Pigeon Diseases

Here is a list of common pigeon diseases. Some of them need medication while others heal without treatment. Many diseases may be latent and break out only when the birds health condition is weakened. To make a proper diagnosis without clinical investigation may be difficult since many diseases cause similar symptoms. The bigger the bird population gets the bigger the risk is that there are individuals among them carrying diseases. A dry loft is of great importance. A dry loft may inhibit or diminish the spread of many diseases. The birds may never come into contact with the ground in the voliere. The birds,especially when suffering from mineral shortage, will eat polluted soil and become ill. Fresh air is an other important factor, but in the wintertime no draught may occure. Birds sitting in draught will catch a cold. Also a bird sitting on metal surfaces is at risk to catch a cold. Good loft hygiene is the best way to avoid diseases.

This is a very common disease. It is caused by a flagellate protozoan (Trichomonas gallinae 0,01mm). Mainly the young birds get sick. Old birds normally live in balance with the flagellate but transmit the disease to their youngs, which have not had time to develop an immunity. The disease is also spread through the drinking water. The flagellates infect through small wounds. In the throat and/or nostrils and the crop yellow cheasy mass is formed. Finally these lumps become so big that the bird can weather breath nor eat properly. The infected bird have a bad smelling breath. The infected bird grows bad and loses weight.
The flagellates can also infect though the navel and spead to the liver. The disease is difficult to treat once broken out. If one know that the disease is present in the loft preventve treatments before and after the breeding season should be carried out. Normally ronidazole treatment is used. If one try to cure already ill birds it is also recommended to give antibiotics, since the disease is linked with opportunist bacteria infections.

Hexamitosis or intestinal canker
This disease is caused by a flagellate, which is infecting the intestinal tract. Mainly young birds are at risk of getting the disease. The symptoms are diarrea and bad health condition. The old birds are carriers. In old birds the symptoms are not so easy to recognise. If the disease is left untreated for several years the birds might remain carriers of the disease even after the treatment. The disease is spread through the drinking water and the feed. Treatment with ronidazole medication. The treatment of hexamitosis is longer than in the case of canker.

A single cell organism, which is living in the intestinal epithelium is causing this disease. Almost every pigeon is carrier but develope a good immunity . Again mainly the youngs become ill. A typical symtom is green to almost black diarrea. (The colour is originating from the gall and is not always a sign of coccidiosis. E.g. If the pigeon is lost and does not eat for a few days the droppings may look the same.)
Coccidiosis is the main reason why the loft should be kept dry. With the droppings of an infected bird millions of eggs,oocytes, are shead. These oocytes are not emediatelly infective but need a few days warmth,oxygen and moisture in order to develop into the infective stage (merozoits). By keeping the loft dry this maturation is inhibited. Daily change of the drinking water is also important in the battle of the disease.

Pigeon pocks
This disease is caused by viruses. The yellowish pocks are situated in feather-free areas, mainly on the beak and around the eyes. Sometimes the pocks appear on the mucous membranes. This form may look a bit like a canker infection. Other as in the case of canker the pocks cannot be removed without bleading. The mucous membrane form is worse than the skin form since the pocks can sufficate the bird if they are situated in the throat.The skin form normally heals in 10 days. The spread of the disease is through contact with foreign birds. The birds can be vaccinated against the disease. No other treatment is available.

Mycoplasms can be described as bacteria without cell walls bacteria and are the cause of cold. Mycoplasms are spread by air and droplet infection and though the drinking water. The pathogens are, however, not viable very long outside the carrier. The disease outbreak is normally in the autumn. Often the sick bird is already weakend. The incubation time of the disease is 1-2 weeks. The beak seeps a clear fluid, which, as time goes on, becomes more and more slimy. The beak worthles become grey. The breathing is troublesome and often rustling.
The disease is treated by repeted antibiotic injections. Preventing antibiotic treatment through the drinking water is recommended.

Chlamydia bacteria (Chlamydia psittaci) are responsable for this disease. There are several strains of this bateria. The infection can be transmitted from pigeons to humans but doesn't seem to cause any severe symptoms in humans. The strains frequently appearing in pigeons are not the same strains as the ones causing psittacosis, which occasionally causes severe infections in humans. The disease is normally spread when the birds come in contact with infected foreign birds. Ornitosis can, however also be spread by insects and humans. Typical symtoms of this disease are eye infection and cold. The infected eye is seeps and the eye lids swell. The bird constantly streaches the infected eye against the wing. Normally the eye infection heals in 10 days. This does not mean that the disease would be gone, though. In severe cases the breathing is troublesome . The bird scratches the beak in order to try ease the irritation. Sometimes the disease remain chronic, which can be seen as multiple eye lid infections. If there are carriers of ornitosis in the loft vast losses of young birds can be expected. The treatment is antibiotic (given as injections or added to the water).

Adeno virus infections
This is a typical young bird disease. The infection can take place when the young birds come into contact with foreign old birds e.g. in transport cabbins. The symptoms are diarrea and vomiting. Normally the disease heals without treatment. The disease is however linked with opportunist bacteria infection of the intestine and in severe cases antibiotic treatment can be considered. There is no medication or vaccine against the virus itself.
*Lately strains of adeno virus infecting also old birds have appeared in Europe.

Salmonella infections
There are many different kinds of sallmonella bacteria. Salmonella is well known for causing diarrea. The sallmonella infections are, however, not confined to intestines but can also spread to the blood stream and the inner organs. The result of such infections can be septic chocks, joint infections and lump formation. Some salmonellae attack the nervous system. This form is called paratyphoid. The infected bird suffers from various paralysations and have a disrupted balance.
Salmonellae are spead with the droppings and remain often viable for a long time in moist conditions. Salmonella infections are difficult to treat. The infected loft should be isolated so that spead of the disease is stopped. The disease is confirmed by bacteria culture of the droppings. Many of the salmonellae infecting pigeons are bird specific, that is they do not infect humans. It should, however, be mention that there are salmonellae causing severe infections both in pigeons and humans. Even though there would be no signs of an infection it is recommended to take a sample for laboratory investigation e.g. every second year for ensurance -advices given by veterinary.

Newcastle disease
This disease is caused by a paramyxo virus. A wide range of symptoms are linked to this disease.e.g. paralyzation and loss of  balance. Usually lethal but some individuals may recover and remain carriers. All pigeons(taking part in races) should be vaccinated against this disease.

Internal parasites

Symptoms are weight loss and in case of severe worm infection also diarrea. Infected young birds grow slower and can even lose so much weight that they die. Old birds devolve a partial resistance against worms. Worm infection slowers or inhibits the moult.

Roundworms(Ascaris sp.)
Rubber-like 3-6 cm.

Very thin and less than 1 cm long.

Flat, ribbon-like and segmented

The above mentioned worms live in the intestinal tract. They are spread with the droppings. These worm infections can easily be kept at a tolerable level with worm medication (e.g. Avicas)but are difficult to completely erradicate. All birds should be treated and the loft cleaned in order to prevent a re-infection. Also Ivomec treatment has an effect on these worms.

Capillaria worm
This worm lives in the respiratory tract. Often the infected bird opens its beak wide open because of irritation.
Treatment: Metrifonat

Air sack mite
Lives in the air sacks where it causes aggregation of cheasy mass. May penetrate up to the liver and the kidneys.

External parasites

The main damage done by external parasites is irritation. If there are many of them the birds get stressed. A bird without external parasites warms its youngs better than a infected bird. These parasites are treated with suitable pesticides. Both the birds and the loft should be treated at the same time. By adding bath salt to the bath water the number of external parasites is kept down.

Suck blood. Disturb particulary birds incubating their eggs and youngs in the nest. Cleaning of nest bowls is important in the battle of flies. The larvae of the flie namely develop in the nest materials. The tidyness of the loft is also important.

Feather eaters
Flat, a few mm long. Very common. Eat feathers and feather dust. Some species also suck blood. Are best made visible by speading the wings and holding them against light. All stages of development of the feater eaters live on birds.

There are five species of ticks living on pigeons as external parasites. Ticks have 8 legs. Usually they are hard to see(~1mm size). Rule of thumb: If ticks are seen their number is big and something should be done about the problem.

Red mite
Hides during the day in the loft and sucks blood during the night. Can even kill the young ones.

Feather mite
Remains on the bird all time. Especially under the wings and the tail. If it appear in great numbers feathers fall from the cheast and the back.

Quill mite
Lives in the quills of the wings and the tail.

Scaly leg mite
Is seen in old birds as scaly lumps on the feet. Treatment: Ivomec

Bird scab mite
Lives under the skin. Causes itches and feather fall. Treatment:Ivomec