Skin lesions of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are a common cause of concern to wildlife biologists and the general public and are a frequent reason for submission to diagnostic laboratories. The purpose of this retrospective study is to evaluate the causes, occurrence, and epidemiologic patterns of skin lesions in Wild Turkeys in the eastern US. Skin lesions were diagnosed in 30% (n=199) of the 660 Wild Turkey samples submitted to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study diagnostic service from 1975 to 2013. Avian pox was the most frequent cause of skin lesions (66%, n=131), followed by bacterial dermatitis (22%, n=44), ectoparasitism-related dermatitis (3%, n=6), fungal dermatitis (2.5%, n=5), and neoplasia (2.0%, n=4). Although the gross appearance of skin lesions is often insufficient to determine the etiology, the anatomic distribution of lesions and temporal occurrence of certain diseases may offer insights into likely causes. Cases with lesions involving or restricted to the head and neck were much more likely to be caused by avian pox than other etiologies. Similarly, lesions restricted to the feet were more likely to be of bacterial origin. Skin lesions observed in the fall and winter were more likely to be caused by avian pox, whereas bacterial dermatitis was more frequently observed in the spring and summer. This retrospective study provides a summary of the causes of skin lesions in Wild Turkeys and serves as a useful reference to diagnosticians and biologists when evaluating Wild Turkeys with skin lesions.
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Vol. 52 • No. 3