Canker - Trichomoniasis
Cause - This is the most common pigeon disease. It's caused by a microscopic protozoan which is flagellated and, therefore,
mobile. It can be transmitted from one bird to another usually through the drinking water, and parent birds can infect their young
Symptoms - Infected birds show a definite reduction in activity, ruffled feathers, loss of weigh, increase water intake, and diarrhea.
Cheesy yellowish deposits can often be observed in the mouth or throat. In advanced stages, a stringy mucous and putrid odor can
be detected in the mouth. Young birds are most susceptible.
Prevention - Control stress, maintain regular feed and watering 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 month. This will depend upon incidence and susceptibility in your own flock.
Cause - This highly infectious and very common disease is caused by a protozoan that infect the intestines of our birds. It is usually
present to some degree in all pigeons, but most adult birds have developed enough immunity to the disease to remain healthy. Most
often infected are young pigeons or birds that have been subjected to several stress (i.e., racing, showing, lack of feed/water, or
relocation). Adult birds may become infected from drinking unclean water or from being in contact with moist droppings.
Symptoms - Infected birds have little or no desire to eat or drink, will remain puffed up on perches, lack any desire to move and often
close their eyes. Droppings are usually very loose, greenish in color and may become very watery. Loss of weight occurs, and death
can occur in young birds.
Prevention - Keep loft dry and sanitary. Do not allow feed to come into contact with dropping, and regularly disinfect drinkers. Do not
allow birds to drink from gutters or mud piddles, 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 cocci.
Returning race birds should be given a preventative treatment shortly after their return, especially if out overnight. Baskets should be
E.Coli or Collibacosis
Cause – This disease, which is now thought to be more prevalent in pigeons than once suspected, is caused by the gram negative
bacteria which can invade our lofts through infected dust particles, rodent droppings, and through infected pigeon droppings coming
into contact with eggs in the nest. Infected adult pigeons will emit the bacteria through their droppings, so they can be spread quite
readily throughout a pigeon loft.
Symptoms – Since the E. coli bacteria can manifest themselves in any part of the pigeon’s body, symptoms can be diverse. Most
often young will die in the nest, adult birds will become listless and lose weight, and their droppings will become loose, mucousy,
and greenish-yellow in appearance. Sometimes the droppings will have a foul odor. Occasionally some birds may have nasal
discharges and respiratory problems associated with this disease.
Prevention – Maintaining good loft hygiene and keeping rodents away from feed and water are very important. Also keeping dust and
ammonia levels down will help to control any outbreaks.
General Antibiotics – Any fancier would be well advised to have a good general antibiotic in his medicine chest. They can be useful
as “first choice” drugs if and range of both gram positive and gram negative bacteria.
Cause – Often confused with the onset of mycoplasmosis, one-eye colds are usually associated with a peck in the eye or some
other type of physical injury affecting the eye. One-eye colds can also be cause by improper ventilation, drafts or dampness in the loft.
Symptoms – A watery of mucousy discharge in only in one eye is usually the symptom most commonly noticed, but occasionally
both eyes will have watery appearances. Sometimes one eye can become completely shut, depending upon the degree of infection.
Prevention – Maintaining proper ventilation and not allowing overcrowded conditions to manifest themselves in our lofts will go a
long way in preventing one-eye colds. It is also considered good loft hygiene to keep dust levels to a minimum, as many types of
infectious bacteria are carried by dust particles.
Paratpyhoid – Salmonellosis
Cause – This very common and quite widespread disease is cause by a gram-negative bacterium which is flagellated, therefore
mobile. It can be brought into a loft either through introduction of infected pigeons, by rodents, through inhalation of infected dust, on
the soles of fanciers’ shoes, by roaches, or though contact with wild pigeons. Often an adult bird that has overcome the disease
remains a carrier and continues to produce infected droppings.
Symptoms – Salmonelle flagellates can be found throughout the body in severely infected birds. Thus, a variety of symptoms is
possible. Most adult birds will show rapid weight loss, along with somewhat loose, greenish droppings. Some birds may develop
swelling in the leg joints or feet, or may develop wing boils. Other birds may have the “twisted neck” syndrome commonly associated
with PMV. Baby birds will often show labored breathing or die in the nest before the second week after hatching. Another symptom is
young dying in the egg.
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 imperative. Minimizing contact with rodents, roaches, and wild birds, quarantining newly
acquired birds, and maintaining an acid pH level below 4.0 in our lofts are all helpful steps in keeping this disease under control.
Several veterinarians have gallon of drinking water regularly to help maintain an acidic environment in the droppings. Regular use of
the salmonella vaccine has proven to be especially effective.
Cause and Symptoms – Pigeon is caused by a virus that is generally carried by mosquitoes and other biting insects. When a
nonresistant pigeon is bitten by a carrier parasite, the virus enters the bloodstream of the bird, and within five to seven days, small
whitish wart-like lesions appear on the bead, feet, legs, and beak areas. These may ooze blood. In time, these lesions will dry and
fall of, so it is our advice to leave them alone.
Prevention – Other than using the pigeon pox vaccines, no remedy is acceptable. Controlling the mosquito and fly population in and
around ones loft may be helpful, but the only sure way to prevent pox is to vaccinate.
PMV – Paramyxovirus
Cause and symptoms – Paramyxovirus or PMV-1 is a viral infection unique to pigeons and is extremely contagious, especially in the
racing sport where hundreds or thousands of birds are mixed and confined prior to release. Direct contact or indirect contact through
contaminated feed, water or litter can spread the disease. Symptoms include extremely loose, watery droppings, lack of appetite,
ruffled feathers, poor coordination, and sometimes paralysis of wings and legs. In advanced stages, birds will show “twisted neck”
symptoms and many birds will die.
Prevention – Currently in the U.S., the only effective means of protections is by vaccination with the Maine Biological oil-adjuvant PMV-
1 vaccine. Many fanciers are using the LaSota vaccine, thinking that they are protecting their birds, but challenge tests using the
LaSota vaccine intraocular vaccine proved conclusively that the LaSota vaccine was not effective in producing antibodies for the
pigeon PMV-1 virus. While the LaSota vaccine was effective for short duration protection for Newcastle’s disease, this disease is
almost non-existent in pigeons and should be differentiated from PMV-1.
Cause and symptoms– Only birds whose immune systems are suppressed are vulnerable to this disease. There are two types of
Adeno Virus that infect pigeons. Type 1 affects young pigeons primarily and causes vomiting and diarrhea, from which many birds
recover. Type 2 is contracted by old pigeons and strikes the liver, with most affected birds dying within 24 hours. Some birds display
a fluid yellow diarrhea and vomiting before death. But the main sign is sudden death, occurring within 24 hours of the onset. None of
the affected birds live longer than 48 hours. E. coli often accompanies Type 1 (which is associated with young pigeons) and
complicates the infecting, making the diarrhea and vomiting more sever and adding respiratory symptoms. This Type 1 Adeno
Virus/E. coli combination is sometimes successfully treated with antibiotics. Cases that are the best managed are those in which
with antibiotics. Cases that are the best managed are those in which the loft environment is good and in which all secondary
diseases like canker and coccidiosis are treated so that birds are best able to fight the virus.
Prevention – Adeno virus is always present in a young bird, and it erupts when the immune system weakens or fails. It is important
to wait until the 12th week for any type of vaccination. There is currently no vaccine that is proven to be effective against Adeno Virus. It’
s also important to keep stress in the loft at a minimum and to boost pigeons’ general health with vitamin supplements, etc.
Causes and Symptoms – Because of the way this disease damages the immune system and seems to invite secondary infection,
Circo Virus is sometimes called pigeons AIDS. Circo Virus damages the lymphocytes in the blood, which are closely associated
with the immune system. With damaged lymphocytes, the pigeons become susceptible to secondary infections with other viruses,
parasites and bacteria. Pigeons infected with Circo Virus can also have continuing problems with diseases like respiratory
infections, Chlamydia, or canker due to the fact that they cannot form natural immunities to them. Most often, Circo Virus kills very
young pigeons and strikes older youngster that have already moulted three or four flights. Birds with Circo Virus have a yellowish
discharged dried on the beak, and they are very reluctant to move, thin and dehydrated, and have no appetite and difficulty breathing.
But it is extremely hard to diagnose Circo Virus by looking at the birds. The signs that can be observed are typically caused by many
different types of secondary infections.
Prevention – There is no direct treatment or effective vaccine for Circo Virus. But there are steps to take to manage it. These include
keeping the disease out of the loft by not introducing birds from lofts known to have health problems. Stray youngsters should be
immediately removed if they do not look well, and try to identify carrier stock birds by re-pairing those whose offspring seem weak
and die. If the virus comes into your loft, minimize its spread by taking sick birds out immediately and paying attention to on-going
hygiene. Good care, given day to day, places your pigeons in the best situation to resist infection, and gives those that become
infected the best chances of recovery. The main defense against Circo Virus is to identify and treat secondary infections, allowing the
birds to live long enough for the immune system to repair itself. Probiotics help well birds resist the disease by maintaining a healthy
bowel population of bacteria.
Cause – This fairly common pigeon disease is cause by a protozoan that attacks the red bloods cells of our birds. It is primarily
carried by the pigeon fly, which acts as the intermediate host. Random tests of pigeon flocks have shown as much as a 30% malaria
Symptoms – Symptoms are vague. Except for some loss of gloss in plumage and reduced performance in racing events, there are
no readily visible symptoms.
Prevention – Since the pigeons fly is the primary carrier of this disease, it is imperative that these flies be controlled. It’s important to
quarantine newly acquired birds, dust or dip birds after they have mingled with others, and eliminate contact with wild pigeons,
because curing this disease is very difficult.
Respiratory Infections – Mycoplasmosis & Ornithosis
Cause – These diseases all fall into the infectious bacterial category.
Coryza is actually the descriptive term used to identify the thick mucousy discharges usually associated with both Mycoplasmosis
catarrh and Ornithosis. The bacteria (termed Chlamydia in the case of Ornithosis) lodge in the upper respiratory tract and can be
extremely hard to completely eradicate. Often, infected birds never completely recover. Although their external symptoms may
disappear, they can remain carriers for life.
Symptoms – The classic symptoms of respiratory infections include mucous in the throat, open beak and heavy breathing, rasping
or gurgling while breathing, watery discharge from 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. Respiratory infections are the most damning to racing fanciers
because many populations are carriers of the disease in on form or another, and symptoms are hard to identify. But results will
definitely be diminished.
Prevention – the most important aspects in controlling respiratory infections are adequate ventilation without drafts, keeping dust
and ammonia levels love (which means keeping droppings from accumulating), and controlling dampness and overcrowding. Since
tests have indicated that in some areas as much as 70% of the wild pigeon population is either infected with or carries respiratory
disease, it would be wise to limit contact with feral birds. Since sporadic drug treatment at inadequate levels can cause rapid
resistance to medication, always treat with effective drugs for the recommended length of time. Proper quarantining of new birds is
also a must.
Sour Crop – Candida, Thrush
Cause – This very common disease is cause by a fungus infection of the digestive tract. It is often associated with excessive use of
Symptoms – Infected birds become listless, won’t eat, lost weight, develop a water-filled crop and vomit often. This vomit often has
very putrid odor. Sometimes, in lesser cases, thrush will show itself as just small whitish spots in the throat, which causes
confusion with canker. Another much less noticed symptom, usually found only in adult birds, is feather pulling.
Prevention – Avoid overcrowding, maintain a sanitary loft, and most importantly, do not medicate indiscriminately.
Cause – The most common worms found in pigeons today are roundworms, hair worms, stomach wall worms, gapeworms,
stronglylids and tapeworms.
Symptoms – The symptoms vary with the type of infestation, and conceivably pigeons can live with slight infestations and show no ill
effects. Sever infestations generally cause droopiness, loss of weight, and some diarrhea. Gapeworms can cause breathing
problems. The best way to determine if a worm problem exists is to have the droppings checked.
Prevention – Clean, sanitary lofts are most beneficial to keeping worms in check, but since pigeons often mingle with many hundred
of 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.
The most common external parasites that pester our birds are feather lice, red mites, pigeon’s flies, and mosquitoes. Since
parasites like these can occur in almost any climate, they must be accounted for when planning a loft strategy. Feather lice chew
holes into the flights or cause other types of visible damage to the feathers, which can affect a show or racing pigeon’s performance.
The common red mite can be a real problem in some lofts if it becomes established. It commonly a hide somewhere in the loft
during the day, and at night comes out from its hiding place to bite and feed on the blood of our birds. Besides being a nuisance and
not allowing the clock to rest properly, they can help to spread an assortment of disease. The pigeon fly is probably the most
dangerous parasite that can attack our birds. It lives most of its life on our pigeons, leaving only to la its eggs somewhere in the loft.
Pigeon flies bite the birds often, and besides causing considerable discomfort, they can be a major cause of pigeon malaria.
Mosquitoes would have to be considered the next worse parasite, simply because they are found in almost all climates. They are the
most common carrier of the pigeon pox virus. There are numerous precautions we can take within our lofts to help control external
parasites. In the case of lice, pigeon flies, and even mites, this involves controlling their numbers by quarantining any new birds, and
dipping or dusting our birds with pesticides. By keeping our lofts clean, we can eliminate many of the places where mites and flies
can hide their eggs.
Vitamins, Minerals, Teas and Supplements
Many fanciers overlook the importance of supplementing the diet of performance birds with these products, but the truth is that they
may be the most important things that a fancier can give to his pigeons, providing they are already in good health. Supplements, if
given prudently, can add to a bird’s performance in the shows, in the races, and as a breeder. Since our birds are kept in an
unnatural environment, and they cannot receive all of the necessary vitamins and trace elements (minerals) that they need from
grain alone, it is extremely important that proper and timely supplements be given. In Europe, supplements are an important part of
the program, on a weekly basis, all year long, and their birds are almost always in shining health. Supplements can invigorate,
restore, refresh, and stimulate a healthy vigor.
Mineral salts such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, etc., help control the fluid balance in the organs and tissues by
balancing the acid-base condition in our birds’ body fluids. Added electrolytes help shorten the recovery period after physical stress
such as racing, showing, and feeding young.
It has been proven that at least fifteen different mineral are necessary for our pigeons to maintain proper health. They include
calcium, copper, chlorine, fluorine, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, sodium,
selenium, sulfur, and zinc. No pigeon grain gives all the necessary minerals for our pigeons to maintain peak health. Therefore, it is
essential that mineral supplements be given. Most European lofts have minerals in front of their birds all the time.
In our travels throughout Europe, we notice how many fanciers use tea at least once a week in their lofts, both for old breeders,
racers, and young birds. Tea is considered to have a relaxing and laxative effect as well as assist in respiration, because of the
many herbs found in the tea.
Sometimes our birds develop diarrhea, often just after medication treatments, so we wonder how they could be sick when we have
just treated them. Often, the birds aren’t actually sick, but they do have the loose droppings of sick birds because of the chemical
imbalance created by the loss of lactobacillus bacteria of “friendly bacteria” which inhabit our pigeons’ gut and help the digestive