Glossary of common wildlife health terms

Airsacculitis

inflammation or infection of the air sacs which are thin walled structures connected to the lungs of birds. They primarily provide a reservoir of fresh air and are an adaptation for flight. Disease is usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Aspergillosis

an infection caused by the environmental fungus Aspergillus. It primarily causes disease in the respiratory tract of birds (particularly water birds and raptors) when they are under stress.

Asphyxiation

death due to inability to get oxygen, usually due to mechanical obstruction (choking, strangulation)

Atherosclerosis

disease of blood vessels due to an accumulation of fatty plaques. Cause of heart disease in some birds; in wildlife reported in raptors.

Avian Influenza

disease caused by influenza A virus. Carried in most cases asymptomatically by wild waterfowl, some strains may have severe effect on domestic fowl such as turkeys and chickens. In rare cases may cross over to humans .

Baylisascaris

a type of parasitic worm found in the intestines of mammals. In wildlife, B. Procyonis (Raccoon Roundworm) is shed in the feces of raccoons. Larvae can infect a number of other wildlife species as well as humans where they can migrate through the eye and nervous system and cause permanent damage.

Bordetella

bacteria found in many species of animals and often responsible for respiratory tract infections. Seen in respiratory disease outbreaks in grey squirrels .

Botulism

illness caused by exposure to toxins produced by different strains (Types A-G) of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Transmission is through ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacteria or toxin and results in weakness and progressive paralysis, depending on the dose. Type E botulism typically occurs on the Great Lakes in the fall, and affects primarily loons and waterfowl that ingest contaminated fish (round gobies). Type C botulism occurs in late summer, typically in small freshwater ponds, and affects mostly waterfowl .

Bronchopneumonia

an inflammation of the lungs and bronchi (tubular airways through the lungs) usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Cerebral Sarcoma

a type of tumor in the brain.

Cestode

general term for tapeworm parasites, many species.

Choriomeningitis

inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and the specialized blood vessels known as the choroid; usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Chytridiomycosis

amphibian disease caused by fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) or B. salamadrivorans (Bsal). Found world-wide, it infects the skin surface of amphibians, causing skin thickening, damage and sometimes death. Bd primarily affects frogs and Bsal is newly discovered in salamanders.

Circovirus

a virus that most commonly infects pigeons and causes immune suppression, making them susceptible to other diseases.

Clostridium

a type of anaerobic bacteria that can produce a variety of infections in wildlife. Some types are associated with intestinal or wound infections. Others produce potent nerve toxins (botulinum, tetanus).

Coccidia

general term for a type of parasite (protozoa) that is usually found in the intestinal tract of multiple species. Can be a cause of diarrhea if the numbers are high. Most types are species specific.

Coelomitis

inflammation of the lining of the body cavity (coelom) in birds, reptiles and amphibians. Usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus. In females, can be due to abnormal ovulation of an egg into the body cavity (yolk peritonitis).

Cotylurus

a parasitic fluke found in the intestines of birds.

Cryptococcus

a genus of fungus that can cause disease in animals. Cryptococcus neoformans can be found growing in the droppings of birds. It can cause rare but serious infections of the nervous system in humans.

Demodex

a type of parasitic mites that is common in the hair follicles of many species of mammals, including humans. Usually not a cause of skin disease unless severe.

Dermatitis

inflammation of the skin, typically from bacteria, fungus or parasites (i.e. mange mites)

Dermatopathy

general term used to describe an abnormality of the skin when the cause is unknown

Dermatophilus

bacteria that causes skin infections. Associated with moist conditions (also called “Rain Rot”), it causes hair loss usually over the face and back. Can be transmitted to people, although human infections are uncommon 

Distemper

usually refers to canine distemper virus which causes disease in domestic dogs including discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, respiratory distress and seizures. In wildlife it is frequently seen in skunks, grey foxes and raccoons in the spring and fall, and there have been outbreaks in large exotic cats.

Dystocia

abnormal or obstructed birth, resulting in the retention of the fetus in the uterus

Echinococcus

a parasitic tapeworm carried by canids such as coyotes; can form cysts in the liver, spleen, kidneys and lungs of other accidental hosts including deer and humans. Transmitted through feces.

Egg Yolk Peritonitis

inflammation of the body cavity in female birds due to the abnormal release of an egg.

Encephalitis

inflammation of the brain, usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Enteritis

inflammation of the intestinal track, usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)

a viral disease of deer that can cross into domestic cattle. Transmitted by biting midges (Culicoides) during the late summer and early fall. The disease is clinically similar to serious diseases of livestock known as Blue Tongue and Foot and Mouth Disease. Infected deer develop ulcers in the mouth and around the hooves, and may have extensive hemorrhages throughout the muscle and internal organs. In the northern US, mass mortalities in deer are typical during an outbreak.

Fascioloides magna

Giant liver fluke (deer fluke) – a parasite frequently found in the liver of white-tailed deer. May resemble a leech. Can be fatal to moose.

Fibropapilloma

a tumor of the skin, usually caused by a virus. Common in deer. Animals may have multiple growths. May resolve on their own. Usually benign, although some deer may develop large growths that can interfere with mobility or sight or become ulcerated and infected.

Gastritis

inflammation of the lining of the stomach, usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or parasite.

Geomyces

the older name for the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome in bats. It has been renamed Pseudogymnoascus destructans. It causes a characteristic white fungal lesion on the muzzle and wings of bats and has a high mortality rate in some species (Little Brown Bats).

Heartworm

a parasitic worm transmitted by mosquitos. Most commonly infects canids but may also affect felids and weasels. Adult worms reside in the heart and can cause damage to the heart valves and lungs.

Hemopericardium

blood in the space between the heart and the overlying membrane (pericardium).

Hepatitis

inflammation of the liver, usually caused by infection with a virus, parasite or bacteria.

Herpesvirus

a family of viruses that infect many species of animals. Infection is life long, and animals may be mostly asymptomatic but shed intermittently. When strains cross species lines disease is often more severe. Raptors can be infected with a strain that crosses from wild pigeons and causes widespread lesions in internal organs and death. In turtles and tortoises, may be a cause of respiratory disease.

Hydrocephalus

an excess accumulation of fluid within the normal spaces (ventricles) of the brain. Due to the confined space, it causes progressive atrophy of the brain. In wildlife, occurs due to a birth defect in red foxes. The skull has a domed appearance and the disease is typically fatal within a short time .

Infectious Coryza

upper respiratory infection of birds (usually poultry and game birds) caused by the bacteria Avibacterium paragallinarum. Marked by sneezing and profuse secretions of watery mucus.

Ingluvitis

Inflammation of the crop of a bird, which is a pouch in the neck that connects with the esophagus and is used to hold food reserves. Usually caused by a bacterial or yeast infection

Lead toxicity

disease caused by exposure to environmental lead, usually through ingestion. Sources may include paint, petroleum products or spent lead ammunition. Seen most often in birds, especially waterfowl and raptors. Most often affects the nervous system and intestinal tract. Blood or dry weight liver levels in excess of 20 ppm are considered toxic in most species.

Leucocytozoan

a blood parasite of birds transmitted by the ‘black fly’ Simulium spp. Common in raptors, not believed to be a cause of disease unless infection burden is heavy and animal is stressed.

Leukemia

cancer of the bone marrow that causes excessive production of white blood cells and reduces production of red cells and platelets

Lice

parasitic insect found in the hair or fur of animals. When heavy can cause hair loss and skin damage. Usually species specific and only live on the animal, not in the environment.

Lung Worm

general term for a number of parasitic worms that invade the lungs. Signs include chronic cough and respiratory distress.

Lymphoma

common cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes; can affect multiple organs including the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and intestines.

Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus (LPDV)

a retrovirus first identified in the US in 2009 in wild turkeys. Possibly associated with tumor like skin lesions. In domestic turkeys may cause internal tumors in the liver and spleen in young birds. Widespread in wild turkeys in NY, but not clearly associated with disease or mortality  .

Meningitis

an inflammation of the meninges, the thin membrane which covers the brain and the spinal cord; usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria, parasite or fungus.

Mercury

environmental toxin found in freshwater that causes damage to the nervous system and interferes with reproduction. Common cause of death in loons and other fish eating birds. In poisoned species, concentrations >6 mg/kg (blood), 10 mg/kg (kidney), 0.5 mg/kg (brain), and 4 mg/kg (feed, dry weight) are consistent with a diagnosis of mercury poisoning.

Metabolic Bone Disease

a defect in bone development due to abnormal dietary intake or hormonal regulation of calcium and phosphate. Often results in soft and malformed bones and fractures. Most common in growing animals.

Metritis

inflammation of the uterus, usually bacterial. Often follows complications from breeding, pregnancy or birth.

Mites

any arthropod in the order Acarina except ticks. Often microscopic. Usually a cause of ear and skin diseases (mange). Primarily reside on the host animal, although some species can survive in the environment for short periods depending on the weather conditions . Some are transmissible to humans although infections are limited

Myocarditis

Inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Necrotizing bronchopneumonia

a severe form of a bacterial lung infection where the lung tissue is heavily damaged and dies (necrosis). 

Nematode

general term for roundworms in the class Nematoda. Multiple species of worms cause a variety of diseases in many species of animals.

Nephropathy

general term used to describe an abnormality of the kidney when the cause is unknown

Neuroblastoma

type of tumor of the adrenal gland or nervous system.

Ophidiomyces

a genus of fungus (specifically Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola) associated with Snake Fungal Disease in the United States. It infects the skin of snakes particularly Timber Rattlesnakes. Lesions are common on the face but can be anywhere on the body. May be progressive and fatal. Other species affected in New York include garter snakes and milk snakes.

Organochlorines

a persistent environmental chemical that can accumulate in the fat of wild animals. Rapid weight loss can trigger clinical signs. Chemical analysis of brain, liver, kidney, fat, or stomach contents is necessary to confirm poisoning. Whole blood, serum, and urine from live animals may be analyzed to evaluate exposure. Identification and quantitation of organochlorine insecticides in samples are usually expensive. Most common in top predators such as birds of prey.

Osteomyelitis

inflammation of bone. Often caused by bacterial infection, it often results in bone and joint damage that remains permanent after the infection is cleared.

Osteopathy

general term used to describe an abnormality of bone when the cause is unknown.

Otitis Media

an advanced infection of the ear that affects the space internal to the eardrum. Usually bacterial or viral in origin

Paramyxovirus

A large class of viruses that includes distemper in dogs and measles in people. In birds it is the cause of Newcastle Disease in poultry and cormorants. Can be respiratory, intestinal or neurologic. A specific strain in pigeons is a common source of disease outbreaks in the wild and in homing pigeons.

Parelaphostrongylus tenuis

scientific name for the parasitic worm that is carried in the brain of white-tailed deer. Deer are typically unaffected but shed the eggs into the environment. In moose, elk, other deer and domestic ruminants that ingest the eggs the migrating worms cause damage in the spinal cord and brain. “Brain worm” is a common cause of mortality in moose where they overlap with white tailed deer range.

Parvovirus

general term for a type of virus that infects the intestinal lining resulting in sometimes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Common cause of disease in young raccoons in rehab settings.

Pasteurella

a genus of bacteria found in many wild and domestic animals and people. It can cause abscesses, respiratory or generalized infections (septicemia). May be associated with high mortality during outbreaks in waterfowl (Avian Cholera), deer, and antelope (“Hemorrhagic Septicemia ”).

Pericarditis

inflammation of the two layers of thin, sac-like membranes that surround the heart (the pericardium), usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria or fungus.

Peritonitis

inflammation of the membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen (the peritoneum) and covers all of its internal organs. Usually caused by infection with a virus, parasite, bacteria or fungus.

Pesticide

any of a number of organophosphate or carbamate chemicals that are used for environmental pest control but are a nervous system toxin in many species. Exposed animals exhibit tremors, constricted pupils, seizures, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, and slow heart rates (bradycardia) and can progress to death. Some compounds have been used illegally to poison wildlife (Carbofuran ).

Phosphine

toxic gas released after ingestion of zinc phosphide, a chemical used to poison rodents. The gas, when inhaled, results in rapid fluid accumulation in the lungs. Vomiting, often hemorrhagic, is a common presenting sign. Breathing difficulty, imbalance, weakness, trembling, collapse, seizures, and death may result.

Pneumonia

inflammation of the lungs usually caused by infection with a virus, bacteria, parasite or fungus.

Pododermatitis

inflammation of the skin of the foot. “Foot rot” in hoofstock. Typically associated with wet environmental conditions and Fusobacterium or Treponema bacteria  infections.

Polyarthritis

inflammation of several joints at the same time, may be caused by bacteria or viruses

Polyserositis

general inflammation of the lining of multiple joints.

Poxvirus

virus associated with scabs on the skin of birds and squirrels. Different strains affect different species (“Crow Pox, “Turkey Pox”, “Squirrel Pox”). Usually mild and animals recover in a few weeks, although there are severe forms and some animals with scabs over the eyes may not survive due to starvation .

Proteus vulgaris

a widespread species of bacteria found in fecal matter, sewage, and soil. It is a common cause of infections of the urinary tract. It can also opportunistically cause pneumonia. The species has many “serovars” or strain types.

Pseudogymnoascus destructans

fungus responsible for the disease White Nose Syndrome in bats. It causes characteristic white fungal lesions on the muzzle and wings of bats and has a high mortality rate in some species.

Pyothorax

pus in the chest cavity, typically from a penetrating wound and subsequent bacterial infection

Ranavirus

a genus of virus in the family Iridoviridae that causes disease in amphibians, fish and reptiles. It has high mortality in tadpoles. Typically appears in summer as a mass mortality event in amphibians. May be seen in individual box turtles as a fatal respiratory infection causing swollen eyes and discharge from the eyes and nose.

Reovirus

Cause of respiratory and intestinal infection in a number of species including birds and cats. In New York associated with acute diarrhea and mortality in crows in winter roosts and diarrhea in fawns.

Rhinitis

inflammation of the nasal passageways, usually bacterial or viral

Rumen Acidosis

decreased pH (less than 5.5) in the rumen, one of 4 stomach chambers in deer. Causes decreased motility, ulceration and can progress to systemic shock and death. Usually due to over feeding or consumption of high energy grains (cracked corn).

Salmonella

a large group of gram negative bacteria that can cause disease in many species. In wildlife, associated with large mortality events in songbirds that frequent bird feeders in winter; transmissible to people and domestic animals .

Sarcocytis

a type of parasitic protozoa in the family Sarcocystidae. Adults typically replicate in the intestinal tract of the host and the infective form is shed into the feces. It may be found incidentally in the tissues of many species including deer. Known to infect the brain and cause inflammation in fishers.

Sarcoma

general term for cancer originating from bone, muscle, fat, nerves, cartilage, fibrous tissue or blood.

Sarcoptic Mange

skin disease caused by the acarid mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Self-trauma occurs due to the skin inflammation leading to hair loss and secondary infection with bacteria and yeast. Found commonly in red fox and possibly increasing in black bear. May be transmitted to people and domestic animals through direct contact with infected animals or the environment.

Septicemia

the presence of bacteria or their toxins in the bloodstream, popularly known as blood poisoning. Usually the end result of a progressive bacterial infection and often the cause of fatal complications.

Serratospiculum

a nematode parasite (worm) infecting the air sac of birds.

Sphaeridiotrema

a genus of small, parasitic flukes (worms). S. globulosus is found in the intestines of wild and domestic ducks and in swans causing severe ulceration, blood loss and death. Infection is through consumption of an infected invasive snail .

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

cancer of the skin or the lining of multiple organs including the mouth, digestive tract and urinary bladder.

Starlicide

a restricted use chemical toxin deployed for control of European starlings It is less toxic to other birds or to mammals such as humans and pets. Starlicide may kill nontarget species of birds that eat at feedlots and other places it is used. 

Stomatitis

inflammation of the lining of the mouth including cheeks, gums, tongue, lips, and the roof or floor of the mouth.

Strigea Falconis

an intestinal parasitic worm (fluke) of raptors

Syngamus

a genus of parasitic worms in the family Syngamidae. Infects the trachea of wild birds, particularly young songbirds and game birds. May cause significant irritation, coughing and possibly death from secondary infection and respiratory distress. “Gapeworm”

Tetanus

acute progressive muscle spasms caused by toxins produced by the bacteria Clostridium tetani. The bacteria are typically transmitted through a contaminated puncture wound.

Toxoplasmosis

a contagious disease of many species caused by the sporozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Domestic cats are the most common host species although bobcats and mountain lions may also shed the infective form in the feces. Infection in other species (including humans) can cause systemic illness and nervous system signs .

Tracheitis

Inflammation of the trachea, usually related to a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection.

Trematode

general name for a type of parasitic worm also known as a fluke.

Trichomonas

a protozoa parasite that is most commonly seen in wild birds. Infects and damages the oral cavity and crop of pigeons, mourning doves and raptors and occasionally the crop and nasal cavity of songbirds.

Typhlitis

inflammation of the cecum, a part of the large intestine. Usually due to a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection.

Tyzzers

an acute bacterial disease caused by Clostridium piliforme bacteria. The bacteria are ingested and then damage the liver, and the disease is usually fatal. Most commonly affected wild animals include rodents (muskrats) and cottontail rabbits.

Ulcerative Gastritis

multiple ulcers in the lining of the stomach

Vasculitis

inflammation of blood vessels. Typically due to bacterial or viral infection.

West Nile Virus (WNV)

mosquito borne virus which infects birds and can be transmitted from birds to horses and humans via a mosquito bite. Occurs in summer and fall in New York, typically causes neurologic signs. The most common species affected are raptors, crows and blue jays; many mammals and other birds may be infected but don’t necessarily display symptoms.

Yersinia pseudotuberculosis

a bacterial infection that causes small lesions in the spleen, liver and lymph nodes of the abdomen, sometimes fatal if widespread in the body. Reported in purple martins, beaver and other rodents. Similar appearance to tularemia and Tyzzers disease. Rare but possible transmission to humans.

Zoonosis
a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals