Emergencies/Illness Health Issues

Avian Trichomonosis (Canker)

Avian Trichomonosis, often called canker (and not to be confused with ear canker) is a disease caused by one-celled protozoa, mostly infecting young birds. It primarily affects the chicken’s upper gastrointestinal system and causes them to develop lesions, or cankers, inside the mouth and the esophagus. As the disease progresses, the lesions get bigger and often interfere with the chicken’s ability to eat and drink. In severe cases, the lesions might block the esophagus causing suffocation.

Its severity depends on a bird’s vulnerability and on the virulence of the parasite’s strain. Adult birds that recover may become carriers, although asymptomatic and are resistant to re-infection.


  • Spreads through infected saliva and poop
  • Contaminated drinking water or feed
  • Can be spread by wild birds
  • Short-lived (i.e. minutes outside the host) in the environment


  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Open mouthed breathing
  • Odour from mouth
  • Ruffled, dull feathers
  • Unable to stand, maintain balance
  • Diarrhea, green poop
  • Greenish fluid or yellow-white bumps in mouth and crop
  • Delayed crop emptying, pendulous crop
  • Sudden death

Treatment (speak to your veterinarian for a drug regime)

  • Isolate sick bird
  • Remove lesions
  • Metronidazole (Flagyl)
  • Carnidazole (Spartrix)
  • Thyme Oil
  • Tylan


  • Disinfect feeders and waterers frequently
  • Practice good biosecurity
  • Provide apple cedar vinegar in drinking water (1 tbsp./1 gallon water) once a month.
  • If wild birds have regular access to chicken waterers add acidified copper sulfate (powdered bluestone) solution to drinking water once a month for 3 consecutive days.

Credits: Alberta Dept. Of Agriculture; Merck Vet Manual; Poultry DVM, Poultry Hub; Poultry Site. Featured Photo Credit: Backyard Chickens

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