The Most Common Infections Disease Encountered in Pigeons by Racing Pigeon Laboratory Testing

The most common infections disease encountered by Racing Pigeon Laboratory Testing in Racing pigeons are:

Adenovirus, Candida, Canker, Chlamydia, Coccidiosis, Paramyxovirus, Paratyphoid and Worms.

Adenovirus is highly contagious. Infection with adenovirus makes pigeons vulnerable to other opportunistic infections. This is particularly so in young birds from 3-4 months in age, where infection with bacteria E. coli can occur.

Symptoms of adenovirus infection: 
Decreased appetite
Clear watery droppings with little solid faecal matter
Rapid loss of weight.
Death can occur in a matter of days.

Laboratory Testing. (4-day test dropping result)

The virus is shed in the bird droppings. We can test a faecal sample for adenovirus using extremely sensitive molecular tests (PCR).


Aspergillosis is an infectious fungal disease effecting the respiratory tract, but all organs can be involved.  Impaired immunity from stress or other diseases and the inhalation of large numbers of fungal spores are important causative agents.


May be nonspecific.

Laboratory Testing

Results of haematological or biochemical tests should be considered indicative rather than diagnostic. Isolation of the fungus from culture alone does not confirm infection, as aspergillus is ubiquitous and negative culture does not rule it out.

Samples of droppings or loft environmental swabs can be tested for aspergillus culture.


Candida infection can occur when pigeons are overmedicated. The indiscriminative use of antibiotics can destroy healthy intestinal bacteria allowing yeasts (Candida) infect the gut and crop.


No desire to fly
Inferior performance in the races.

Laboratory Testing

Candida can be grown from swabs and droppings.

CANKER (Trichomoniasis)

Canker is caused by Trichomonas gallinae. Trichomonas is a flagellate single celled protozoan. Avirulent forms of the organism are found in nature and can circulate in bird populations. It can colonise the mucous membrane and crop of the birds. In infection a yellow cheese like substance can be seen in the mouth. However up to 90% is internal. It can break out at any age, also in youngsters still in the nest. It is highly infectious and can cause significant lack of performance.

Loss of appetite
Problem digesting

Laboratory Testing (6 day dropping result)

Trichomonas is a microscopic organism that is shed in the droppings. We will examine droppings and give a level of infection with this protozoon.

CHLAMYDIA (Ornithosis)

Ornithosis is caused by Chlamydia psittaci. It is also known as psittacosis. The bacteria are discharged in the lachrymal (tear) fluid, droppings, beak and throat mucus and the crop milk. The infected birds by ornithosis become the carriers & discharge the pathogen. The birds contract the disease by breathing in dust having the pathogen, by ingesting contaminated feed or water & by billing or feeding their young. 
The infection may move to the upper respiratory tract. A milky yellow liquid may form in the nostrils and when it dries out can cause obstruction.  The inflammation can produce itching and some pain, which the pigeon will try to scratch. 

The symptoms occur such as low appetite, ruffled appearance, eye or nose discharge, and diarrhea. Loss of desire to fly, loss of racing pigeons in the races and poor results, both with old and young. The acute ornithosis can occur in young pigeons from wheezing noises, conjunctivitis in one or both eyes and diarrhoea. They may exhibit signs of shortness of breath.

The chronic ornithosis is more often developed in adult birds, which, however, show few or no symptoms of the infection.

  1. Lack of condition
  2. Nasal secretions
  3. Decreased desire to fly
  4. Scratching the head and beak
  5. Swollen eye lids and wet eyes.
  6. Sneezing, rattling and coughing
  7. Discoloured wattles
  8. Slime in the throat

Laboratory Testing. (4 day dropping result)

CHLAMYDIAtesting is carried out using sensitive PCR testing of faecal sample from birds. This gives a quantified result. A post treatment test is recommended to ensure levels have dropped.


Coccidiosis can be caused by unsanitary conditions in the loft and by pigeons pecking on the ground. They are common pathogenic parasites in pigeons, most seen in young pigeons and only rarely in adult birds. The reported prevalence of infection is 5.1%-71.9%, and mortality in young birds varies from 5% to 70%, with most deaths occurring in the third and fourth month of life.


  1. Loss of weight.
  2. Slimy dark green droppings
  3. Lethargic (Lack of energy)
  4. Poor flying
  5. Thirsty

Laboratory Testing (2-day result)

Microscopic examination of faecal material will give an egg count. This quantified result (egg count) will give you the extent of the infestation. This ensures targeted treatment.


Paramyxovirus is very contagious, so it is common for most of the birds sharing a loft to display clinical signs at the same time. To prevent Paramyxovirus all birds should be vaccinated at least once a year. Young birds should be vaccinated at 4 to 8 weeks of age, but no later than 4 weeks before the young bird race season. Re-vaccinate all birds 4 weeks before the breeding season. Once a pigeon has Paramyxovirus, there is little that will help, vaccinating at this point will not be sufficient. Birds will always remain carriers.


  1. Loss of weight
  2. Watery green slimy droppings.
  3. Trembling wings and twisting of neck and head
  4. Partial paralysis of wings and legs with birds
  5. Falling over on landing.

Laboratory Testing. (4day dropping result)

Testing for this virus is carried out on faecal samples.

PARATHYPHOID (Salmonella) 

Paratyphoid is caused by Salmonella and can be caused by un-sanitary conditions and the contamination of feed by rodents. It also can occur when introducing new pigeon into the loft, without checking first if they are healthy. Before putting new pigeons into the loft, isolate and observe them for 5 days and put them on a preventive medication.

Symptoms of Paratyphoid: 

  1. Loss of condition and weight.
  2. Green slimy droppings.
  3. Swelling of the leg and wing joint
  4. Limping
  5. Infertile Eggs.
  6. Twisted neck (seldom)
  7. One eye blindness (seldom)

Laboratory Testing. (5-day test dropping result)

Faecal samples are cultured for salmonella bacteria. Since it is shed intermittently by the birds five separate samples over five days are required. Treatment in advance of testing may give false negative results. If salmonella infection is suspected a sample should be sent immediately for testing and prior to treatment.

WORMS (Thread, Round & Tape Worms)

Worms are caused by un-sanitary loft conditions or the pigeons picking around on the ground. They will maintain appetite, as the worms consume most nutrition in the pigeons 

Threadworms - Round worms - Tapeworms

Symptoms of Worms 

Loss of Condition
Loss of Weight
Bad dropping

Laboratory Testing. (2 day dropping result)

Microscopic examination of faecal material will give an egg count. This quantified result (egg count) will give you the extent of the infestation. This ensures targeted treatment.