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Septicemia, also known as blood poisoning, occurs when an infection has invaded the chicken's bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the infection quickly spreads throughout the body. It is a serious, life-threatening condition which is associated with acute onset of very generalized clinical signs of sickness, such as listlessness, depression, weakness, loss of appetite, and sudden death. The most common pathogens known for causing septicemia in chickens include: Escherichia coli, Klebsiella spp., Enterobacter spp., Pseudomonas spp and Pasteurella spp.

Septicemia occurs often in chickens that are survivors of an attack from a predator, especially from domestic dogs and cats. These chickens may not even show any external signs of significant damage; however the oral cavity of animals, especially cats and dogs, contain a great deal of bacteria, with one of the most important being Pasteurella spp. Prompt treatment with the appropriate antibiotics is needed to prevent a fatal outcome in affected birds.

Clinical Signs

Extreme physical weakness
Loss of appetite
Sudden death in a healthy bird with a full crop


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Necropsy


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.
AntibioticsMost commonly used for initial treatment include piperacillin, cefotaxime, enrofloxacin, trimethoprim-sulfa, doxycycline and amikacin.



Chickens that have been attacked by a predator should be taken to a veterinarian and put on appropriate antibiotics. Even if damage appears minor, any puncture made to the skin via teeth or claws can lead to septicemia several days later.



Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Recent predator attack, especially involving a domestic dog or cat.