Hexamitiasis In Birds & Poultry | Causes, Life Cycle, Symptoms, Treatment

Hexamitiasis in Birds & Poultry | Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

Hexamitiasis is one of the major diseases affecting the health of reared game birds, including pheasants, partridges, turkeys, and others.

It is also a major reason why these bird species are experiencing higher mortality during their release and rearing period.

To help you better understand the disease, below is the complete guide about hexamitiasis in birds.

What is Hexamitiasis in birds?

Hexamita is a parasitic infection of birds, especially pheasants, turkeys, partridges, peafowl, quail, and other related game and poultry birds.

It is a small intestinal disease that causes irritation and inflammation in the intestine, commonly referred to as enteritis.

It’s a slowly progressing infection that may not show any clinical signs. The disease majorly affects the young birds varying from the age of one to nine weeks.

Related Read: How to Treat Newcastle Disease Naturally in Birds | Causes, Symptoms & Consequences

What causes Hexamita?

Hexamitiasis is caused by the protozoan parasite named Hexamita meleagridis. It’s a spindle-shaped parasite of an average size of 8 × 3 mcm, having two anterolateral, two posterior, and four anterior flagella.

The parasite gets transmitted by ingestion of contaminated fomites, feces, water, and other carriers. The transmission may also occur between interspecies.

Also, one of the major carriers of this parasite is the recovering birds that shed parasites in their feces.

Hexamita, also called Spironucleosis, is usually found in the caecum and small intestine of the affected birds generally during the release and rearing phase of the birds’ production.

These parasites are highly active and appear to gain energy by utilizing glucose, causing starvation in birds.

Related Read: Aspergillosis In Birds: Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Diagnosis & Prevention

How does hexamitiasis impact poultry?

Hexamitiasis may severely impact the young flock of birds by causing depression, diarrhea, listlessness, emaciation, morbidity, and even high mortality in birds.

If the disease advances, it can even cause anorexia, nephromegaly, and renal failure.

When the parasite enters the body of the bird, it starts multiplying in the intestinal tracts through longitudinal binary fission. This results in severe intestinal damage in the bird.

As it directly affects the health of the birds, the poultry farms face severe challenges in preventing the transmission of parasites and saving their birds’ lives.

The disease impacts the immune system of the birds and thus, makes them even more vulnerable to other concurrent infections caused by intestinal pathogens such as cryptosporidium, rotavirus, E Salmonella, etc.

Hexamitiasis symptoms in birds:

The symptoms of Hexamitiasis are very similar to the diseases caused by other pathogens, thus, it’s quite easy to get confused.

This makes it difficult to diagnose the disease under manageable conditions.

However, the symptoms that appear in hexamitiasis are listed below.

  • Watery and frothy diarrhoea that may be of yellow colour after the disease reaches its prominent stage
  • Rapid weight loss despite providing a good amount of food to the bird
  • Nervousness in birds during the initial stage of the disease
  • Terminal Coma or convulsions in birds
  • Breast bones become prominent
  • Dullness
  • Inappetance
  • Depression

The post-mortem lesions found in affected birds include:

  • Dehydration
  • Inflamed intestine
  • Bulbous dilations of the intestine filled with excessive gas and mucus
  • Catarrhal enteritis with lesions in rectum and ileum
  • Congested Caesal tonsils

Diagnosis of Hexamitiasis:

The disease can be diagnosed by microscopic identification of the parasite in the fresh intestinal contents or cloacal samples.

The diagnosis depends on the detection of flagellates by direct microscopic examination of the contents of the jejunal and duodenal mucosa.

You can recognize the organism by its linear motion when you see it through a microscope by keeping the optimal magnification around 200 to 400x.

To differentiate the parasite from the other organisms causing similar signs, use the diagnostic tools.

With severe infestation, it becomes easy to demonstrate the Hexamita in a cloacal swab from a bird who is still alive. If the bird died some time ago then it is possible that the parasite may die too within the bird.  

Prevention and Treatment:

Below are some of the ways to prevent or control hexamitiasis in birds, especially poultry.

  • Single-species and same-aged flocks should be raised in farms. It’s better to raise breeders and young ones separately under different attendants.
  • Keep the farms free from any contamination by ensuring proper sanitation and cleanliness. If a flock is affected by the parasite, it is necessary to remove the litter and disinfect the farm with heat before the placement of another flock.
  • Ensure hygienic and adequate feed and water resources to the flock. Any differences in ratio should gradually take place. Also, it is necessary to maintain the litter quality to the highest standards.
  • Take care of regulating the temperature such that no bird feels chilled at any time. The weather conditions should be considered before allowing birds to access the night shelters and run.
  • Prevent the occurrence of wet conditions by using proper guttering, drinkers, and well drainage.
  • Identify the signs of any illness or morbidity early. Be proactive and even work with your vet to ensure the good health of your flock.

There is neither effective nor revolutionary treatment nor any vaccine for hexamitiasis.

However, some of the pharmaceutical products like chlortetracycline or oxytetracycline may show some good results in controlling secondary infections in birds.

The disease was controlled by the use of in-feed dimetridazole but at present, it is prohibited to administer to gamebirds. But the administration of electrolytes, such as solute, can be a way of treating hexamitiasis.

The use of glucose with the electrolytes can also be effective by providing the birds with some essential nutrients, especially when the intake of feed and absorption from the gut is quite low due to the damages present inside the birds’ bodies.

Make sure to use antibiotics only after a proper diagnosis of the disease and prescription by an experienced avian veterinary surgeon.

How do you treat Hexamitiasis in pigeons?

The hexamitiasis in pigeons can be treated successfully with the administration of metronidazole or ronidazole for a week.

Dimetridazole can also be effective but it is possible that pigeons having polyuria may intake extremely high doses of the product, causing acute toxicity.

If the severity of the case increases, the use of antimicrobials along with the 5-nitro-imidazoles can be recommended to control secondary bacterial invasion.

You can administer trimethoprim or enrofloxacin for this purpose. 

Related Read: How To Set Up An Aviary? What Does It Cost To Maintain? ( Complete Guide )


Hexamitiasis is an infectious and contagious disease found in birds that is caused by a protozoan parasite Hexamita milieagridis.

The disease is commonly spread in poultry farms where improper sanitation and rearing of mixed breeds occur.

Controlling the disease can be possible but there is still no absolute effective treatment.

So, following prevention guidelines is the only way to keep your flock away from hexamitiasis.