How Do Birds Get E Coli? (Symptoms, Treatments, Antibiotics)

Beware of the Capnocytophaga canimo...
Beware of the Capnocytophaga canimorsus infection

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a Gram-negative bacterium in the Enterobacteriaceae family. While harmless strains of E. coli are common in nature, including the intestinal tracts of humans and other vertebrates, pathogenic strains are a common cause of both enteric and urogenital tract infections in birds and reptiles.

Several strains of pathogenic E. coli are capable of causing diarrhea. Enterohemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC, is a particularly dangerous strain.

In 1982, the first such strain was discovered in the United States. EHEC strains have been linked to foodborne outbreaks linked to undercooked hamburgers, unpasteurized apple juice or cider, salad, salami, and unpasteurized milk since then.

Toxins produced by EHEC strains are similar to those produced by bacteria of the Shigella genus. These enterotoxins can cause intestinal lining damage, anemia, stomach cramps, and bloody diarrhea, as well as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which leads to kidney failure. HUS is the most common cause of acute kidney failure in children in North America.

E Coli In Birds

Birds, particularly psittacines, are less reliant on E. coli and must rely on Gram-positive gut flora. Softbills, on the other hand, have a high incidence of normal Gram-negative gut flora of many varieties, including E. coli.

The E. distribution The presence of coli in psittacines varies from species to species. It is less common in Amazons and macaws, but it can be found in greys and cockatoos. Indeed, E. Some psittacines have as much as 30% coli in their gut flora, while others, such as cockatiels and budgies, have slightly less.


The bacteria are shed by infected birds in feces as well as nasal and/or ocular secretions. Outside of the host body, the organism is stable and may dry as a dusty substance. This dust, in the form of aerosols, pollutes the air. Another possible host then inhales these aerosols.

The new host’s susceptibility and the amount of contamination determine whether or not it becomes infected with the disease. Other modes of transmission include infected hens feeding contaminated crop contents to their young, as well as contaminated feed and drinking water.

Vertical transmission (the transfer of bacteria to an egg) is possible; chicks hatch and spread salmonella through direct contact. If bacteria levels become too high, the embryo may die.

Overcrowding, stale air environments, nest boxes, and brooders all increase the disease’s chances of spreading. Pet stores, bird markets, and quarantine facilities are also high-risk locations.


Ruffled feathers – diarrhea – listlessness – weakness – shivering – vent picking

The severity of the sickness is determined by the bird’s age, the virulence of the bacteria, the immune system, stress, and the level of contamination. Affected birds might potentially become carriers while presenting no signs of illness. These carriers may pass the illness on to their children and may get unwell as a consequence of stress. Baby birds have less developed immune systems, making them more vulnerable to sickness and more likely to perish. Chronic infections in adult birds may cause abscesses, egg failure, changes in food behavior, and the occasional transmission of contaminating germs.


Keep feces out of the water and feed bowls. Identify and correctly treat carrier birds. Contaminated items must be disposed of with caution. Reduce stress in the aviary. People who work with hazardous materials should keep their hands clean.


Broad-spectrum antibiotics should be used only once a culture sample has been obtained. In extreme situations, both oral and injectable antibiotics should be used. Sulfa medicines may be taken orally. Injections of Kanamycin and Gentamycin are frequently effective. When using Gentamycin, avoid dehydration. Toxicity may arise as a result of dehydration. After the sensitivity data are obtained, the antibiotics may be altered if required.

If the diarrhea is severe, Kaopectate or Pepto Bismal may be taken orally three times per day, with 2 to 3 drops in the mouth. To avoid dehydration, water intake should be monitored. Keep a stress-free atmosphere. To keep the temperature between 85 and 90 degrees, put an incubator or a heating pad beneath the cage. In the absence of an incubator, if the heating pad alone cannot keep the temperature stable, put the cage in a box and the box on the heating pad, with a thermometer in the rear of the box to monitor the temperature.


  • Kanamycin: Dosage: .01 mgl to one gram of body weight intramuscularly twice daily.
  • Gentamycin: Dosage: .01 mg to one gram of body weight intramuscularly once daily or 25 mg. to 120 ml of drinking water orally.
  • Trimethoprim/Sulfamethoxazole Suspension: Dosage .002 ml to one gram of body weight orally twice daily.
  • Sodium Sulfachiorpridazine Powder: Dosage ¼ tsp to 120 ml drinking water


  • Pepto Bismol: Coats the intestinal tract. Helps to form a firmer stool. Dosage 2-3 drops in the mouth, 3 times daily.
  • Kaopectate: Daolin and pectin coat the intestinal tract and form a firmer stool. Dosage 3 drops in the mouth 3 times daily.

*Please check with the manufacturer of the specific antibiotic for additional information before treatment is started. Always consult with your local avian veterinarian for additional information before treating individuals.


Cultures are best obtained directly from the cloaca rather than from a fecal sample. If the bird dies, the intestinal contents, liver, blood, and spleen may be cultured. E. coli should be regarded pathogenic if it is discovered in an internal culture other than the gastrointestinal system. Outside of its natural habitat in the stomach, E. coli may spread uncontrolled. However, certain E. coli strains may cause gastrointestinal illness. As a result, the bacteria may be harmful even to the stomach.

Because enteric bacteria are often resistant to many antibiotics, sensitivity testing should be undertaken.


E. coli is often found in cloacal (vent) cultures. It is preferable to get the culture from the cloaca rather than from a fecal sample. Another bird or animal, such as a mouse, might contaminate a fecal sample.


Prior to delivery, samples should be kept at 4 degrees Celsius. Samples must be sent in a transport medium overnight.

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