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Avian Cholera, Avian Hemorrhagic Septicemia

Pasteurellosis is a significant disease of wild and domestic birds worldwide. FC is caused by infection with the Gram-negative bacterium, Pasteurella multocida. The disease can occur in two forms--acute or chronic. In ducks, FC most frequently occurs as an acute septicemic infection, often with many acute deaths. Incidences of chronic and asymptomatic infections have also been reported in ducks, however less frequently. Ducks that are four-weeks of age and older are more susceptible to developing FC than ducks younger than 4-weeks old.

Clinical signs of acute FC are usually only observed for a short period (sometimes a matter of a few hours) prior to death. Often, unless clinical signs are witnessed the duck's keeper, FC appears as sudden death of the bird. When signs do occur, they usually include:
  • Fever: Presents as loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, and increased respiratory rate
  • Changes in droppings appearance: Includes diarrhea that is initially watery and whitish that later changes to a greenish mucus.
  • Mucus discharge from the mouth
  • Cyanosis (bluish bill and/or skin), just prior to death
P. multocida is primarily spread through domestic flocks of poultry through chronic carriers (domestic birds that have become infected and recovered or had subclinical infections in which they displayed no clinical signs of illness). P. multocida most often enters the duck through inhalation or ingestion, but can also enter through the conjunctiva or cutaneous wounds. The spread of P. multocida through a flock is primarily through excretions from the mouth, nostrils, and conjunctiva of infected birds, or even humans and other animals, that contaminate their environment, particularly the feed and water. Raccoons, domestic dogs, both domestic and feral cats are known carriers of P. multocida in their mouths. Any attacks or attack attempts made by any of these species can cause FC in ducks.


Loss of appetite
Ruffled feathers
Poor body condition
Labored breathing
Mouth discharge
Pasting of vent area


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • GeXP-based multiplex PCR assay
  • Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP)
  • PCR


MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Penicillin50 KIU/kg administered parenterally
Tylosin250–1000 mg/L drinking water or 15–30 mg/kg IM q6–12h

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Cellulitis of the head and conjunctivitis  in a Multiple flocks Fowl cholera due to Pasteurella multocida caused the deaths of chickens and wild waterfowl in multiple locations. P. multocida was the cause of cellulitis of the head and conjunctivitis in a backyard chicken, and pneumonia and airsacculitis in 40- to 60-week-old layer hens. Ref


  • Minimize risk of predator attacks
  • Maintain good sanitary practices and regularly clean where ducks are kept.
  • Ensure duck pens are installed with proper drainage
  • Do not let duck pens get muddy, as standing water increases the risk of the disease.
  • Blackberry and blueberry pomace extracts and citrus oil (0.05%) were found to inhibit growth of P. multocida in one study conducted by S Salaheen in 2014.


Risk Factors

  • Recent predator attack, especially from the felid family (cat, bobcat, mountain lion), or dogs
  • Letting domestic cats and dogs have access to areas where ducks roam or are kept.
  • Infrequently changing the water in duck swimming pools.
  • Allowing ducks access to areas with standing water.