Gangrenous dermatitis in chickens and turkeys

J Vet Diagn Invest. 2018 Mar;30(2):188-196. doi: 10.1177/1040638717742435. Epub 2017 Nov 16.


Gangrenous dermatitis (GD) is a disease of chickens and turkeys that causes severe economic losses in the poultry industry worldwide. Clostridium septicum, Clostridium perfringens type A, and occasionally Clostridium sordellii are considered the main causes of GD, although Staphylococcus aureus and other aerobic bacteria may also be involved in some cases of the disease. GD has become one of the most significant diseases of commercial turkeys in the United States. Several infectious and/or environmental immunosuppressive factors can predispose to GD. Skin lesions are considered to be the main portal of entry of the microorganism(s) involved. GD is characterized by acute onset of mortality associated with gross skin and subcutaneous tissue lesions consisting of variable amounts of serosanguineous exudate together with emphysema and hemorrhages. The underlying skeletal muscle can also be involved. Ulceration of the epidermis may be also noticed in cases complicated with S. aureus. Microscopically, necrosis of the epidermis and dermis, and subcutaneous edema and emphysema are commonly observed. Gram-positive rods can be identified within the subcutis and skeletal muscles, usually associated with minimal inflammatory infiltrate. A presumptive diagnosis of GD can be made based on history, clinical signs, and gross anatomic and microscopic lesions. However, confirmation should be based on demonstration of the causative agents by culture, PCR, immunohistochemistry, and/or fluorescent antibody tests.

Keywords: Chickens; Clostridium perfringens; Clostridium septicum; gangrenous dermatitis; turkeys.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Chickens*
  • Clostridium perfringens / isolation & purification
  • Clostridium septicum / isolation & purification
  • Dermatitis / prevention & control
  • Dermatitis / veterinary*
  • Gangrene / prevention & control
  • Gangrene / veterinary
  • Poultry Diseases / microbiology
  • Poultry Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Turkeys*