Necrotic Enteritis: How to Treat and Prevent This Disease from Wreaking Havoc to Your Birds

Necrotic Enteritis Causes, Prevention and Treatment.

birds affected by necrotic enteritis

Necrotic enteritis and Coccidiosis are very important diseases that affect the intestinal health of poultry birds and cause a serious blow to the farmer.


Both necrotic enteritis and coccidiosis are partners in crime when it comes to wreaking havoc to the farmer.


This is because the development of necrotic enteritis is highly dependent on the intestinal damage caused by coccidiosis.


This disease occurs worldwide, and it is one of the most common and economically devastating bacterial diseases in modern broiler flocks in terms of performance, welfare, and mortality.


The disease basically affects broiler chickens between 3–6 weeks old and even turkeys between  6–12 weeks old.  


Raised on litter but can also affect commercial layer pullets raised in cages.


The disease is caused by a bacterial toxins called clostridium perfringens toxins with type A, C- alpha and C-beta.


The primary mode of transmission is through the soil, dust, litter, and feces, other stressors can trigger the condition such as the choice of raw material used in the feed and size of the feed particles, cold and heat temperatures.

almost dying birds


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Predisposing Factors Capable of Causing Necrotic Enteritis


The primary causative agent that causes necrotic enteritis is Clostridium Perfringens. But there are other predisposing factors and environmental stressors as outlined below.


Any factor that causes stress in poultry birds especially broiler chicks could suppress the immune system making them more vulnerable to infectious, viral and bacterial diseases.


This will consequently disturb the balance of the intestinal ecosystem.  In such a way that necrotic enteritis becomes a threat and the risk of its outbreak is high.


  • Soil, dusty environment, poorly managed litter and feces are a sure way of spreading the causative agent that causes necrotic enteritis.


  • The choice of raw materials in feed formulation, particle size also seems to influence gut health.


  • Feed size, Feed containing many small and some large-sized particles is more predisposed to necrotic enteritis than feed containing uniform particles.


  • Changes in the feeding regime.


  • Increased stocking density increase stress in the flock and suppress the immunological status of the chickens, making them more sensitive to necrotic enteritis infection.


  • The intestinal damage caused by coccidiosis is one of the main factors for the development of necrotic enteritis. perfringens.


  • Temperature is one of the most important physical environmental stressors, (both cold and heat) that could significantly affect health, welfare and the general bird performance as well as the profit margin.


  • According to the results of the experimental study by Tsiouriset al. Cold stress predisposes birds to develop NE lesions, as a result of immunosuppression. Similarly, heat stress was associated with the outbreak of NE in unchallenged birds.


  • Other predisposing and husbandry factors, such as the poultry house microenvironment (e.g. adequate ventilation, air humidity, and lighting program).


greatly affected birds by NE



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Signs and Symptoms


Most often the only sign of necrotic enteritis in a flock is a sudden increase in mortality. C. perfringens-induced NE in chickens leads to sudden death, with mortality rates up to 50%.


However, other signs and symptoms could include the following:


  • Birds show signs of depression.


  • Visible Ruffled feathers.


  • Diarrhea may also be seen.


  • Reluctance to move.


  • With eyes closed.


  • Sudden death may occur


already death bird by necrotic enteritis

Prevention of Necrotic Enteritis

Prevention is always far better than cure. Prevention entails taking actions on predisposing factors such as:


  • Avoid changing diet and feed suddenly.



  • Controlling the causative agent of the disease by reducing its proliferation, colonization, and persistence of virulent strains of perfringens or interfering with virulence and pathogenicity factor.


  • By using natural feed additives, such as probiotics (yeasts or bacteria).


  • The use of low-protein diets or the use of highly digestible protein sources in combination with enzymes to break down the indigestible structural components in the diet will reduce the opportunity for perfingens to develop in the gut.




A probiotic is defined as “a live microbial food supplement that beneficially affects the host by improving the intestinal microbial balance” (Fuller, 1999).


Indeed, probiotics can interact with the host to improve immunity and intestinal morphology or stimulate the metabolism, thus reducing the risk of infection by opportunistic pathogens. 


This is particularly important in young animals in which stable intestinal bacteria have not yet been established.


By adding probiotics to feed or water the intestine is populated with beneficial bacteria avoiding or decreasing the extent of pathogen colonization (nurmi and rantala, 1973)





Penicillins (e.g. phenoxymethylpenicillin, Amoxicillin), in drinking water, or Bacitracin in the feed (e.g. 100 ppm).


Water medication for 3-5 days and in-feed medication for 5-7 days depending on the severity of the disease.


Treatment for necrotic enteritis is most commonly administered in the drinking water, with bacitracin (200–400 mg/gal. for 5–7 days), penicillin (1,500,000 u/gal. for 5 days), and lincomycin (64 mg/gal. for 7 days) most often used.


In each case, the medicated drinking water should be the sole source of water. Weak and dying birds should be removed and dispose of properly.

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