and processed. In this case, it appears that there was pecking around the area of the tail head that was allowing these organisms to gain access to the subcutaneous space, grow, and cause disease.
Natural outbreaks of gangrenous dermatitis have been described in broilers, broiler breeders, commercial layers, and turkeys. Clinical symptoms are general in nature and include depression, incoordination, inappetence, leg weakness, ataxia, and high fever. Often, birds are found dead with no clinical symptoms noticed. In most instances, contributing factors are thought to play a major role in the development of clinical disease. There is great diversity among strains of Clostridiumregarding their ability to produce toxins, which partially accounts for the varied degree of pathogenicity. Additionally, in chickens, gangrenous dermatitis is thought to occur as a sequela to other diseases that induce immunosuppression (e.g. infectious bursal disease, chicken infectious anemia virus, reticuloendotheliosis virus, reovirus, and avian adenovirus infections).
Environmental factors such as high litter moisture, poor drinker management, and poor ventilation may contribute to outbreaks. Management practices that lead to skin damage due to scratching such as overcrowding, feed outages, meal-time feeding, and bird migration in tunnel-ventilated houses can also lead to outbreaks. The cause in this particular case is related to the feather pecking and loss; however, the underlying cause for the pecking was not determined.
For more information about this case, contact Gonzales Resident Director Dr. Martin Ficken. To learn more about TVMDL’s test offerings, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call 1.888.646.5623.
Opengart, K. Gangrenous Dermatitis in Diseases of Poultry 13thedition Wiley-Blackwell, ed. Swayne, DE et al. pp. 957-960, 2013.