(SynGamus Trachea)

Gapeworm is an internal parasite that attaches itself to the trachea of poultry. Roundworms are caused when the bird ingests eggs found in droppings that contain gapeworm eggs or earthworms that contain gapeworm larvae.  When a bird appears to be yawning and breathes with their mouth open, these are common symptoms of gapeworm.  In extreme cases you may also hear a grunting sound as the worms restrict breathing.  Severe gapeworm infestation can cause suffocation and death.  Gapeworms are rarely a problem in confined poultry, but is far more common in free range flocks due to the availability of earthworms. 


Who:  All birds including:

  • Pheasants (most common)
  • Chickens (seldom)
  • Turkeys (occasionally)
  • Game Birds 
  • Pigeons
  • Ducks 
  • Geese

Where:  Worldwide. 

When:  Young birds are more susceptible, especially when raised on infected soil.   Adult birds can also be affected. 

Why:  Ingestion of viable eggs which can be found in contaminated droppings (fecal matter) or ingestion of the larva found in earthworms or less commonly, snails or slugs.


  • Consumption of viable gapeworm eggs in droppings.
  • Consumption of worms coughed up by an infected bird.   


  • Gapeworms are red worms that are round and attach to the trachea.  As the number of gapeworms increase, difficulty in breathing becomes more noticeable. 
  • Once ingested, the gapeworms hatch in the intestines then move via the bloodstream to the lungs.   From there they travel to the trachea where they attach and begin to reproduce.  
  • Due to their presence in the trachea, many birds die from suffocation.  This is especially true of young birds.     
  • Adult gapeworms produce eggs which are swallowed by the bird, passed through the bird, and consumed by intermediate hosts such as earthworms.   

            Common Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Birds look to be yawning
  • Choking
  • Shaking of the head
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

              Other  Symptoms:

  • Grunting
  • Head tilted back to open airway
  • Death by suffocation


Medicinal Treatments -  Need to be repeated according to label instructions to account for the hatching cycle of the eggs: 

  • Wazine-17 (Piperazine)   (requires a withdrawal period of 14 days) - 1 oz/gallon of water - For best results, remove non-medicated water in the evening and replace with medicated water to assure all birds get sufficient treatment.  All unused medicated water should be removed at the end of the day.  Needs repeated at least once after 3 weeks. It may be advisable to repeat this course of treatment 2x yearly as preventative maintenance.   Follow this link for very detailed instructions for the use of Wazine-17:
  • Ivermectin (Ivomec is a brand name for the same product) Use only under the supervision of an avian veterinarian.  These are not approved for use in food producing  animals,  however a veterinarian may prescribe it at their discretion.   (See link at the bottom of the page.)   

            Note:  Always follow the label instructions and/or your veterinarian's recommendations.  


Vaccine:  No

  • With pheasants, do not raise successive flocks in the same pen year-after- year.  Alternate pens each year; one-year on, one-year off.  
  • Till the pens each year.  
  • Treat the pens to eliminate the hosts.  


Also Known As: 

  • Gapes
  • Red-Worm
  • Forked-Worm

Affects: Trachea

Transmission to people:  None known


Return to Home Page

A righteous man cares about his animal's health...

Proverbs 12:10a