Take our vet's advise on these common racing pigeon disease to make the most of the health and care of your pigeon.
Our team strives to work in close contact with our clients in delivering results that can be seeing.Our experienced and professional team collaborates in offering the most effective laboratory diagnostic results for the health of the Pigeons. We encourage very strongly to never blind treat your birds as this will do more damage than good. We advise to have your birds tested .
Vet surgeons advice to start with:
Common Pigeon disease & treatments:
We conduct a full sensitivity test that ensures that the bacteria are actually sensitive to medicines precribed to treat the infection.
Resistance of some parasites to some of the more commonly used products has recently become prevalent. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to an increasing number of antibiotics. It is important to remember that resistance to antibiotics can make treatment of any further disease in the birds difficult. We therefore strongly recommend the testing of any sick bird/birds are treated with the appropriated medicines. Never,Never blind treat.
We recently conducted an extensive analysis report on over 30 commonly used tests. The reports showed that, on average, out of 15 different types of remedies that were tested to eradicate the disease, 50/80 % of the time, two thirds of the remedies were resistant . This is why it is so important to have a sensitivity test done.This will ensure that the correct diagnosis is made and proper treatment prescribed.
Below are listed some of the most common diseases to be found in pigeons, along with typical symptoms.
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Respiratory diseases are very common in pigeons and are the main cause for poor performance and pigeon loss during the racing season. The classic symptoms of respiratory infections include mucous in the throat, open beak, and heavy breathing, rasping or gurgling while breathing. Another symptom is a watery discharge from the eyes, sometimes associated with swelling in the eye area. Other symptoms include discharge from the nasal area, and occasionally air sac swelling or crop swelling as torn air sacs trap air under the skin.
As is usually the case with pigeons, other diseases can quickly manifest themselves when birds are in distress, so other symptoms can occur, such as loose greenish droppings and loss of weight. Most often the only noticeable difference in our birds will be their unwillingness to fly, or their complete failure in the racing events.
To prevent and control respiratory infections, maintain adequate ventilation, without drafts, in the loft. Keep dust and ammonia levels low, which means not allowing droppings to accumulate. Control dampness and overcrowding. It’s also wise to limit contact with wild birds, since tests have indicated in some areas that as much as 70% of the wild pigeon population is either carrying or is infected with a respiratory disease.
Typical infections include Chlamydia and Ornithosis
Chlamydia is a microorganism that is foundwithin the system of many pigeons all the time, It is the principal cause of respiratory infections in pigeons. There are many different strains of the organism and while lofts can have resident strains to which their birds may have developed immunity through constant exposure, contact with other birds (strays, races, new introductions) can bring in new strains. Stress within the loft can also cause dormant Chlamydia to flare up, Stress causes the organism to spread through the body and cause damage to a variety of organs including the respiratory system, liver, bowel and ovaries. The respiratory system is however the usual site The introduction of any other disease into the loft can also leave the bird vulnerable to a Chlamydia flare-up.
Ornithosis is a contagious disease originated by Chlamydia. The bacterium Chlamydia psittaci are discharged in the lachrymal fluid, droppings, beak and throat mucus and the crop milk. Birds infected 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.
You will see often this disease during the moulting season when the quantity of dust rises in the lofts due to feathering changes.
Over 65% of young birds have problems with the Ornithosis complex.
Symptoms of Ornithosis:
Prevention - The most important aspects in controlling respiratory infections are adequate ventilation without drafts, keeping dust and ammonia levels low (which means keeping droppings from gatherine) and controlling dampness and overcrowding. Contact with wild pigeons should be limited as nearly 70% of this population have been shown to be either infected or carriers. Always treat with effective drugs for the recommended length of time. Proper quarantining of new birds is also a must.
This disease is normally fatal and the treatment products can only be used as a preventative measure. It is recommended that all birds are 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 racing season.
This disease cannot be cured and it should be noted that birds affected with this disease will always be carriers
The Symptoms of Paramyxovirus are :
Salgen Vaccine . SALMONELLA /PARATHYPHOID (Salmonella) - (best spotted during the moulting season when the dropped feathers are accompanied by blood on the root side)
Parathyphoid is difficult to prevent given the nature of pigeon racing and showing where many birds from many lofts intermittently mix Pigeons infected with salmonella can display a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the age of the bird when first exposed to the bacterium. Very young birds, typically under 6 weeks, can develop ‘going light’ syndrome, caused by gastroenteritis. This causes weight loss due to loss of appetite and diarrohea. Mortality rates can be high. The bacterium in older pigeons can affect the joints which lead to swelling in the joints of the wings or legs. The membranes around the brain, or menges, can also become inflamed, leading to a loss of balance and head tilt.
Paratyphoid can be caused by un-sanitary conditions and the contamination of feed by rodents. It also can occur when introducing new pigeons into the loft, without checking first if they are healthy. Before putting new pigeon into the loft, isolate and observe them for 5 days and put them on a preventive medication.
If the disease occurs it is best to follow the following three-step plan:
Symptoms of Paratyphoid: -
Prevention - Loft hygiene is critical, because salmonella flagellates can live in the droppings for some time. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of lofts, feeders and drinkers is vital. Minimizing contact with rodents, roaches and wild birds, quarantining newly acquired birds, and maintaining an acid pH level below 4.0 are all helpful steps in keeping this disease under control. The vet recommends the use of Nolvasan disinfectant at one teaspoon per gallon of drinking water regularly to help maintain an acidic environment in the droppings.
Regular laboratory test for Salmonella is recommended.
Canker is the most common disease of the racing pigeons. It is caused by a microscopic single-celled organism (Trichomonas Columbae)which lives in the digestive tract of the pigeon, usually in the throat and crop but also in areas such as the bile duct.
The organism (trichomonad) needs intimate contact between birds to be spread and is usually transmitted by saliva or pigeon milk. The saliva contaminates the food and water. When the pigeon drinks, the organism is transferred from its beak and when another pigeon drinks from the same water, it also imbibes the trichomonads. Likewise, when a pigeon sorts through grain, each piece of grain contains a small amount of saliva. Adult birds ‘billing’ can transmit the organism, as do parents when feeding their nestlings.
Products for treatment: Prevention - Control stress, maintain regular feed and withering schedules, sanitize drinkers regularly, isolate and observe any newly acquired birds for several weeks, and administer an anti-canker drug on a regular basis throughout the year. Veterinary recommendations vary from once every three months to once a month. This will depend upon incidence and susceptibility in your own flock.
Worms are a serious primary parasite that weaken the bird and also increase vulnerability to other secondary diseases such as canker and respiratory infection. They can lead to a delay in laying, reduced growth rate, and delayed weaning and poor food conversion. Worms are common and must be controlled in both the breeding and racing flocks because they weaken the bird nutritionally. Although the correct balance of feeds may be fed and eaten, the bowel of a bird with worms is unable to absorb the nutrients into its system.. Both the racing and breeding pigeons with worms become susceptible to "Respiratory", Canker, Enteritis and especially fungal diseases. The racing bird cannot perform with worms and the breeding bird cannot rear babies successfully.
The racing pigeon with worms cannot race nor breed successfully. The three most common intestinal worms are roundworm, hairworm and tapeworm.
It should be remembered that the life cycle for many worms can be just 3-4 weeks and so a single worming before breeding (or racing) will improve things for that period of time only. It is therefore best to treat twice at a three week interval. A thorough clean of the loft should be undertaken after each worming.
Prevention - Clean, sanitary lofts are most beneficial to keeping worms in check, but as pigeons often mingle with numerous other birds, a bird can become infested through ingestion of worm eggs from the basket or through contact with stray pigeons. Therefore, it is advisable to develop a preventative worming program in which all birds are wormed at least twice a year.
Lice live all their whole life span on the bird, living off feather debris and bloom. They cause little damage outside of nuisance. Mites drink blood and other body fluids and not only live on the pigeon, but can also live in cracks and gaps within the loft itself. Pigeons can become contaminated from other birds while in race crates, from feral pigeons or while pecking around in the yard
Feather lice are observed as small groupings of tiny dark spots in the webbing of the feathers. Holding a feather up to the light will show feather lice very clearly.
Symptms for mites
Coccidia is a small single celled organism that lives in the wall of the bowel. Its eggs are passed in the droppings and these eggs can become infective, especially in humid conditions.
Once these eggs are ingested, they multiply and produce further eggs which rupture through the bowel lining before being passed in the dropping, thus completing the life cycle. Control of dampness and appropriate hygiene, especially where feeders and drinkers are concerned should be of high priority. Each time an egg ruptures into the bowel from the lining, it causes a microscopic ‘pin prick’, allowing the birds blood, electrolytes and protein to be lost – causing weakness and interference of vital nutrients.
Symptoms of Coccidiosis:
Prevention - keep lofts dry and sanitary. Do not allow feed to come into contact with droppings, and regularly disinfect drinkers. Do not allow birds to drink from gutters or mud puddles, and keep feed and water free from contact with rodents. Always isolate new birds as described earlier, as they are a primary target for the spread of coccidiosis. Returning race birds should be given a preventive treatment shortly after their return, especially if out over night. Baskets should be disinfected weekly.
Fungal diseases of pet birds: Recognize infection early
Fungi are commonplace in the environment and some are even considered normal inhabitants of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and other mucous membrane surfaces. In most situations, healthy birds can ward off infection if their immune systems are intact and fully operational. In other cases, however, the immune system may be compromised leading to the development of serious infections. Paramount to properly managing fungal infections in avian species is the ability to recognize infection early in the course of disease, to administer appropriate antifungal medications for the location and severity of infection, and to continually assess a patient's response to therapy. The scope of this article is to provide a brief overview of several fungal diseases in companion avian species.
AspergillosisInfections with Aspergillus sp, most commonly Aspergillus fumigatus, affect a wide variety of free-ranging and captive avian species. Although considered to be infectious, Aspergillus sp are noncontagious, ubiquitous, saprophytic organisms. A. flavus, A. niger, A. nidulans and A. terreus are also considered to be pathogenic in avian species.
All birds are susceptible to infection, especially young birds or those with compromised immune systems. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor ventilation, poor nutrition (e.g. hypovitaminosis A), exposure to respiratory toxins, age, concurrent infection and humid/dry dusty environments may facilitate exposure to an overwhelming number of spores and ultimately, the development of an infection.
Many wild avian species may be affected including raptors (goshawks, red-tailed hawks, and gyrfalcons), galliformes (pheasant, quail and turkeys), waterfowl (diving and shorebirds) and penguins. Among companion bird species there seems to be a higher prevalence of infection in blue-fronted Amazon parrots, African grey parrots and mynah birds.
Aspergillosis is often classified as either an acute or chronic disease. Acute diseases are often seen in birds exposed to an overwhelming number of fungal spores over a short period of time. The result is rapid with massive colonization of the lungs leading to a miliary granulomatous disease.
Chronic diseases may occur secondary to immunosuppression, concomitant disease or other stressor that limits the ability of the birds to fight off infection. Here granulomatous lesions often appear in areas of high oxygen tension and low blood flow such as the thoracic and abdominal air sacs and syrinx. It is important to note that Aspergillus sp spores may also spread hematogenously to other organs as a result of fungal colony extension into neighboring vessels as well as direct extension into pneumatic bones, the coelomic cavity and surrounding structures. Fungal colonization and infection may also be limited to the specific point where the organisms enter the body including the oropharynx, gastro-intestinal tract, the eye, kidney, bone sinuses and the central nervous system.
Clinical signs vary depending upon the location and severity of infection and the integrity of the host's immune system; although peracute and acute death without any clinical signs can occur. Birds with acute infections usually exhibit a change or loss of voice, dyspnea, open-mouthed breathing, weakness, lethargy, depression, weight loss, anorexia and ataxia, paresis or paralysis resulting from CNS infection and death. Progression of the acute form is often very rapid.
The diagnosis of aspergillosis is, at times, extremely difficult and usually involves a thorough history, physical examination, laboratory diagnostics (CBC, biochemical panel, protein electrophoresis), radiography, endoscopic examination of the respiratory tract and coelomic cavity, cytology, serological testing, fungal culture and histopathology. Serologic tests performed at the University of Miami (antigen and antibody tests) and the University of Minnesota (ELISA for antibody) are available but must be interpreted carefully. Control and treatment of aspergillosis can be difficult as well as expensive.
Treatment often consists of antifungal therapy and supportive care. Antifungal medications that have been used in avian species include itraconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine, enilconazole and amphotericin B. The latter of which is the only fungicidal drug available. Treatment and ultimately response to therapy may differ depending upon the severity and location of the infection. Therapy is usually long-term with patient response and serological testing used to monitor progress and response to therapy. The prognosis is usually considered poor. Most commonly, itraconazole (Sporonox)(Janssen Pharmaceutical, NV, Beerse, Belgium) is administered at a dose of 5-10 mg/kg orally once daily for most avian species. Extreme caution should be used if treating African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) with itraconazole. While some avian practitioners avoid the use of itraconazole in African grey parrots, others use a reduced dosage of 2.5-5.0 mg/kg given orally once daily.
These patients should be monitored closely for anorexia and depression, which is indicative of possible toxicity related to itraconazole administration. Amphotericin B (X-Gen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Northport, N.Y.) is also commonly used in conjunction with other drugs to treat aspergillosis infections in avian patients and is administered intravenously (1.5 mg/kg IV every 8hrs for 3-7 days), intratracheally (1 mg/kg IT diluted to 1cc volume in sterile water every 12 hrs for 5 days), by intraosseous catheter (1.5 mg/kg every 6 hrs for 5 days or applied directly to granulomatous lesion in the coelomic cavity. Terbinafine hydrochloride (Novartis Pharmaceuticals) has also been used to treat fungal infections in avian species at a dose of 10-15 mg/kg given orally every 12-24 hours. However, it is considered to have poor intrinsic activity against some common yeasts and molds, which suggests that combination with an azole (fluconazole or itraconazole) or amphotericin B may be required if monotherapy does not result in clinical cure of the patient. For fungal infections involving privileged sites such as the eye or brain fluconazole (Pfizer Inc.) may be considered the drug of choice. However, it is also important to note that hydroxyitraconazole, the active metabolite of itraconazole is also able to penetrate into the CNS and may also be somewhat effective in treating fungal granulomatous lesions if present in the brain. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine currently available for the management of aspergillosis.
CandidiasisCandida albicans is another opportunistic yeast commonly found in the environment and may be a normal inhabitant of the gastrointestinal tract of avian species. Diseases are often seen in juvenile avian species following disruption of normal gastrointestinal flora following prolonged antibiotic administration, especially tetracyclines or concurrent illness.
Candidiasis is also known as "thrush" and occurs when superficial colonization of the gastrointestinal mucosa progresses to deep-tissue invasion. The result is uninhibited growth and colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by the organism. If unchecked, Candida sp may become systemic allowing for dissemination to occur.
Clinical signs of candidiasis vary depending upon the location of infection. Local infections within the oropharynx may cause difficulty or reluctance to swallow food and halitosis. Oropharyngeal infections commonly results in psuedomembranes/plaques of necrotic debris overlying the mucous membranes or catarrhal inflammation giving the mucous membranes a "Turkish towel" appearance. Infection within the crop may result in regurgitation, vomiting, delayed crop emptying, anorexia, palpable thickening of the crop and ingluviolith formation. Proventricular and ventricular infections may cause vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea and general malaise. Candida sp may also colonize the respiratory tract leading to dyspnea, ocular or nasal discharge and sneezing. Less commonly, Candida sp may also infect ocular tissues, skin, bone marrow, liver, pericardial tissues and the CNS (canaries). Candida parasilosis has been reported to cause systemic infection of the bone marrow and liver as well as splenic degeneration.
Diagnosis of candidiasis is usually based upon the presence of budding Candida sp. (3-6 micrometers in diameter) with Grams', Diff-Quik, new methylene blue or lactophenol cotton blue stains of the crop contents, feces, or regurgitated/vomited material or lesion(s). Skin scrapings and celophane tape tests may also be performed to aid in the diagnosis of suspected yeast infections of the skin.
Resolving predisposing factorsTreatment consists of identifying and resolving predisposing factors if any, and antimicrobial therapy with nystatin, fluconazole, itraconazole or amphotericin B. Candida sp might develop resistance to some antifungal medications. For example, Fluoropyrimidines such as flucytosine may not be the best choice for treating Candida sp infections. Klepser ME suggests that 10 percent of all C. albicans are intrinsically resistant to flucytosine and another 30 percent exposed to the drug may develop resistance, at least in humans. Most commonly nystatin (Alpharma USPD Inc., Baltimore) is administered (100,000 IU/kg orally twice daily). For severe infections involving tissue invasion or resistant infections, fluconazole given at 20 mg/kg orally every 48 hours for two to three treatments might be effective. Environmental factors such as poor sanitation must be addressed to improve clinical outcome of disease in young birds.
CryptococcosisDisease caused by the saprophytic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, which may be found in soil contaminated with pigeon feces, is uncommon yet an important fungal disease of avian species. Cryptococcosis has been reported in several avian species including small passerines and companion psittacines, and some avian species such as feral pigeons may serve as carriers for the organism. Avian and exotic pet practitioners should also be aware of its zoonotic potential. Nosanchuk JD et al described the possible transmission of C. neoformans from a cockatoo to a 72-year-old woman who was receiving immunosuppressive medications following renal transplantation. C. neoformans isolates strongly suggest that the patient's infection resulted from exposure to aerosolized cockatoo excreta.
Clinical signs of Cryptococcus infections may be non-specific and include weakness, lethargy, depression, anorexia, diarrhea, dyspnea, weight loss, blindness and paralysis. Neurologic signs may occur with CNS (brain and meningeal) involvement. Moderate to severe dyspnea may be seen with involvement of both the upper or lower respiratory tract.
Ante-mortem diagnosis of Cryptococcosis is difficult. A definitive diagnosis of Cryptococcosis requires demonstration of the oval to round yeast with a mucopolysaccharide capsule on cytologic or histologic examination of tracheal washes or exudates and by isolation and culture. A gelatinous, mucoid exudate may be noted within the long bones, respiratory tract, coelomic cavity, sinuses and brain at necropsy. CNS signs in any avian species with gelatinous mucoid exudates is considered highly suspicious for Cryptococcosis.
Avian veterinarians should use extreme caution when handling patients suspected of having Cryptococcosis. Zoonotic infections may occur through inhaling dust from dried droppings of pigeons, starlings and other species. In avian patients, Amphotericin B, itraconazole and ketoconazole have been recommended as possible treatment options; however, fluconazole may be a better choice for infections of the CNS.Prognosis for successful treatment is extremely poor.
RhodotoruliasisRhodotorula mucilaginosa is a yeast that infects the skin and is occasionally seen in raptors (especially falcons). The organisms typically cause greasy, yellowish-brown crust overlying cracked and discolored areas of skin in the axillary area of the wings or between the thigh musculature and the body wall. Without treatment, lesions may become hyperkeratotic resulting in proliferative, horny growths on the effected skin.
Diagnosis of infection is based on physical examination, cytology, culture or histopathology of infected tissues. Treatment requires removal of horny growths if present and several weeks of therapy with a topical antifungal cream. Topical or systemic antibiotics should be considered to prevent secondary bacterial infections from developing. Additionally, movement of the infected area should also be restricted to allow the wounds to heal.
Mucormycosis (Mucor spp, Absidia spp and Rhizopus spp)The saprophytic fungi that make up this group of organisms causes disease of varying forms depending upon the organ system effected. Clinical signs of disease may be the result of enteritis, air sacculitis, osteomyelitis, myocarditis and nephritis. Mycotic infections due to Mucor sp have been reported in African grey parrots. Ante-mortem diagnosis is uncommon and no effective treatment has been reported.Aspergillosis
by Hannis L. Stoddard III, DMV
Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection in birds caused by aspergella fumigates. Although birds are commonly exposed to the spores of this fungus, they develop the disease only under certain conditions. If a bird's immune system is suppressed by a concurrent illness, malnutrition or stress, it may become sick after exposure. Stress-induced Aspergillosis is frequently seen in birds subjected to surgery, reproduction, environmental changes, capture, confinement or shipping.
Aspergella, as well as other fungi, grows readily in damp, dark conditions with poor ventilation. Encrusted fecal matter, damp feed, dirty feeding utensils and food that falls through cage grates all encourage mold growth. Interestingly, we see a high incidence of Aspergillosis in birds in the southwest where the environment is dry and not conducive to fungal replication. The speculation is the low humidity, coupled with the dusty environment, interferes with the normal mucous secretion in the birds' respiratory tracts and predisposes them to mycoses.
Two forms of Aspergillosis are commonly seen in Amazons. The first is an acute generalized form characterized by the fungus in the lower respiratory tree as well as in the intestinal tract and other organs. Patients with this form of Aspergillosis exhibit labored respiration, severe depression and extreme emaciation, and are generally very ill. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is exceptionally high in this form. The second form is called a chronic localized form. This is the most common type of infection seen in Amazons. This chronic Aspergillosis tends to develop localized aspergellomas (pockets of fungal infection). The location will determine the clinical signs. A common place for aspergellomas to localize in Amazons is in the sinus cavity, characterized by intermittent mucoid exudation.
Diagnosis of avian Aspergillosis can be difficult, at best, other than by autopsy. Tentative diagnosis can be made with clinical signs as well as the absence of bacterial infection in moist exudates. A blood test showing an elevation in white blood cell count, mild anemia and an elevation in the monocytes also supports this diagnosis. X-rays should be taken on any suspect patient-many times the radiograph will reveal densities or nodules consistent with aspergellomas. Additionally, your avian veterinarian should take samples and attempt to culture the fungus in specially prepared culture media. Blood should also be submitted for serologic evaluation.
Once a bird is diagnosed as having Aspergillosis, appropriate treatment should be instituted by a qualified avian veterinarian. Each treatment protocol has to be tailored to the individual bird. A prerequisite for success is removing the concurrent immunosuppression that exists. This can be accomplished by management, by treating concurrent maladies and by the judicious use of immunostimulants. Aggressive antifungal treatment is in order, either localized or systemic. Surgery may be necessary with certain localized Aspergellomas, while aggressive nebulization and sinus flushings are warranted in certain other cases. Additionally, a long-term treatment schedule should be instituted
Never vaccinate ill pigeons, this will cause a pigeon to become even more ill, and the pigeon won’t get enough power to build up a strong immunity against the disease you have vaccinated, this means that the vaccine won’t work properly. Never vaccinate during an important period, such as the racing period, the breeding period, and the moulting period. Make sure you have an interval of minimum 1 month between the date of vaccination and the start of that period, so you will not have any negative influence due to the vaccination. Never vaccinate with medication that is out of date or not been stored under the right circumstances.
Vaccinating against paratyphus can be done 1 month before the breeding period, after moulting, and/or 1 month before the racing season begins. But think always to treat the pigeons before you will vaccinate them against paratyphus, in order to have not that much problems afterwards.
A small note of the combination pmv and paratyphus. You can vaccinate this at the same time, but not in the same syringe, because they saw that after vaccinating with the products in the same syringe, there is a good protection against the paratyphus, but not such good protection against the pmv. When you administer it in a different syringe, but at the same time, you won’t have such problems.