Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you today.
Now your situation raises 2 concerns. First, we have to question whether we have a gapeworm infestation that is resistant to Safeguard or whether it is gapeworm infection that is causing their respiratory signs at all. Just to note, we can see gaping with any upper airway obstructing issue. Since more than one bird is affected, we can at least narrow this down to an infectious agent but further to gapeworm we'd have to be wary of Infectious Coryza, Pasteurella, Influenza, infectious bronchitis, Chlamydiosis, and mycoplasma (Mycoplasma gallisepticum). Furthermore, we also have to consider agents that would cause signs within the throat, like Trichomoniasis (canker) and to a lesser extent poxvirus.
With all this in mind and multiple birds gasping, we need to be proactive and aggressive in our care. To start, we can get an idea of whether this is gape worm just now by examining and swabbing the throat of some of these birds. If you are comfortable handling them (and they don't get distressed with this), then you can potentially narrow down a few of these differentials at home. First, you may consider having a peek down their throat to rule out you gapeworms. You may be lucky and see them or one of the other causative agents (ie the plaques of Pox or discharge of canker). If you can't see anything, since you can only look down a a bird's throat so far, then you can try the "Q-tip test". To do this, you need to place the bird in your lap, gently open the beak, and swab a cotton bud down the throat (twirl it as you do this). Twirl as you bring it back up, and if there is gapeworm, you may see thin, red strings on the cotton bud. This way you will know if this is the cause. But if you end up with a cheesy discharge then canker or pox would be higher on the differential list. And if there is any other discharge, the bacterial causes would be suspect. And once you have identified what is present, you will be in a better position to know if you are treating them appropriately.
Otherwise, further measures to pinpoint the causative agent and increase your treatment success, you do want to consider involving your local vet. Especially as gaping is a sign of advanced stages of disease and we could start losing birds if they are all doing so just now. Therefore, it would be ideal to consider having a few examined at this stage. The vet can listen to their lungs, examine the airway, and help you determine which of the above is present and thus allow you to treat this effectively. Furthermore together you can collect some respiratory secretions from this bird to be cultured. This will tell you what agents are present and what treatment will actually clear them . As well, you might consider having a fecal exam performed as well to tell you if the worms are present (as they shed eggs via stool) or any others compromising their collective immune systems. Though in regards ***** ***** analysis, I would note that if you are keen and have a microscope, you can chck for these at home. You can find a good Fecal Sample Evaluation Guide @ http://www.rvc.ac.uk/review/Parasitology/Faeces/Purpose.htm.
Furthermore, once you have samples for culture (which will tell you what drugs any pathogenic bacteria present are vulnerable to), you can consider a broad spectrum treatment to try and tackle as many of the bacterial causes as possible. There are a range of options that would include erythromycin, oxytetracycline, or fluoroquinolones (useful if Mycoplasma is diagnosed and can be used if you aren't consuming their eggs), macrolides. Other options may be tilmicosin, tylosin, or spiramycin. And if we wanted to use an alternative wormer for gapeworms, you could use levamisole, as well as a macrocyclic lactone (e.g. ivermectin).
Otherwise, just from a supportive care point of view, if the birds sound congested then they may benefit from steam treating. This can be achieved for the group by using a nebulizer/humidifier in a small room. This can just help reduce some of those airway clogging secretions and help her to breathe easier.
Overall, there are a range of agents that can be to blame for the signs you are seeing with your flock. And if they are gasping and gaping despite worming, we have to be wary of other resistant gapeworm and other issues causing respiratory inflammation and obstruction. Therefore, we'd want to act quick, be proactive and start taking diagnostic steps to determine which is present. If you narrow down the differentials but cannot identify a cause (ie if its one of those more subtle ones or is lurking in the lungs), then it would be ideal to follow up with your vet. Especially because your vet will help you treat but also identify the agent present. And that will ensure you are treating as effectively and economically as possible and giving your flock the best chance of recovering.
Just in case you do need an avian vet and do not have one already, you can check where you can find one at near you at AAV (http://www.aav.org/search/), Avian web(http://www.beautyofbirds.com/recommendedvets.htm) or Birdsnway(http://www.birdsnways.com/birds/vets.htm).
Please take care,
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. **Please rate my service afterwards, as this is the only way I am credited for helping you today. Thank you! : )