The All England Roller club

DISEASES

Most of us will at some time or another come across illness and disease in our pigeons, as you will have read earlier our birds succumbed to Salmonellosis after been stolen and kept in the thieves loft for 24-36 hours. When Paul went to retrieve the birds the loft floor was wet and full of corn and open to rats and mice which had obviously urinated everywhere and infected the corn. Our birds started showing symptoms within days of coming back.

Dean Forster has submitted some advice on some of the most deadly disease to our pigeons and hopefully if your birds ever suffer from these diseases his information will be of some help.

The main point to make here I feel is prevention, do all you can to prevent your pigeons coming into contact with these diseases, vaccinate and be careful with loft hygiene. Although at the end of these articles there is a suggestion of treatment there are other treatments and vaccinations available.

Salmonellosis (Paratyphoid)

Salmonellosis (Paratyphoid) is a bacterial disease. It has different symptoms depending on the form of the disease, as well as the age of the infected pigeon and their own natural level of immunity. It has high mortality rates in the very young pigeons; birds that survive the infection frequently become carriers as they harbor the pathogen in their bodies and excrete them without showing any visible symptoms of the disease. Carriers endanger the entire flock, especially the young birds.

The salmonellae bacteria settles in the intestine, they posses one flagella which enables movement in a moist environment. The pathogens are excreted via the droppings, crop milk, saliva and with infected eggs. Salmonellae can enter the pigeons body through contaminated feed or drinking water, also through billing or feeding of the squabs. The pathogen can even enter the pigeon by breathing dust containing it.

The disease is imported into the loft by the introducing of a new infected pigeon to the flock, either by purchasing an infective bird or an infected common pigeon that has strayed into the loft.

This disease can take four forms:

·         Intestinal Form: This form causes diarrhoea with slimy/aqueous brownish to greenish droppings, the droppings will be surrounded by fluid and may contain pulpy undigested feed. The intestines become inflamed, feed cannot be broken down for its nutrients. Since the pigeon can no longer absorb the nutrients its starts using its blood sugar, when that is depleted, it uses its fat reserves and then finally its protein i.e. muscle tissue. Soon the pigeon is emaciated (starving) and then dies. This is the usual form seen in very young bird with no natural immunity.

·         Articular Form:  In birds of any age but more so in adults Salmonellae bacteria can penetrate the damaged intestinal wall. From there the blood will carry the disease throughout the whole body and the pathogens may settle in the pigeon’s joints where they cause swollen, red and painful inflammation.  The inflammation shows itself by the pigeon letting a wing droop or holding its leg up to ease the pressure put upon the joints and alleviate the pain.

·         Organ Involvement: The disease can also multiply in the different organs of the pigeon especially the liver, kidneys, spleen, heart and pancreas. Tumor like yellowish gray nodes will be formed.  External symptoms are rapid weight loss, listlessness, difficulty in breathing and rapidly progressing debility. The bacteria can also infect the gonads, causing infertility and in hens that continue to cycle can lead to infected egg production which will fail to hatch.

·         Nervous Disorder: Salmonellae can enter the brain and the bone marrow and cause inflammation there. As a result of the inflammation there is increased pressure exerted on the nerve cells causing an impaired sense of balance, poor coordination and finally paralysis. 

The medication of choice is: Baytril 10% (also good for e-coli and ornithosis): Bacterial injection and drug sensitivity is the first choice in determining which drug your pigeon should be treated with, in lieu of that, Baytril is the drug of choice because it works in most cases against bacterial infections. Baytril can be purchased in tablets for individual birds or in liquid form for flock treatment.

·         Tablets: 1 tablet for 14 days for an individual bird

·         Liquid: 4cc per gallon for 10 days for flock treatment.

·         Liquid: 3 or 4 drops down the birds throat for 14 days. (individual treatment).  Preventative measures to follow include isolation of any new pigeons you acquire and observation for at least 30 days before you introduce them into your loft. Control of rodents, rats and mice carry paratyphoid and will soil the grain that your pigeons go on to eat. Make sure your loft is rodent proof even the smallest hole can be entered by rodents.  Also contact with droppings of wild birds should be avoided.

Paramyxovirus

 

Paramyxomis is a viral infection which first took an epidemic course in pigeons in Germany in the early 80’s. The disease occurred in pedigreed pigeons in the winter of 1982 following a large international fancy pigeon show. In the summer of 1983, after the start of the racing season numerous cases occurred in racing pigeons with substantial loses. The paramyxovirus of pigeons is closely related to the virus of atypical fowl pest ( Newcastle Disease). The type that infests pigeons is Type 1 (APMV-1). The virus spreads through the respiratory and gastro tracts by direct contact from bird to bird or indirectly through the pathogen bearing dust. This dust is spread by insects, mammals and humans.

In the early stages of the disease the virus affects the bowels leading to loss of appetite, watery droppings and increased water intake. Soon some of the birds show central nervous disorders like paralysis, torsion of the neck, increase timidity and typical twisting movements of the body.

 

These nervous disorders can be provoked in the early stages to help in the detection of the infection. Birds will become easily startled by the clapping of your hands or by being put into an unusual position, for example placed on its side. The birds will also not be able to control their take off reflex and will either fly off to the side into the wall or overturn in flight. Infected birds will also have difficulty in eating or drinking, as the bird tries to pick the grain their head will involuntarily jerk sideways therefore missing the corn. Some of the visibly infected birds will die quickly whilst others may survive and develop poorly.

 

General measures if the disease is suspected:

 

The most important action that should be taken immediately is to establish the cause of the disease. For this purpose laboratory tests have to be carried out.

precautionary measures should be taken which slow down or prevent the spread of the infection, until the position has been clarified.

All diseases found in addition to paramyxovirus during the investigation and especially the laboratory tests, must be treated at once. The progress of the virus infection is mitigated by the elimination of simultaneous diseases.

Pigeons with visible signs of the disease (diarrhea, central nervous disorders) should be separated from the rest of the loft and treated.

Affected birds should be offered food and water in vessels with a large surface area, since pigeons with nervous disorders are often unable to take up food or water from normal vessels.

To stabilize the intestinal environment, give the pigeons beneficial bacteria

Outsiders should not be allowed to enter the loft.

Free flight must be stopped altogether

 Measures To Be Taken If Paramyxovirus Is Present:

The virus infection cannot be treated by giving drugs that contain antibiotics. With this type of pathogen, only vaccination can prevent the spread of the infection. According to present findings, the immunity conferred by the vaccine lasts only 6 months.

Vaccination of diseased birds is not possible.

All pigeons with severe central nervous disorders should be culled, since the prospects of a cure are very poor.

If the fancier does not wish to eliminate valuable pigeons, they should be separated from the rest of the loft.

Emergency vaccination which can prevent the spread of the virus infection should be carried out in all pigeons that still appear to be healthy. After the emergency vaccination it will still take 2 or 3 weeks until sufficient antibodies have been formed.  During this time further cases of the disease may appear. At the time of vaccination, such pigeons were in the incubation phase, i.e. they were already infected by the virus, but did not show any sign of the disease.

Hygienic measures and disinfection should be carried out to support vaccination: droppings, remnants of feed and litter should be removed daily when cleaning the loft. Cleaned surfaces should be disinfected.

Supportive Measures: Administration of vitamins, particularly of the B complex, and of body salts in the form of electrolytes in the drinking water. Beneficial bacteria for the intestinal flora.

Secondary infections should be treated.

The medication of choice is: Colombo) vac pmv/pox. For the prevention of paramyxovirus and pox in pigeons, all in one injection. Should be injected under the skin on the upper rear part of the neck, below the head area. Dosage is 0.2cc per pigeon. Do not vaccinate pigeons under 6 weeks of age. Keep vaccine refrigerated until use; use all of the vaccine after opening, dispose of the unused portions and syringes properly.

Paramyxovirus is a notifiable disease under the Diseases of Poultry Order 2003.

 

Coccidosis

 

Coccidosis is an intestinal disease, nearly all pigeons are carriers of coccidian and excrete oocysts in their droppings without suffering from the disease. Coccidosis flares up at times of stress and opens the door to other diseases such as paratyphoid, canker or paramyxovirus. For this reason early appropriate treatment should be carried out where appropriate.

Coccidia are monocellular organisms (protozoa) which live as parasites in the intestine, they invade the cells and multiply destroying the intestinal wall. This results in inflammation of the bowels with diarrhoea. Birds become infected by swallowing the organism’s eggs, which quickly multiply in the bowels before being passed out again in the droppings.  There are two forms of coccidosis,

Subclinical or asymptomatic form:

This form is seen in nearly all pigeons, they show no symptoms of disease. Through regular ingestion of the oocysts the defenses of the pigeon are continually stimulated gradually building up immunity to the infection. In this situation the birds live in a kind of equilibrium with the pathogen.  Therefore it is counter productive to treat birds with such a low grade infection as the pigeon’s defenses are temporarily disturbed and their natural immunity is reduced.

Actual coccidosis taking acute form:

This form of the disease very rarely occurs in young birds from the third week of life before they have had chance to build up a natural immunity.

Stress factors like the change over from crop milk to grain reduce the young bird’s natural resistance and allows the rapid spread of coccidia even if only a few oocysts are ingested.

Symptoms of severe intestinal disease appear, digestive disorders with muco-aqueus or bloody diarrhoea, emaciation, listlessness and debility.  Such birds as a result will die of weakness or secondary infection. Treating such birds in time leads to the favourable prospect of a cure since the damaged intestinal wall recovers comparatively quickly.