The Fungal Infection that can cause Breathing difficulties & Distress

Minor Ailments

  •  Gapeworms occupy the trachea of pheasants & chickens primarily, but can be found in any Aviary bird.
  •  Cause gasping sounds.
  •  the Bird gapes it's beak and looks as if it's gasping for breath.
  •  Gapeworms cycle through earthworms, so birds will usually only get infected outdoors or on dirt floors..
    • Administering Baytril (Anti-biotic) only appears to have a secondary effect, at best.
  •  Special wormer is required for gapeworms.
    • Piperazine or other worm treatment when roundworms or hairworms are also present, will keep your birds healthy.
    • Mebendazole (this is the active ingredient not the brand name of a wormer) is one of the best treatments against gapeworm
    • Other Wormers to use for eliminating gapeworms : fenbendazole/levamisole/lamisole/tetramisole
  • For administration ratios you will have to consult your Vet or instructions on the product box.
    Harka-Verm (liquid)
    Treatment for roundworms and hairworm in racing pigeons and cage/aviary birds.
    Application: Dilute 6ml of Harka-Verm in 2 litres of drinking water. 
    Offer the diluted solution to birds over a 3 day period.  Do not allow birds to drink from any other source.  Precautionary worming is advised 3 weeks before commencing breeding.
    Pack sizes: 100ml
    Active ingredients: Contains levamisole hydrochloride 8%w/v (80mg/ml)
    Shelf life: Normally 18-24 months

  • Birds with gapeworm infestation show signs of respiratory distress
    • due to both the damage to the lungs and to the trachea that is caused by the worms.
    • The difficulty in trying to treat this problem is that you have to get the medication directly onto
      the worms to kill them all and they are in the lungs.
    • All the worming medication mentioned above can help and MAY even get rid of the worms if caught early enough but if the worms are established over a period of time you MUST take the bird to an AVIAN VET!
  • Young birds are especially vulnerable due to their relatively small trachea.
  • Symptoms include :
    • Depression, gasping for breath, and head shaking ~ in an attempt to remove the worms from the trachea.

"Tracheal Rales"

(a gurgling sound made during breathing that accompanies tracheal irritation) can be heard in many cases,

  • This can sometimes be mistaken for an upper respiratory infection.
  •  In the case of the gapeworm, once a susceptible bird ingests an infested earthworm, the larvae penetrate
    the wall of the intestine and eventually end up in the lungs.
  • Once in the lung, the larvae migrate into the bronchi.
  • A moult of the larvae takes place resulting in the adult gapeworm,
  • Then the adult worms migrate up the respiratory tree to the trachea
  • where the male and female worms intertwine and attach themselves to each other permanently.
  • The entire process from the time the bird ingests the earthworm to the time adult gapeworms can be found
    in the trachea is approximately 7 days.
  • Gapeworm egg production begins about 14 days after infestation of the larvae.
    • The eggs are then coughed up into the mouth of the bird and passed out into the faeces.
    • In the droppings, the eggs incubate for 8 to 14 days
    • under optimum conditions of temperature and moisture to become infective larvae,
    • thus completing the life cycle.
  • Under necropsy, the adult gapeworms appear as long, red strands attached to the tracheal wall,
    • almost like thin strands of blood.
    • In chronic infestations, nodules of inflammatory tissue appear in the tracheal wall at the site of worm attachment.
    • You can imagine how difficult it would be to breathe normally under these conditions.


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