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Gangrenous Dermatitis

Wing Rot, Red Leg, Necrotic Dermatitis, Gangrenous Cellulitis, Avian Malignant Edema, Gas Edema Disease, Blue Wing Disease

Gangrenous dermatitis (GD) is an acute, highly fatal skin infection that predominately affects young, intensively raised chickens. The disease is characterized by a sudden increase in mortality coupled with localized necrosis and lesions of the skin, subcutaneous tissue, and the underlying muscles, typically in the keel, abdomen, wings, and thigh areas. GD is usually associated with a prior wound to the skin, followed by secondary bacterial infection with mainly Clostridium perfringens type A and C. septicum. On occasion it has also been associated with Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium sordellii, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and others.

GD occurs spontaneously in highly stressed chickens, between 4 to 8 weeks of age that are living in overcrowded, unsanitary environments, and/or sustained previous traumatic injuries. Early clinical signs of GD are the appearance of small pimples on the chicken's skin, that progressively increase in size. These areas become moist raw or dark with underlying muscle exposed. Blood-tinged fluid may be found beneath the skin. Fluid can be jelly-like in consistency.

Generally, chickens with a normal, uncompromising immune system are not affected by GD. GD occurs most frequently in chickens with compromised immune systems; it is thought to occur following immunosuppressive diseases such as infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), reticuloendotheliosis virus, inclusion body hepatitis virus, avian adenovirus, and chicken infectious anemia virus (CIAV).

Treatment mainly involves excision of all devitalized tissue in conjunction with antibiotic therapy with a combination of penicillin and clindamycin or tetracycline, which appear most effective. Hyperbaric oxygenation may be a successful adjunctive therapy

Clinical Signs

Dark reddish-purple, weepy areas of the skin
Blood-tinged watery fluid under the skin
Loss of feathers
Reduced feed intake
Severe cellulitis
Sudden death
Leg weakness


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • C. septicum FA bacteriology test
  • RT-PCR
  • Histology


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Clindamycin HCl100 mg/kg administered orally, dailyK Marx
Chlortetracycline HCl110-550 mg/kg feed, dailyK Marx
Erythromycin (added to feed)0.102 g/L (for chicks) to 0.25 g/L (for adults) added to feedK Marx
Erythromycin (added to water)10-20 mg/kg added to drinking water dailyK Marx
Wound irrigation
Hyperbaric oxygenationAs an adjunctive therapy



  • Practicing good management and sanitation
  • Yeast extract supplements in feed
  • Avoid abrupt changes in feed
  • Minimize stress
  • Keep bedding litter clean and dry
  • Biosecurity
  • Do not overcrowd
  • Adding iodine disinfectant to the water (Mix one gallon of 1.75% solution of iodine disinfectant w/ 6 gallons of water to create a stock solution). Provide at a rate of 1 oz/gal of water consumed, every other day for three days.
  • Promptly remove and properly dispose of dead birds.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

Usually seen in rapidly growing broilers 4 to 8 weeks of age.

Risk Factors

  • History of concurrent immunosuppressive disease
  • History of recent skin trauma
  • Stress
  • Recently administered dexamethasone
  • Composting within 200 feet of flocks
  • High soil pH (greater than 6.0)
  • Humidity levels greater than 60%
  • Lack of sufficient exercise
  • Farm has a history of previous GD outbreaks
  • Slow-feathering male chicken breeds