(Dr. Ben Schlegel, DVM MAHM, & Dr. Maurice W. Smith, DVM PhD ACPV)

It is critical that turkey producers continue to work hard to maintain and enhance consumer confidence in turkey as a nutritious and convenient food choice, especially amongst millennials.  To maintain consumer trust, turkey producers must be Stewards of bird welfare!  In addition to providing a suitable environment (optimal ventilation, hygiene, feed and water) for turkeys, and humanely euthanizing compromised birds, it is important to appreciate that prompt treatment of sick birds is a part of bird welfare.  Just as society would not prevent the use of antibiotics to treat sick people, so too the therapeutic use of antibiotics in birds should not be delayed when they are sick.  This understanding is particularly relevant today with marketing programs that feature reduced use of medications, e.g. Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA); No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) and Organic programs.  Brand advancement must never be at the expense of bird suffering brought on by not treating birds that need to be treated.


What is my “Threshold” when I am aware that something might be amiss with my flock and I need to investigate? Examples of “Threshold” may be for 10,000 birds, over 8 birds a day for Heavy Toms, 6 birds a day for turkey broilers?  Note: Combined culling and mortality.  Each producer will set their own “Threshold” and it is important that all personnel know and understand the significance of the “Threshold”.

Action Plan

Have an Action Plan as to how to obtain a diagnosis and once obtained, Treatment Protocols that are developed with your veterinarian within a Veterinarian: Client: Patient: Relationship (VPCR). Note: Protocols will not only address correct treatment options of medication to treat a specific disease but include necessary biosecurity actions, supportive management steps and preventive strategies for the next or adjoining flocks.

Right Drug for the Right Bug for Right Time at Right Dosage

“Right Drug for the Right Bug for Right Time at Right Dosage”. This will result from a partnership within the VCPR.  Although certain medications for treatment are delivered via feed, water medication is generally preferred because sick birds eat less yet will drink.  Examples of water soluble medications are listed below.  Note: It is important to know that these medications may presently be purchased from outlets without a prescription.  In 2018 all products containing a Medically Important Antimicrobial will only be available for purchase with a valid Veterinary Prescription.  This will be an outcome of Health Canada’s Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada: A Framework for Action.

Category II and III Water Soluble Antimicrobials Approved for Treatment of Turkeys

  • Penicillin-Potassium Penicillin; Pot-Pen – “As an aid in prevention/treatment of infections due to penicillin susceptible organisms such as Erysipelothrix insidiosa”.

  • Neomycin – “As an aid in the treatment of bluecomb or transmissible enteritis in turkeys, bacterial enteritis, enteritis associated with chronic respiratory disease(CRD) and other neomycin sensitive infections in chickens and turkeys.

  • Tylosin – “As an aid in the treatment or for the prevention of infectious synovitis”.

  • Tetracyclines (Category III) – Tetracycline, oxytetracycline)” As an aid in the treatment of infections caused by or associated with micro-organisms sensitive to oxytetracycline HCL.  Turkeys-CRD, bluecomb, cholera, enteritis and hexamitiasis.

  • Neomycin + Tetracyclines (Category II) – “As an aid in the treatment of infectious diseases caused by microorganisms sensitive to tetracycline and neomycin such as chronic respiratory disease (CRD),blue-comb, synovitis and enteritis”.

  • Sulfaquinoxaline (Category III) – “For the prevention and treatment of Caecal and Intestinal coccidiosis in chickens and turkeys; and as an aid in controlling mortality in acute fowl cholera and fowl typhoid of chickens and turkeys”.

NOTE: These and other antimicrobials may be prescribed “Off-Label” –Extra-Label-Drug-Use.


Prompt and accurate treatment of disease in turkey flocks is an essential component of bird welfare and is the consumer’s expectation.  Each operation with turkeys needs to have protocols listing what level of daily culling/mortality will trigger an investigation; supportive supplementation that may be provided; and /or the need for treatment.  A Veterinarian: Client: Patient: Relationship is essential.