Attention! This is a potentially life-threatening condition for your bird and/or flock. Time is of the essence, contact your veterinarian immediately.Find me a Vet

Necrotic Enteritis

Enterotoxemia, Rot Gut

Necrotic enteritis (NE) is an increasingly common enteritis of chickens, especially broiler chickens. The disease is caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, type A and C, which produce alpha and beta toxins. These toxins cause necrosis of the chicken’s intestinal lining. This disease has been associated with concurrent outbreaks of coccidiosis and less often, ascariasis (roundworms).

Poor management is thought to be a key component of the development of NE outbreaks in chickens. Any factor that causes increased stress can suppress the chicken's immune system and offset the balance of flora in their gastrointestinal system, resulting in high levels of C. perfringens to develop. Some of the factors identified to increase the risk of NE in chickens include:
  • Rough handling and abuse by farm workers.
  • Mycotoxins: Chronic consumption of deoxynivalenol (DON) mycotoxins, which are a frequent contaminate of poultry feeds.
  • Poor sanitary practices
  • Overcrowding
  • Concurrent infection with intestinal parasites
  • Nutrition: Diet with high levels of non-starch polysaccharides, protein, fishmeal or coarse material.
Outbreaks of NE in chicken flocks are sporadic and the clinical illness of NE is short, with birds dying within a day of when initial clinical signs are first observed.

Clinical Signs

Diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Dark, often blood-stained feces
Foul odor
Depression
Reluctance to move
Sudden death
Huddling

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • ELISA
  • Clostridium perfringens Enterotoxin bacteriology
  • Fecal cytology
  • Tissue biopsy

Treatment

NameSummary
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.
ProbioticsBacillus and LactobacillusZhou M et al., 2016

Prevention

  • Biosecurity
  • Prevent chickens' exposure to temperature extremes that may bring on cold or heat stress in birds: A significant increase in the pH and C. perfringens counts were observed in chickens challenged by cold stress.
  • Properly store all poultry feeds and inspect on a daily basis.
  • Don't stock high densities of birds together in the same environment
  • Supplement diet with yeast extract, prebiotics (MOS), probiotics, organic minerals and enzymes

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

Young chickens which have immature immune systems are more at risk of NE.

Risk Factors

  • Coccidiosis: Infestation of the chicken's GI tract with Eimeria spp
  • Nutrition : abrupt changes in feed, diets rich in fish proteins or wheat, high levels of non-starch polysaccharides
  • Poor sanitation: Chickens living in poor living conditions with high concentrations of birds and soiled bedding
  • Temperature fluctuations: Chickens undergoing cold or heat stress
  • Feed contamination : Consumption of feedstuff contaminated with DON mycotoxins