Focus on necrotic enteritis in commercial layers during hot weather

Focus on necrotic enteritis in commercial layers during hot weathers

Necrotic enteritis is one of the most serious digestive diseases in laying hens

Necrotic enteritis, caused by Clostridium perfringens, has been reported worldwide. Main clinical signs are a sudden increase in mortality, depression and diarrhea.


The disease can break out in hens of all ages, but it is most commonly found in pullets of 40-90 days of age and near the period of the beginning of egg laying or during the laying peak.

The presence of coccidia in intestine, feed changes and dysbacteriosis induce the outbreak of necrotic enteritis The disease can occur all the year round, but it is much more frequently found in periods of high temperatures and moisture.

Clinical signs

The sick birds show depression, ruffled feathers, closed eyes, lameness or paralysis and dark colored diarrhea. There are also problems of eggshell quality and a drop in laying rate.

Focus on necrotic enteritis in commercial layers during hot weathers

Affected flocks show higher mortality, eggshell quality problems and a drop in laying rate. Dead animals are found every day in the farm, with signs of lameness, paralysis, dehydration, and watery, dark, feces.

Focus on necrotic enteritis in commercial layers during hot weather

Brownish watery diarrhea

Post-mortem lesions

  • Small intestine (usually middle to distal) thickened and distended.
  • Intestinal mucosa shows diphtheritic membrane.
  • Intestinal contents may be dark brown with necrotic material.
  • Reflux of bile-stained liquid in the crop if upper small intestine is affected.
  • Affected birds tend to be dehydrated and to undergo rapid putrefaction.

 Focus on necrotic enteritis in commercial layers during hot weathers

Left, appearance of the small intestine, with bleeding, inflammation and mucosa showing a linear pattern, like the bark of a tree. Right, severe case with dark intestines, swelling and ballooning. 


A presumptive diagnosis can be made based on flock history and gross lesions. Confirmation is on the observation of abundant rods in smears from affected tissues and a good response to specific medication, usually in less than 48 hours.

Treatment and Prevention

Penicillins (e.g.phenoxymethyl penicillin, amoxycillin), in drinking water, or bacitracin in feed (e.g. 100 ppm) can be used to treat the disease.

It is often impossible to effectively use antibiotics since the disease progresses very fast and the toxins involved produce irreversible intestinal damage. It is most often easier to prevent necrotic enteritis rather than treat it.

There is another concern that is many of the effective antibiotics leave residues in eggs so there is a withdrawal period and eggs can not be sold during this interval.

Use of plant extracts for prevention of necrotic enteritis

Products based on plant extracts with microbiocide and prebiotic properties help to restore or maintain gut heath and the balance of intestinal flora, avoiding the proliferation of Clostridium perfringens. Administration should begin before the pullets are transferred to the laying farm and given during the production peak.

Products of choice

GrowthPlus©, premix powder for poultry, rabbits and aquaculture, is a combination of phyto-active ingredients, organic acids and mycotoxins binders. Its carefully studied composition makes it the ideal product to provide beneficial plant ingredients through feed and to avoid problems caused by mycotoxicosis.

PlusProtect Digestive© is a liquid cocktail of phyto-active ingredients, intended for all species and ages, is designed to easily administer beneficial compounds through drinking water in cases of immediate need, or when feed intake is low because there are diseases that reduce consumption.

Charles Qiang YU, veterinarian, Technical Manager for Poultry


For more information on this topic and on our products, do not hesitate to contact us through

Pictures: Pathology pictures, by Charles Qiang Yu. Hen, found here. Clostridium, found here. 

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Posted in: GrowthPlus Poultry, PlusProtect Digestive Poultry, Poultry

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