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Gangrenous Dermatitis

Other Names: Wing Rot, Red Leg, Clostridial Myonecrosis, Gangrenous Cellulitis, Avian Malignant Edema, Gas Edema Disease, Blue Wing Disease

Gangrenous dermatitis (GD) is a serious bacterial skin infection of chickens. It usually occurs in commercial broilers and Cornish breeds who are kept in overcrowded, highly stressful, unsanitary living conditions. Following a skin injury, GD occurs as a secondary bacterial infection with Clostridium perfringens Type A, C. septicum, and/or Staphylococcus aureus.

Clinical Signs

Early signs of GD in chickens are the appearance of small pimples or bloody spots on the skin, which progress to large patches of dark reddish to purple and green discoloration. These are most often on the abdomen, breast, wings, and/or legs. Gas or gelatinous fluid may accumulate under the skin, resulting in a “spongy” feel when touched. This gas is produced by the Clostridium bacteria.


Treatment mainly involves excision of all devitalized tissue in conjunction with aggressive antibiotic therapy with a combination of penicillin and clindamycin or tetracycline, which appear most effective. Hyperbaric oxygenation may be a successful adjunctive therapy

Clinical Signs

Dark reddish-purple, weepy areas of the skin
Blood-tinged watery fluid under the skin
Loss of feathers
Reduced feed intake
Severe cellulitis


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • C. septicum FA bacteriology test
  • RT-PCR
  • Histology


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.
Erythromycin (added to feed)0.102 g/L (for chicks) to 0.25 g/L (for adults) added to feedK Marx
Erythromycin (added to water)10-20 mg/kg added to drinking water dailyK Marx
Wound irrigation
Hyperbaric oxygenationAs an adjunctive therapy



  • Practicing good management and sanitation
  • Avoid abrupt changes in feed
  • Minimize stress
  • Keep bedding litter clean and dry
  • Do not overcrowd
  • Promptly remove and properly dispose of dead birds.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

Usually seen inensively raised chickens 4 to 16 weeks of age.

Risk Factors

  • History of concurrent immunosuppressive disease
  • History of recent skin trauma
  • Stress
  • Recently administered dexamethasone
  • Composting within 200 feet of flocks
  • High soil pH (greater than 6.0)
  • Humidity levels greater than 60%
  • Lack of sufficient exercise
  • Farm has a history of previous GD outbreaks
  • Broilers and Cornish breeds