Keeping your pigeons healthy

Antwerp Natural Healthcare





Respiratory Tract


Pigeons are frequently infested by ascaris and capillaries. The contamination is carried out by food and drinking water soiled by the droppings of other contaminated pigeons.


The ascaris is a round white worm, pointed at the two ends and measures 2 to 5 cm long. They live in the intestine and are found in the droppings or in packs in the intestine of dead pigeons. The eggs laid by the adult worms are eliminated within the droppings. Favourable conditions such as heat and moisture are needed, after an oral ingestion by a pigeon, to release the larva which can migrate in all the body especially the liver through the blood stream. The migration of the larva through tissues causes serious damages, particularly in the intestine which cannot suitably fulfil any more its role of food assimilation.


Moreover, the ascaris use for themselves part of the food, thus increasing the nutritional deficiencies in the pigeons. The capillary is a worm of approximately 1.5 cm long. Because it is extremely thin it is practically invisible to the naked eye. It lives in the intestinal wall.


Clinical aspects:

In case of light infestation, condition and racing results decrease. As the infestation is more important, the simple greenish intermittent diarrhoea becomes chronic, along with weakness and an increasingly dull plumage.


Death occurs when the birds are extremely skinny, showing a breast-bone called “blade of a knife” resulting of melted muscles. Intestines can be completely blocked by a pack of ascaris to the extent of bursting.




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Trichomoniasis is the most frequent disease in the pigeon. It is caused by a tailed protozoon whose transmission is carried out especially by adult pigeons feeding their youngsters.


Drinking water or food regurgitations, soiled by trichomoniasis, are also current vectors.


The adult pigeons are generally carrying trichomonas without presenting disease symptoms but the disease can be declared following circumstances such as tiredness due to races, breeding, moulting or the development of another viral or parasitic disease.


Clinical aspects:

Adults show an inflamed throat, bad digestion and green soft to liquid droppings. Before even reaching these stages, trichomonas can induce poor results during races just by weakening the pigeon’s condition.


A simple treatment would show a spectacular improvement of scores and decrease the losses at training and races. In the young birds from parents carrying the parasite, droppings become very liquid around the tenth day.


The youngsters are weak. Small yellowish caseous lesions appear in the beak, on the palate, the inner cheeks, the tongue and the back throat. These very sticky caseous lesions can extend and develop along the oesophagus.




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Caused by two species of coccidies specific to pigeons, coccidiosis is transmitted through food, drinking water or gutters contaminated by pigeon droppings.


The reproductive cycle of coccidiosis is complex. Let us simplify by indicating that a sick pigeon eliminates oocysts with its droppings and contaminates other pigeons.


The sporulation is eased by moisture and heat. This makes these infesting sporulated oocysts able to create serious intestinal damage in the pigeon absorbing them.


Clinical aspects:

The young pigeons are very sensitive to coccidiosis, with loss of appetite, intense thirst, greenish diarrhoea, important loss of weight, hanging wings and mortality within one week.


A less marked coccidiosis can appear as disorders of the growth (weakness and rachitic pigeons as a consequence of a poor intestine condition), deviated breast-bone and marked feathers.


For adult pigeons which have acquired a certain resistance, the plumage is dull and dry, droppings are soft, and mucus is present in the throat. These weakened pigeons cannot, obviously, carry out any prowess during racing.







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These parasites develop from contact with contaminated equipment or other contaminated birds (pigeons but also chicken or wild birds).


Columbicola columbae is a louse of approximately 2 mm long that feeds on remains of feathers and skin and causes itching. In these conditions of irritability pigeons can’t rest. Easily visible in the light when the wing is spread, they can be found on the feathers of the neck when the infestation is massive or when the infested bird is dead.


Faculifer rostratus is a mite of small size (smaller than the millimetre) which attacks the barb of the primaries by causing holes in the feather, in parallel lines with the feather shaft.


Dermanyssus gallinae is a bloodsucking mite. At night, this parasite attacks the sleeping pigeons to feed on their blood. These non stopping blood intakes induce anaemia which can be mortal for young pigeons. Pigeons do not benefit from these poor sleeping periods and get weaker and weaker. They also loose their fitness and can give the nest up during incubation periods as they become exhausted, causing death of the embryo (black egg) as a consequence.


Argas or pigeon’s tick induces the same symptoms and consequences as the dermanyssus. Its larva remains on the host and appears as red and black spots, the size of a pinhead, in the neck and on the wings. The ticks can be the hosts vectors of the paratyphoid and pocks.


Cnemidocoptes laevis is responsible for scabies. This parasite sits mainly on the neck, but can spread at the edge of the wings and to the ventral area. It breaks the base of the feather and causes a very strong irritation to the skin. Frequent in spring and in summer, scabies seem to disappear during the moult but the problem will start again the following spring on a more significant number of birds because it is a contagious disease.



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• Increase the fluidity of the mucus from the upper respiratory tract to maximise racing performances


• It is essential that breathing is not constrained so that the maximum of oxygen is drawn to the muscles in action.


• For perfect breathing, it is advisable to drain secretions following a respiratory inflammation, out of the upper respiratory tract.

















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