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Gape Worm in Poultry

About Gape Worm

Gape Worm infestation also known as Syngamus Tachea although rare, can crop up in your flock from time to time. It affects poultry, waterfowl, turkeys and game birds and in particular pheasant . Wild birds can also be affected which can make eradication difficult.  Gape worm infestation occurs either by birds eating eggs that have been swallowed or coughed up by infested birds, or indirectly by intermediate hosts such as earthworms or snails.  Birds up to 8 weeks of age are particularly susceptible to gape worm.
Gape worms normally reside in the trachea (windpipe) but are also found in the bronchi and lungs.

 Gape Worm in Poultry

Chickens foraging for food pick up the eggs, which then hatch, larvae then penetrate the intestine walls and move to the lungs and bronchi. during their time spent in the lungs and bronchi they go through a larval moult resulting in the adult Gape worm, before traveling up to the trachea. Male and female gape worms intertwine and attached themselves to one another and stay like that permanently. The entire process from the bird digesting the eggs to the adult Gape worms ending in the trachea,  takes around 7 days.

Adult Gape worm production begins around 14 days of infestation eggs are then coughed up by the bird and passed out into droppings, where they incubate for 8-14 days after which they are infective larvae and the life cycle is complete.

 

 Gape Worm in Poultry

Young bird showing signs of infestation of Gapewom.

Signs and symptoms

The first thing usually noticed is a bird gasping for breath, opening and closing its beak (Gaping). Other signs of respiratory distress include head shaking, neck stretching and a gurgling sound coming from the throat but this could also signal a respiratory infection, so if in doubt seek medical advice. A heavy infestation if gape worm, if left untreated will eventually lead to the birds death through suffocation.

 

 

 
Treatment

Good husbandry, including regular worming, rotation of the birds land and regular cleaning of droppings in the bedding area.

Flubenvet is the only wormer available in the UK that is licensed for use in poultry and will kill gape worms.

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