Dr Colin Walker established the Australian
Pigeon Company in 1994, to develop, manufacture and distribute a
range of veterinary medicines and health supplements for pigeons.
Dr Walker's veterinary expertise, together with his knowledge of
the requirements of pigeon racers, gathered through experience of
his own race team, place him in the unique situation to develop
such products. The result is a range of quality products made for
the pigeon racer and based on sound veterinary knowledge.
A summary list of the most popular and widely
used products follows, together with information on the common diseases
and the best way to use these medications in their control. The
most common health problems encountered in pigeons are canker, respiratory
infection, Coccidia, worms and external parasites.
The medications that are used to control these are:
- This effective Coccidia medication requires
only a 2-day treatment course; safe to use during all stages of
the pigeon year.
Turbosole - The safe, effective,
quick-acting treatment for canker. The medication of choice during
breeding, racing and moulting.
- A blend of Doxycycline and Tylan. Recommended by veterinarians
worldwide as the medication of choice to treat and manage the respiratory
infection complex during racing.
- The antibiotic blend of choice for respiratory infection in young
- A clear water-soluble wormer that not only eliminates roundworms
and hairworms but also eradicates all external parasites (including
airsac mites) that feed off body fluid. Readily taken by the birds,
there is no need to withhold food. The wormer of choice during racing,
breeding and moulting.
- A pyrethroid insecticidal spray that can not only be used to spray
or dip the birds but also to spray the loft.
Plus- A moxidectrin/praziquantel water-soluble worming solution
that also treats tape worms.
CANKER - ITS PREVENTION, CONTROL AND TREATMENT
DISEASE CONTROL AND THE USE OF MEDICATION
Nature of the disease
The disease canker is caused by a protozoan
Trichomonas columbae. This is a microscopic single-celled organism.
It lives within the digestive tract of pigeons, in particular the
throat and crop, and can also involve associated areas such as the
bile duct. The organism is fragile in the environment, only surviving
for a few minutes once outside the bird. This helps with control of
the disease and means that the birds cannot become infected from the
loft or immediate environment as happens with other diseases such
as worms and paratyphoid. The organism (trichomonad) requires intimate
contact between birds to be spread and is usually transmitted by saliva
or pigeon milk. Saliva contaminates food and water. As a pigeon drinks,
the organism swims away from its beak and, when another pigeon comes
to drink, it not only drinks the water but also the trichomonads there.
When a pigeon sorts through grain, each dropped grain contains a small
amount of saliva. In this way, the disease can also be spread through
a feed hopper. Adult birds 'billing' can transmit the organism, as
do parents when feeding their nestlings.
Control of canker during the breeding
Correct medication is vital during the breeding
season so that the level of natural immunity in the weaned youngster
is as high as possible. Because the severity of the disease varies
in different lofts, there is no single blanket program that is best
for all lofts. There is no drug that by itself will cure canker in
a loft. It is a matter of using medication correctly so that the birds
can establish a strong natural immunity to the disease. It is this
natural immunity that, in the longer term, protects them from the
What causes canker to appear during the
In health, every time the feeding stock bird
feeds its youngsters, it passes on some of its own trichomonads to
them. This gives the youngsters a controlled gradual exposure to the
organism, which in turn allows them to establish their own natural
immunity. Clinical disease appears in the babies when the stock birds
shed too many trichomonads over a given period of time to their youngsters.
Increased rates of trichomonad shedding will
stock birds are stressed for any reason
- Anything that stresses the stock bird will lead to an increased
rate of trichomonad shedding and includes such things as a poorly
designed loft, poor management practices, incorrect feeding, and other
the stock birds' natural immunity is not
high - Stock birds are likely to shed higher numbers more readily
when breeding if their own natural immunity to the strains present
in the loft is not as yet solid. This can occur if new stock birds
carrying different trichomonad strains have been introduced to the
loft during the non-breeding time. All birds carry some immunity to
the resident trichomonad strains in their loft. When birds from different
lofts mix, they exchange their trichomonad strains. Adult stock birds
during the non-breeding season are not stressed and so exposure to
any new strains brought in by introduced birds is unlikely to lead
to disease. They are not moulting, not breeding, and have plenty to
eat, and therefore no sign of canker occurs. However, when paired,
if their natural immunity to the new different strains is not solid,
the stress of feeding will cause them to 'break down' and shed larger
numbers of trichomonads. In the same way, the introduced birds need
to establish an immunity to their new loft's resident strains. This
is why canker is more of a problem in lofts that are still establishing
with birds coming from a variety of other lofts. As the years roll
by, fewer new birds are introduced and so the chance of new trichomonad
strains getting into the loft decreases. The birds' immunity to resident
strains becomes solid and the effect of the disease is less marked.
Many fanciers are frustrated when canker appears in the stock loft.
With excellent care in a good loft, they wonder just how it is that
the disease can come. Certainly they are on the right track with this
approach because in a good loft under good care it is less likely
that the stock birds will shed large numbers of trichomonads. However,
some strains are so active that problems will arise no matter how
well the birds are cared for.
How to manage an outbreak of canker during
the breeding season
When canker does appear during breeding, its
management is two-fold. It is a matter of:
1. treating the sick youngsters -
In lofts with a canker problem, all youngsters should be checked daily.
If a sick youngster is noticed it can be successfully treated, and
such youngsters can go on to become champions. Either Spartrix or
Flagyl tablets* can be used, however, Spartrix is more convenient
to medicate the nestlings. The dose of Spartrix is one tablet per
adult bird. Estimate how big the youngster is compared to the adult
and give it this proportion of the tablet once daily until well. Usually,
one to four doses are required. It is often good to also medicate
both the nest mate and parents for 2 days. If the unwell youngster
is slow to respond, it is usually best eliminated. Individual pairs
that breed youngsters with canker are best mated to different birds
for subsequent rounds.
At the same time, it is important to
the number of fresh cases
- This is done by checking the number of trichomonads that the stock
birds are shedding. This is achieved by giving 2 days Turbosole* periodically.
The exact frequency depends on the incidence of canker but usually
every 1 - 3 weeks is appropriate. One needs to give sufficient 2-day
courses to limit the number of new youngsters with the disease, but
at the same time to avoid overuse of the drug so that the developing
youngster is still getting an on-going exposure to the organism. It
is a matter of working between these two extremes.
The important thing to always remember with canker during the breeding
season is that the disease can never be controlled through medication
alone. It is the development of a strong natural immunity that protects
the birds in the longer term. It is important that medication is used
to keep the birds well but used in such a way as to not interfere
with the development of this immunity.
for the breeding season
In the stock
loft that had canker last season
Treat all stock birds for 5 - 7 days before
pairing and then for 2 days every 1 - 3 weeks once paired. Frequency
of treatment depends on the severity of the problem and the control
achieved. Try and coincide these 2-day treatment periods with the
time of hatching when trichomonad shedding is highest. If canker is
still a problem in certain pairs, try to only medicate these pairs.
This can be achieved by breeding from them in individual runs and
only medicating their water with Turbosole for 2 days as required
or alternatively leaving them in the loft and just treating them with
Spartrix or Flagyl tablets for 2 days when needed. Splitting the pair
and remating each to other birds for the next round may help.
Stock birds can be crop flushed before pairing to identify those birds
carrying large numbers of trichomonads. These birds are not only more
likely to shed large numbers of trichomonads more readily once paired
but also to pass on their genetic susceptibility to canker. In the
longer term, it is best if these birds, when identified, are eliminated.
The problem is that they may, in fact, be the winners and here lies
the challenge for the fancier - to breed birds less susceptible to
the disease that are also winners.
In the stock loft that had no canker last
No treatment is required. If there was no problem
with canker in last year's nestlings, then it is best not to medicate
for canker. Any medication will stop the paired bird shedding trichomonads
and therefore interrupt the on-going exposure of the growing youngster
to the organism. This leads to a lower natural immunity and may in
fact create a vulnerability to the disease in the postweaning period.
In the stock loft that had no canker last
season but to which new stock birds have been introduced
As discussed earlier, all birds carry in their systems the resident
trichomonad strains of the loft and usually have a strong natural
immunity to them. A newly introduced stock bird brings these strains
with it. These strains may not have been encountered by your own birds
and the new birds may not have encountered yours. Both lots of birds
in time must, through exposure, become immune to the other strains.
If introduced in the non-breeding time, when the stock birds are not
under any stress, i.e. not moulting and in a good loft with plenty
to eat, no clinical disease will be seen. However, with the stress
of breeding, any immunity already developed will be put to the test.
If immunity is not solid at the time of breeding, excessive trichomonads
will be shed and the youngsters may develop canker. For this reason,
new birds, especially if introduced immediately before pairing, should
ideally be mated in individual runs and the youngsters monitored.
If youngsters in the main loft begin appearing with canker, the loft
should be managed as discussed under the section How to Manage an
Outbreak of Canker During the Breeding Season.
Control at weaning
In lofts with a canker problem, all youngsters can be treated with
Turbosole for 2 - 3 days at weaning, to avoid any check in their development
through this stressful time. In the longer term, however, the important
thing during this time is that only youngsters with the disease should
be treated so as not to interfere with the developing natural immunity
of the flock as a whole. Affected birds should be separated and treated
with either one-quarter of a Flagyl tablet (200 mg) or one whole Spartrix
tablet once daily until well. This usually takes 1 - 3 days. Alternatively,
the unwell youngsters' water can be medicated with Turbosole (1/2
teaspoon to 1 litre of water). It is important, however, to ensure
that any unwell youngster is still able to drink. Turbosole can also
be mixed into a paste and the youngster's throat painted with this
using a cotton bud. The group of youngsters, as a whole, should only
be treated if more than 10% of youngsters are showing signs, usually
with Turbosole for 2 - 3 days. However, in this situation it is best
to seek veterinary advice.
Control during the race season
If canker was a problem during the breeding season, this tells us
that the birds have the potential to have trichomonad flare-ups in
response to stress and that canker is likely to be a problem during
racing. However, through good management and the correct use of medication,
it is hoped, however, that most birds have developed a reasonably
strong natural immunity by the start of the race season. The stress
of racing will put any immunity that the birds have formed to the
test. Depending on what stresses the birds are under, trichomonad
levels will rise and fall. When high, they have a typical parasitic
effect, weakening the bird, in the process creating a vulnerability
to secondary infection (particularly respiratory infection) and compromising
race performance. They also produce a toxin that makes the birds feel
unwell. Birds with elevated trichomonad levels are said to have 'wet
canker'. Signs of infection can be subtle and quite varied.
Typical signs that would alert the fancier to
its possible presence include:
1. 'Penguin' posture
- Associated with proventricular (glandular stomach) and crop pain.
Birds will lean back on their tails and gulp. Noticed particularly
after eating and drinking.
2. 'Dry feather' - Due to lack of
down feather drop and bloom production.
3. 'Leady' feel - Affected birds will
not come into condition and feel heavy in the hand.
4. Wet dropping - Inflammation in
the digestive tract creates a thirst, leading to elevated water intake
and urine production. This produces a clear watery rim around the
5. Green droppings - Due to digestive
tract irritation and in some birds decreased food intake.
6. Inflammation in the throat - Tonsillitis
and increased clear to grey bubbly mucus.
7. Interference with crop function
- Delayed crop emptying and sometimes vomiting.
8. Increased food consumption by team as
9. Dry yellow canker - In birds of
any age, this tells you that many other birds have elevated trichomonad
levels, which have not yet passed the threshold for yellow material
10. Indirect signs - Poor loft flying,
poor tossing, respiratory problems that respond poorly to medication
or quickly relapse, a dramatic improvement in the birds' general vigour
in response to anticanker medication are all suggestive.
Definitive diagnosis, however, depends on microscopic examination
of a crop flush. Microscopic changes that are suggestive of the problem
also develop in the dropping,. These changes are associated with the
stress of the disease and include elevated E. coli and yeast levels.
These changes, however, do not occur in all birds.
Race lofts are divided into one of two groups for the purposes of
1. Those without resident wet canker strains.
Since the rapid spread of wet canker strains through the racing pigeon
fraternity since the early 1990's, not many lofts now fit into this
category. In these lofts, canker is unlikely to be a problem during
breeding and crop flushes done on members of the race team will be
repeatedly negative. Here, an effort is made to prevent the introduction
of these strains with returning race birds. In races where the birds
are provided with drinkers, returning race birds are medicated with
Turbosole (1/2 teaspoon to 1 litre of water) for 24 hours upon return.
Often the single big drink that returning race birds have, although
not sufficient to treat an active infection, will clear the trichomonads
picked up from a recent exposure.
2. Those lofts with resident wet canker strains.
In these lofts, canker is likely, but not always, to be a problem
during breeding, and crop flushes done on individual race birds, particularly
following stress, will contain large numbers of trichomonads. Here,
attention focuses not on treating returning birds, because the strains
are already in the loft, but on keeping the numbers of trichomonads
low so that they cannot affect race form. This is achieved by giving
periodic 2-day courses of Turbosole. The length and frequency of each
treatment is variable from one loft to the next, being affected by
a number of factors intrinsic to that loft. In most lofts, however,
1 - 2 days every 1 - 3 weeks will keep trichomonad levels low. In
the absence of testing, treatment 2 days every third week is advised.
This is usually given on the Monday and Tuesday. Preferably, however,
the use of Turbosole within a loft is based on the results of testing
birds from that loft. If trichomonads are detected in a crop flush,
an initial 2-day course of Turbosole is given. Follow-up crop flushes
are then done every few days so that the exact time that trichomonads
start to reappear is detected. Once this interval is known for that
loft, then, given a constant set of loft parameters, the trichomonads
will repeatedly and predictably reappear at this time. Follow-up 2-day
Turbosole treatments at this interval will ensure the trichomonad
levels are always low and therefore not given a chance to affect race
form. The main loft parameters are the genetic make-up of the birds,
the strain(s) of trichomonad present, the loft environment and the
management practices. If these change, the use of Turbosole may also
need to change, e.g. increased tossing combined with cold weather
may stress birds, leading to premature trichomonad flare-ups and a
shortening of the treatment interval for one or two treatments. Generally,
however, as the season progresses, the need for medication declines
as the birds get older, both their level of fitness and natural immunity
rise and, in particular, in Victoria, as the weather becomes warmer.
Other sites of canker
As fanciers would be aware, most canker lesions are found in the bird's
throat and are often associated with their tonsils here. However,
canker can affect a variety of other sites.
If pigeon milk is spilt into the nest bowl and this, in turn,
contaminates a nestling's navel that has not fully healed, a canker
nodule can develop on the navel. Treat the nestling with the correct
dose of Spartrix daily (usually 1 - 4 days). Antiseptics (such as
Betadine) can be applied to the navel daily until the area has dried.
After several days, the nodule can be 'popped' like a scab and separated
from underlying healthy tissue. The condition must be caught early
for treatment to be successful and for the youngster to be of value
racing. The condition is more likely to occur when nest conditions
are poor, leading to delayed navel healing, and is therefore often
associated with 'wet nests' and with inappropriate nesting material.
The condition is also more likely to occur if the parents are shedding
large numbers of trichomonads. A suggested course of treatment is:
Treat youngster and both parents
daily with Spartrix
Dab navel daily with Betadine
Treat parents for 'wet nest'
if appropriate (PVM Powder and Probac)
Improve nest conditions
In pigeons with sour crop, at least 90% have an internal canker nodule
located at the base of the crop or within the glandular stomach (proventriculus).
As the nodule increases in size, it squashes the windpipe making breathing
difficult and blocking the crop outlet. This interferes with crop
emptying, leading to bacterial infection of the crop and secondary
starvation and dehydration due to the crop contents not being able
to pass into the bird's system. Usually by the time the bird is noticed
to be unwell, the condition has passed the point where it will respond
to treatment. Deaths often occur due to the nodule growing through
the stomach wall, leading to stomach contents leaking into the chest.
Alternatively, the nodule can damage the heart or large blood vessels
within the chest, causing sudden and severe bleeding. Such birds are
often found dead on the floor with blood coming from the mouth. It
is always worth attempting to treat valuable birds and I suggest :
Manually empty the crop
Give electrolytes in water
Treat bird with 3 drops Baytril
Treat bird with 1 tablet of
Spartrix or a 1/4 Flagyl tablet or 0.5 ml Flagyl syrup once daily
Separate unwell bird from loft
The cloaca is the pigeon's bottom. Within its wall is a gland called
the Bursa of Fabricius. This gland is an important part of the youngster's
immune system. It shrivels up and disappears during puberty. If pigeon
milk containing trichomonads contaminates the nest bowl, the trichomonads
can cause a trichomonad nodule to develop in the cloaca. Affected
birds are usually noticed to be a bit quiet or their growth is slightly
retarded compared to others of their age. On examination of the cloaca,
a firm lump can be felt in the skin above it. Sometimes these lumps
do not become apparent until the postweaning period. Affected birds
should be treated daily with either Spartrix or Flagyl, usually for
3 - 4 days, by which time the nodule has usually localized and can
be expressed by gentle but firm pressure through the cloaca.
Canker nodule in throat or crop
Older youngsters or mature stock birds with a reasonably strong natural
immunity will often try and localize a canker infection, leading to
nodule formation. If in the throat, these nodules can usually be seen
or if in the crop wall can usually be felt as firm mobile lumps ranging
in size from 0.5 cm to 4 cm in diameter. Affected birds are treated
daily with Spartrix or Flagyl tablets. Once localized (usually 1 -
4 days), throat lesions can usually be teased free with a cotton bud
or crop lesions pinched free into the crop. Occasionally, surgical
removal is necessary. Premature attempts at removal usually result
in excessive bleeding.
Canker can infect internal sites associated with the digestive tract,
notably the bile duct, which drains bile from the liver into the bowel.
Birds with internal canker nodules usually display non-specific signs
of illness, including weight loss, lethargy, reluctance to eat and
green diarrhoea. The final diagnosis is often made at autopsy. In
lofts with a canker problem, it is usually best to include a daily
Spartrix or Flagyl tablet in the treatment regime of an unwell bird
in case this is the problem.
Sometimes canker organisms can invade the sinuses through the slot
in the roof of the mouth and form a canker nodule here. The birds
present with a firm swelling across the forehead between the base
of the cere and the eyes. Anticanker medication is given for 4 - 5
days to kill the active infection. After this, lancing the area by
making an incision in the skin over the most prominent area of the
nodule enables the canker nodule to be expressed. Once the nodule
is removed, it is best to continue with anticanker medication for
several days. Healing is usually uneventful.
It is important not to confuse infection in other parts of the body
with canker. Trichomonads, partially because of their fragility, can
only infect the digestive tract and associated structures. Pigeons
are very restricted in their response to infection. Their white blood
cells lack many of the enzymes (called lysosomes) that are normally
found in mammals and therefore cannot produce pus. For this reason,
no matter where the site of infection, the resultant reaction often
looks like a canker infection. Bacterial (or other) infections of
the skin, feet and eye, etc. for this reason are often confused with
canker because of their appearance.
Any one of a group of medications called nitro imidazoles are effective
against trichomonads. There are four commonly in use:
1. Dimetradazole - The common brand
name here is Emtryl, available as a water-soluble powder. Dimetradazole
was the first nitro imidazole available and is still an effective
drug, although trichomonad resistance to it in some areas is a problem
because it has been used for the longest. It must be used with care
as it has a narrow safety margin. Overdose leads to a reversible loss
of balance and coordination and, in high doses, death. The medication
can interfere with sperm production in cocks, leading to a temporary
infertility, and so is not recommended for use during breeding. The
usual dose is 1 teaspoon (3 grams) to 4½ - 8 litres of water. Lower
dose rates should be used in stock birds feeding youngsters and during
hot weather when water intake increases and evaporation occurs from
drinkers, increasing the concentration of the medication.
2. Carnadazole - The common brand
name here is Spartrix. It is only available in tablet form. It has
a wide safety margin and is very useful for individual bird dosing,
particularly youngsters in the nest. The dose is one 10-mg tablet
3. Metronidazole - The common brand
name is Flagyl. This is available as a water-soluble syrup and as
tablets in a variety of strengths. It is very economical, with the
tablets being useful to dose individual birds. Individual birds are
given ¼ of a 200-mg Flagyl tablet once daily. Flagyl syrup is water
soluble and is given at the dose of 5 - 10 ml per litre but is very
sugary and not very palatable to the birds.
4. Ronidazole - This is available
as a water-soluble powder under a number of brand names world-wide,
including Ridsol-S, Turbosole, Tricho-Plus and Ronivet. The usual
strength used is 10%. The dose at this strength is ½ teaspoon per
litre. Weaker preparations are available but the birds need to be
treated longer with these. The drug is very bitter so preparations
stronger than 10% tend to be unpalatable to the birds. It has a very
wide safety margin and is safe to use during breeding, racing and
moulting. World-wide, ronidazole is the current medication of choice
to treat canker. However, in some countries it is not available for
use in pigeons, authorities being concerned that resistant organisms
may develop. As the drug is used in food-producing animals such as
pigs, its use is reserved for these.
In any canker-control program, it is often best to rotate between
at least two of these medications in order to decrease the chance
of a resistant trichomonad strain developing. Currently, ronidazole-based
preparations are used as the primary treatment because of their effectiveness
and wide safety margin, but it is a good idea to swap to one of the
other available drugs every third or fourth treatment.
There are many parasites that infect pigeons
and I feel that it is beyond the scope of this book to discuss all
of them in detail. The most important and most commonly encountered
parasites are roundworm, hairworm, tapeworm, the external parasites,
lice and mites and Coccidia.
Worms are a primary and serious parasite and it is important that
they are completely eradicated for the birds to perform at their
best. They weaken the bird, meaning that race performance cannot
be optimal, and also increase vulnerability to other secondary diseases,
such as canker and respiratory infection. There are three common
intestinal worms - roundworm, hairworm and tapeworm.
Roundworm and hairworm
These worms live in the digestive tract of the pigeon and release
eggs, which are passed with the bird's droppings. After several
days in the environment, these eggs become infective and, if then
accidentally ingested by a pigeon, hatch inside them and grow into
the new worm. In the loft, there is no easy way for the fancier
to tell whether his birds have these parasites as the adult worms
are only rarely passed in the droppings and indeed hairworms are
microscopic. They are usually diagnosed by microscopic examination
of a dropping sample, in which their eggs can be seen.
I recommend Moxidectin to treat hairworm and roundworm. Moxidectin
(2 mg/ml) is a clear fully water-soluble liquid that, when diluted
in the drinking water, is readily taken by the birds. The dose is
5 ml per 1 litre of water for 24 hours. It has a wide safety margin
and is perfectly safe to use during racing, breeding and, in particular,
moulting. Moxidectin does not cause nausea and vomiting as many
older worming preparations do and so the birds can be fed and loft
flown quite normally. Moxidectin also has the added advantage that
it eliminates any external parasites that feed off body fluid. Mites
in pigeons live off blood and so these are all cleared with Moxidectin.
Lice live off feather debris and bloom and so in theory this drug
should have no effect on them but in practice, during the 3 weeks
following Moxidectin treatment, most lice also disappear. Moxidectin
is also a safe and effective treatment for airsac mites at the usual
dose given above.
Control in the stock loft
The stock loft should be completely free of worms. The roundworm
life cycle can be completed in 3 - 4 weeks and so a single worming
before breeding (or racing) will improve things for that period
of time only. Eradication can be achieved by using Moxidectin twice
at a 3-week interval followed by a superthorough clean after each
treatment. This removes droppings passed before medication, which
may contain infective parasite eggs with the potential to reinfect
the birds. It is a good idea to have the droppings rechecked 3 weeks
after the second worming to ensure that the parasite has been cleared.
Once these parasites have been cleared, worming any new bird before
it goes into the stock loft should prevent reintroduction of worms.
The dose of Moxidectin for a single bird is 0.25 ml of the neat
liquid. If it is not possible to completely and thoroughly clean
the loft, Moxidectin can be repeated every 3 weeks over a 6-month
period as the longest that eggs can remain infective in the environment
is 5 - 6 months. Worms can also reenter the stock loft if the droppings
of pigeons or doves outside the loft can enter. To prevent this,
any external flight should either have a grid or suspended floor.
the racing loft
It is important that the race team is free of worms before racing.
The need to treat can be determined by a dropping analysis. In the
absence of testing, it is better to assume that the birds are infected
and treat twice at a 3-week interval followed by a thorough clean
before the commencement of racing. With the commencement of Thursday
night basketing, race unit reinfection can occur and so it is important
that the droppings are regularly checked during racing to monitor
this. If a positive result is returned, worming is usually done
on the Sunday or Monday (when racing is on the Saturday). In the
absence of testing, it is a good idea to give the birds 1 day Moxidectin
every fourth week (usually on a Monday) to clear any roundworms
or hairworms that might have been picked up in addition to any lice
or mites that they might be carrying.
Tapeworms also live in the pigeon's digestive tract. They have a
head or scolex, which is embedded deeply into the lining of the
pigeon's bowel. Behind this head mature segments, called proglottids,
which are essentially packets of eggs. New segments are continuously
forming behind the head, pushing maturing segments further and further
away until eventually ribbons of segments trail behind the head
down the bowel, with the most mature ones at the end. When fully
mature, these egg packets snap free either singly or several at
a time in ribbons before passing down the bowel and out with the
droppings. The fancier will notice either a segmented white ribbon
hanging from the pigeon's cloaca or, alternatively, as the segments
are motile when passed, he may see small white segments wriggling
within the droppings shortly after being passed or air-dried segments
stuck to the surrounding perch. Tapeworms are therefore not a microscopic
diagnosis because these segments can be seen with the naked eye.
Different types of tapeworm vary in size. The small ones look like
white pieces of cotton trailing through the dropping, larger ones
look like pieces of rice stuck on the surface of the droppings,
while the largest ones appear as whitish squares up to 0.5 cm x
0.5 cm. Once in the environment, the eggs inside these segments
are ingested by insects. These eggs hatch into infective larvae
in the insects. Pigeons become infected by eating these insects.
For tapeworm eradication, I recommend Prazivet Solution. This is
a new preparation that has many advantages over previously available
treatments. It is fully water-soluble, meaning that birds do not
have to be picked up individually and given tablets. It only needs
to be made available for 24 hours, unlike other water-soluble preparations.
It can also safely be given during racing, breeding, and, in particular,
moulting. There is no need to remove food and the birds behave quite
normally so that feeding and loft training can continue uninterrupted.
It is also very cheap, costing less than 4 cents to treat each bird.
The dose is 5 ml to 1 litre of water. It's active constituent is
praziquantel. Praziquantel tablets (Droncit) are also available
for those fliers preferring to give tablets to individual birds.
A tapeworm's life cycle can be completed as quickly as 21 days.
This means that if a pigeon swallows an insect the day after worming,
within 21 days it will have tapeworms again. It is therefore important
to minimize the birds' exposure to insects. However, in the warmer
northern areas of Australia where tapeworms are common, Prazivet
can be given for 1 day every 3 - 4 weeks. Weevils are one of the
insects that can carry tapeworm and so seed that either has or has
had weevils in it (look for the little bored holes) must be avoided.
Within the loft, slaters are the most common insect carrying tapeworm.
When disturbed, slaters roll themselves into balls, which I think
pigeons mistake for peas, because these balls are a similar size
and colour. To prevent reinfection, it is therefore best to spray
out the loft with Permethrin Solution simultaneously with a Prazivet
treatment. Permethrin has a residual effect for 4 months.
Lice and mites
The two most common external parasites of pigeons are lice and mites.
Lice live their entire life cycle on the bird, dying quickly once
they are off the bird. They live off feather debris and bloom. Mites
drink blood and other body fluids and not only live on the pigeon
but also live in cracks and crevices throughout the loft. Not all
mites that infect the pigeon are on the bird at any one time. Many
live in the loft environment, hiding in cracks and crevices, and,
in particular during the breeding season, below nest bowls and within
nesting material, only moving onto the birds and nestlings at night
Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid used to treat lice and mites.
Pyrethroids are plant-origin insecticides, which are very effective
but very safe for use in pigeons. Permethrin Solution is used in
the following three situations:
1. To dip birds to eradicate lice
- Fill a bucket, diluting 10 ml Permethrin to 1 litre of water.
Use warm water and treat the birds in the morning of a warm day.
Add half a teaspoon of soap flakes to act as a wetting agent. Immerse
birds up to their neck, fanning their wings and tail through the
solution. Momentarily dip their heads below the surface. Addition
of the wetting agent enables complete penetration by the Permethrin.
The birds look normal 2 hours after dipping. Permethrin does not
remove the birds' bloom and has a residual effect for up to 4 months.
2.To spray the loft - This is done
in conjunction with Prazivet treatment to kill any insects in the
loft that might be carrying any tapeworm and also to eradicate mites
in conjunction with a Moxidectin treatment. It is also done before
breeding to eliminate mosquitoes, flies and, in particular, red
mite. Birds are removed from the section, which is then scraped
clean. Permethrin is diluted 10 ml to 1 litre and sprayed onto the
clean scraped surfaces and into any nooks and crannies. The loft
will dry in 1 - 2 hours and the birds allowed to re-enter.
3. To treat individual birds - It
is a good idea to have some diluted Permethrin mixed and ready to
use in a spray bottle. Any introduced birds can be quickly sprayed
before being placed in the loft as can any late returning race birds.
The usual dilution used is also 10 ml to 1 litre.
Coccidia are fascinating organisms. They can infect not only pigeons,
and in fact all birds, but also dogs, cats, sheep, pigs, cows and
a range of other animals. They are, however, very species-specific
so that it is only pigeon Coccidia that can infect pigeons and,
for example, only sparrow Coccidia that infect sparrows. There are
however, several types that can infect each animal. The most common
Coccidia type in pigeons is called Eimeria spp.
Animals become infected by swallowing the organism's eggs. All Coccidia
once swallowed replicate in the cells of the host, in the process
causing extensive damage. In pigeons, this occurs in the lining
of the bowel. After multiplying here, the newly produced eggs are
passed in the droppings. When initially passed, the eggs (oocysts)
are thin-shelled and contain a spherical body, which looks granular,
called a sporoblast. The sporoblast is an amorphous blob of protoplasm.
Once in the environment, the sporoblast within the bigger egg develops
into several smaller eggs called sporocysts (there are four in Eimeria),
which in turn each contain a number of structures called sporozoites
(there are two in Eimeria). Once this has happened, the egg is said
to be sporolated. It is not until this has happened that the egg
is infective if swallowed. This process usually takes 4 - 5 days
but depends on temperature and humidity. Once an infective (i.e.
sporolated) egg is swallowed, the sporozoites hop out and burrow
into the wall of the bowel. They at first multiply asexually in
the bowel cells but then develop into the equivalent of male and
female gametes, which then 'mate' to produce further eggs (oocysts),
which rupture back through the bowel lining before being passed
in the dropping, thus completing the life cycle.
The significance of Coccidia for us as pigeon racers is that as
the Coccidia multiplies in the bowel lining, it damages it, interfering
with it doing its job of digestion properly. This is complicated
by the fact that each time an egg ruptures back into the bowel from
the lining, it causes a microscopic 'pin prick', allowing the bird's
blood, electrolytes and protein to be lost.
This weakens the birds and interferes with the absorption of vital
nutrients. Severely affected birds develop greenish diarrhoea, are
lethargic, thirsty and lose weight. Race birds with even the slightest
infection are not able to give of their best.
In most lofts, a low level of infection is present and out of the
racing season is regarded as normal, serving to maintain the flock's
level of immunity. In two situations, the organism can increase
in number and cause clinical problems:
1. As a primary disease, where there are
flaws in loft management or design that lead to high exposure to
the organism - The loft must be clean and dry. A build-up
in the loft is prevented by regular cleaning with particular attention
to the drinkers and hoppers. There is no place for wetness in a
healthy loft; it not only enables the Coccidia egg to become infective
more quickly, but promotes bacterial infection.
2. As a secondary disease, where other
factors weaken the bird, enabling the Coccidia to increase in number
and cause clinical disease - Such factors may be other concurrent
disease, such as worms, or alternatively overcrowding, excessive
tossing, poor nutrition, etc.
Coccidia should always be suspected where loose droppings appear,
particularly in young birds or following wet periods or heavy
training. Diagnosis is through faecal examination under a microscope.
The best drug to use is Toltrazuril Coccidiocide Solution, which acts
entirely within the bowel. It does not interfere with race form
and can therefore be safely used during racing. It can also be
used safely during breeding and moulting. The dose is 1 ml per
2 litres of water for 2 - 3 days. Avoid medicating if you believe
your birds do not have coccidiosis.
Monitoring of coccidial counts by faecal examination (I suggest
every 4 weeks) through the race season is a good indicator of
the team's form. Birds with elevated counts will benefit from
a course of Toltrazuril Coccidiocide Solution. In faecal samples from
perfectly fit birds, no coccidial eggs are seen.
Other less common parasites that the fancier might encounter are
pigeon flies, scaly leg mites and Hexamita.
Have you ever seen a row of holes on a pigeon's flight feather?
These are caused by a special type of fly called Pseudolynchia canariensis.
The adults live on the body of the bird, scurrying between the feathers.
They are blood suckers, with their bites causing pain, irritation
and restlessness. They will insert their feeding tube into a blood-filled
growing feather follicle to feed. As this feather unfurls, the tunnel
created by the feeding tube unravels into a series of holes.
The flies lay their eggs on accumulated pigeon droppings and their
maggots develop here. Fly numbers are highest during the warmer
months when the birds are breeding when they can bite nestlings
and breed in the droppings around nest bowls. Interestingly, the
saliva of the adult flies gives the nestlings diarrhoea, which makes
it easier for the maggots to survive.
On-going hygiene and efficient disposal of droppings (remembering
that accumulated droppings below a grid floor or piled in the garden
near the loft can serve as breeding grounds) will do much to control
the problem. However if necessary, any flies on the birds can be
killed by either spraying the birds with Permethrin or treating
them with a 24-hour course of Moxidectin. Coupling this with spraying
the loft with Permethrin, particularly before breeding, will solve
SCALY LEG MITES
Some mites, e.g. Cnemidocoptes mutans, will actually burrow into
the skin of a pigeon's feet. They lay their eggs in the tunnels
they create and leave little breathing tubes connected to the surface.
This irritation causes the skin of the feet to become thickened
and scaly. At any one time, the mites can also be found on other
parts of the body, in particular on the wing butts, around the face
and on the skin over the abdomen. Even though the mites are infectious
only certain birds seem vulnerable so that not all birds in the
team will be infected.
The best treatment is to give all birds a simultaneous 24-hour course
of Moxidectin. It is important not to confuse scaly leg mite infestation
with the thickened crusty growths that occur on the feet of some
birds with age.
Hexamita is an organism closely related to the organism that causes
canker. It lives primarily in the bowel and in high numbers can
cause diarrhoea. It is diagnosed by microscopic examination of a
fresh faecal smear, in which it looks just like a canker organism
but appears slightly more elongated and moves faster and more purposefully
Well-cared-for, non-stressed pigeons can carry low-level infections
asymptomatically. However, Hexamita should be totally eradicated
in any racing pigeon loft to ensure that the birds give their best.
Any medication that kills canker also kills Hexamita. However, Hexamita
needs to be treated for longer. Usually, a continuous 7-day course
of a drug such as Turbosole is given simultaneously to all birds
in the loft. The organism cannot survive in the environment and
so reinfection from the loft is not a concern. Treating all birds
simultaneously for 7 days therefore ensures eradication. It is always
worthwhile doing a follow-up dropping test to ensure its removal.
If you ask any experienced flier what health
problem he fears the most, then if it is the breeding season he will
probably say canker, but if it is the race season he will probably
say respiratory infection. Respiratory diseases are very common in
pigeons. They are the major cause of poor performance and pigeon loss
during the race season. Young birds under stress are most at risk
of contracting respiratory diseases, although healthy old birds can
fall ill when exposed to respiratory diseases in the race basket.
Race birds with respiratory infection can be difficult to detect and
yet, like a human athlete with flu, cannot compete. When some fanciers
talk about respiratory infection, they give the impression that they
are discussing a single problem and, yet, several organisms can be
involved and often simultaneously. Clinical respiratory infection
in pigeons is the end result of the interplay of a number of factors
but, in particular, the type of infective organism and the vulnerability
of the birds to infection are important . The respiratory system can
be infected by Chlamydia, Mycoplasma, bacteria (in particular E. coli),
fungi, viruses and mites. The control of some of these starts, in
certain lofts, not only before racing and not even during breeding,
but right before the stock birds are paired.
Stress is always a big factor. The vulnerability of the pigeon is
affected by what stress it is under. Stress weakens the bird, enabling
infective organisms to cause clinical disease. The control of respiratory
disease is therefore two-pronged.
1. Control of any predisposing stress factors
- These can take the form of :
(a) Environmental triggers, e.g. dampness,
overcrowding, low hygiene
(b) Management triggers, e.g. poor
feeding, excessive tossing, or
(c) Concurrent disease, in particular
parasitism. This includes wet canker. The combination of either worms
or elevated trichomonad levels and respiratory disease is very common.
The fancier must establish a healthy loft environment, otherwise respiratory
disease will continually recur, despite medication.
2. Correct use of appropriate drugs to either
eradicate or keep the organism level low so that disease does not
The organisms that infect the respiratory system and how they are
controlled are set out below.
Chlamydia is a microorganism that is found within the system of many
pigeons all the time. There are many strains, which vary tremendously
in their capacity to cause disease. Lofts tend to have resident strains
to which those birds, often through their on-going exposure, have
developed an immunity. In such lofts, it is only when the birds are
stressed that the Chlamydia is able to flare up and cause disease.
It is through contact with other birds (strays, in race units, new
introductions) that new and potentially nastier strains gain entry
to the loft. Control of Chlamydia is, therefore, double-barrelled
and involves the control of stress to avoid resident Chlamydia strains
flaring up together with the correct use of medication and the prevention
of new chlamydial strains entering the loft.
Control of stress to avoid chlamydial strains,
already in the loft, flaring up
A subsequent chapter deals with what constitutes stress and how to
avoid it, but essentially this involves on-going good care with good
management practices, a good loft environment and control of other
diseases, notably the parasitic diseases. Any problem that weakens
the birds makes them vulnerable to a chlamydial flare-up. Sometimes,
however, despite the best possible care, because the strain of Chlamydia
in the loft is virulent or the family of pigeons is particularly vulnerable
(as with some European strains), it becomes necessary to medicate
the birds through stressful times to prevent chlamydial flare-ups
and the resultant clinical disease. The particular times when these
flare-ups are more likely to occur are during breeding, after weaning
and during the racing season.
Stress for a stock bird is breeding. Stressed stock birds will shed
the organisms in their droppings, saliva and eggs. If the Chlamydia
is in the egg, the developing embryo is weakened and can either die
during incubation, during the hatching process or as a nestling or,
if it survives, be a retarded youngster. In a nestbox heavily contaminated
with Chlamydia, the developing youngsters become weakened and die.
If these things have happened in earlier years, and breeding has commenced,
it is too late to treat the stock birds. However, medication (usually
doxycycline) can be given before mating to decrease the level of Chlamydia
in the stock birds' system. This means that they will then require
more stress before they start to shed the organism.
The length of treatment depends on the need, usually 7 - 30 days.
If your loft has a history of chlamydial problems during breeding,
a prebreeding doxycycline course is a good idea. Chlamydia can be
completely cleared with a 30 - 45-day course of doxycycline. However,
this is rarely done because the weaned youngsters will be exposed
to the organism later in life and may in fact be more vulnerable to
illness through this lack of exposure and the resultant low level
of natural immunity. Doxycycline, like other antibiotics, causes disruption
of the normal bowel bacteria, interfering with vitamin metabolism
and calcium absorption. It is therefore important that preventative
courses are completed several weeks before pairing and there is benefit
in giving the birds probiotics, vitamins and calcium supplements following
The next vulnerable time is the postweaning period, when both weaning
and moulting are the underlying stresses. In Victoria, Australia,
January to May are the respiratory months. Most lofts contain large
numbers of young birds having just had the stress of weaning and now
having the stress of moulting, coupled with young bird tossing and
racing. It is a time of high humidity and fluctuating temperature,
conditions that favour respiratory disease. Between 1 December and
1 March (the usual time that the last youngsters are weaned in many
lofts in Australia), fanciers must monitor the youngsters, in particular,
for signs of 'one-eye cold', dirty wattles or sneezing. However, green
watery droppings, failure to thrive, shortness of breath and a reluctance
to fly may also be indicative of the problem.
Because of the disruption to normal bowel bacteria caused by the antibiotics,
which can compromise feather quality and check development, and also
because of the interference with development of a natural immunity,
it is important that only the birds that need medication should receive
it. If only a small number are affected, they may be treated individually
with doxycycline (Vibravet 50 mg, 1/2 tablet once daily) or Baytril
(3 drops twice daily). Once on medication, they stop shedding the
organism and so there is no need to isolate them. If one bird has
become unwell while the others are okay, it is often a reflection
on its vigour. If such a bird fails to respond quickly or relapses,
it is unlikely to go on and make a competitive race bird and is often
best eliminated. If more than 5 - 10% of young birds are affected,
with fresh cases daily, then all should be treated. Usually doxycycline
12% (½ teaspoon per litre for 3 - 5 days) is used. However, such a
situation represents a major flaw in the birds' environment or management
and the longer-term solution is not going to be drugs but identification
and correction of the underlying cause. In young birds, this is often
overcrowding. A faecal examination and a crop flush are a good idea
to check for any concurrent disease in addition to reviewing other
After 1 March in Australia, as the youngsters get older, fanciers
look for signs of poor loft flying, excessive panting after training,
and sneezing within the loft. Even in the most healthy lofts, there
can be occasional outbreaks of respiratory diseases. It is important
to recognize that more than three sneezes within 5 minutes is a significant
indicator of early respiratory disease. One would expect two to three
sneezing outbreaks between January and May, even in the best managed
loft. If there is doubt as to whether a sneezing outbreak is due to
chlamydial respiratory infection, a test called a chlamydial antigen
test can be done on the droppings by an avian veterinarian. Medication
is used during this time as it is from 1 December to 1 March. However,
provided the birds are well, medication is best avoided. With on-going
good care, the birds are likely to fix themselves and the level of
natural immunity they form as a result will be much higher.
During The Racing Season
Exposure to new strains of respiratory infection
All lofts are continually being exposed to respiratory infection through
the race unit. In the race unit, many different birds from many different
lofts mix intimately in a warm humid environment, which is ideal for
the transfer of disease. In addition, the confinement, different feeding
patterns and time away from the loft stress the birds. As a result,
the Chlamydia levels can rise to the point where form is affected.
If respiratory symptoms are noted, all birds are treated with antibiotics
(eg Doxy-T, Resfite) for 3 - 5 days. It is important to treat these
outbreaks early before they change into the serious form of respiratory,
which can involve, and permanently damage, the air sacs, thus seriously
compromising race performance.
Stress-induced flare-ups of resident strains
As mature race birds, it is racing itself that provides the stress,
testing the level of immunity formed by the birds. In a well managed
loft where drugs have been used correctly, this immunity should be
relatively solid by the start of the season. Racing puts this immunity
to the test. In race birds, signs of Chlamydia flare-ups are considerably
more subtle. The birds are older, their natural immunity is higher
and their response to disease is different. The signs observed have
been modified by these factors. Birds with respiratory infection have
lost their zest for life and this is reflected in their race results.
However, many things can lead to disappointing results and, as antibiotics
have the potential to make a race team worse, I, like most fanciers,
have to be convinced that respiratory infection is present and that
their use is warranted. Birds that are reluctant to fly, quiet in
the loft and with dry feathers (no bloom) are suggestive of respiratory
infection. Sneezing (more than three times in 5 minutes from 100 birds),
scratching at the nose, yawning, and wiping the nose on the wing butt
all indicate irritation of the upper airways. On opening the beak,
the tonsils may be inflamed, a thick white mucus may be extending
into the throat from the windpipe or from the slit in the roof of
the mouth, which may be closed due to swollen edges, the top of the
windpipe may be red and inflamed, the beak at the nostril opening
may be wet, the cere may be slightly discoloured or there may be a
slightly mucous component to the birds' grunt while the gums or the
muscles may be bluish. Chronically infected birds show delayed recovery
after a race and will develop green droppings after stress because
of damage to the liver. Testing of the droppings usually confirms
If the loft has not had respiratory problems in previous years, I
feel it is best to try and avoid antibiotic medication but monitor
the birds closely and treat for 3 - 4 days if respiratory infection
occurs. If respiratory infection during racing has been a problem
in earlier years, preventative courses of antibiotics can be given
before racing in the same way that they are given to stock birds to
decrease the level of Chlamydia in the birds' system so that they
are less likely to break down with the stress of racing ahead. Depending
on the severity of the problem in earlier years, these courses are
usually 7 - 20 days in length. In such lofts, follow-up periods of
medication may be necessary during the season, and a common recommendation
is 3 days treatment every third week, with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
usually being the days to treat such a resident problem. After antibiotic
use during racing, the birds should always be given a day on either
probiotics or multivitamins.
Prevention of new chlamydial strains entering
New strains enter the loft through exposure to other birds. Stray
youngsters and youngsters bought at squeaker sales are always high
risk because, due to their age and the stress they are under, they
are likely to be shedding chlamydial organisms they are carrying.
Strays should be removed immediately and birds introduced deliberately
only from reliable sources. By far the main means of exposure is through
the race unit. One stray is one exposure. Ten birds going to a race
and each sharing a drinker with ten other birds is 100 exposures (i.e.
like getting 100 strays in one day). In some situations and, in particular
within certain clubs and areas of Australia, it becomes necessary
to medicate returning race birds to guard against infection picked
up in the race unit.
It can be seen that the appropriate management regime for Chlamydia
, including use of medications, varies from loft to loft depending
on each loft's earlier problems and particular loft-based factors.
An example is what I do with my own birds. My own loft is based on
an established Australian long-distance strain. Chlamydia is not a
big problem. I do not medicate my stock birds before pairing because
I do not have chlamydial problems during breeding. If I did, however,
I would treat for 7 - 21 days before mating as the need dictated.
I get three to four youngsters per year with eye colds and these are
individually treated with Baytril (3 drops twice daily). To date,
these have responded promptly. My race loft is very enclosed, which
gives me good control over the loft environment and enables me keep
it as close to ideal as possible. Draughts, temperature extremes and
high humidity can be avoided. I would like to think that I care for
my birds well. Under my system of management during racing and with
my loft environment, the resident chlamydial strains do not flare
up during the race season and so I do not treat preventively before
racing. I do, however, have intermittent flare-ups of wet canker and
the birds are regularly checked and treated through racing for this.
I feel that with inadequate control of this, because of the trichomonads
parasitic, i.e. weakening, effect, it is likely that the Chlamydia
would also become a problem. I check my birds droppings once or twice
weekly and the birds are monitored closely for signs of respiratory
infection. If a respiratory infection became established, the birds
would be given a 3 - 5-day antibiotic course. My returning race birds
are not treated for respiratory infection because, to date, this has
not been a problem. However, if it was a problem, I would treat them.
Mycoplasma is a problem of the race season. It is what is called
a primary erosive disease. Many vets agree that Mycoplasma
by themselves do not cause disease and, in fact, in experiments in
which healthy pigeons have been deliberately infected, the birds have
not become sick. However, the organisms do superficial injury to the
lining of the respiratory system, enabling secondary organisms, notably
Chlamydia, bacteria (such as E. coli) and fungi (such
as Aspergillus), to become established. In this way, Mycoplasma,
although not directly affecting health, has a big effect on race performance.
Failure to control the problem in an affected team renders all attempts
at success hopeless. Some Dutch vets state that as many as 90% of
teams are affected and teams are presumed to be affected unless they
have been recently treated. Pigeons harbouring Mycoplasma organisms
cannot achieve superhealth and are prevented from achieving top racing
Mycoplasma are primary pathogens of the respiratory system
and the signs displayed by the birds depend on the part of the respiratory
system affected. In the throat, nose and windpipe, signs are similar
to those described for Chlamydia earlier. However, Mycoplasma
notably causes inflammatory changes in the top 20 - 30% of the windpipe,
causing mucus to accumulate there and birds that have a broken grunt
or sound mucousy in the upper airway always make me think of Mycoplasma.
Where the airsacs are affected, the birds cannot properly breathe
and so even moderate exercise is tiring and sometimes forces the birds
to land on the nearest available surface, which may be a tree or building
near the loft. Because of the difficulty in breathing, the gums and
muscles can turn blue and because of the inability to exercise, muscle
tone and race fitness cannot come. The airsacs regulate fluid within
the body by controlling evaporation of moisture from their surfaces.
When diseased, excessive moisture is lost and the birds, therefore,
need to drink more even after moderate exercise, or run the risk of
dehydration. Often, however, signs are very subtle and may simply
be deteriorating performances.
Like Chlamydia, Mycoplasma are more likely to cause disease
when the birds are stressed. Most lofts do have resident Mycoplasma
strains and new Mycoplasma strains can enter the loft through
contact with other birds. Mycoplasma is a difficult disease
to diagnose in the live bird. Only certain labs culture Mycoplasma,
which is an expensive procedure. Blood tests are used to diagnose
the condition in chickens. There are changes at autopsy, both grossly
and microscopically, that are suggestive. Changes are also found on
faecal smears and crop flushes of affected birds, which are discussed
in other sections of this book. A good response to a short treatment
trial with Doxy-T (see Medication Guide) also supports the diagnosis
What should the fancier do if the problem
A health profile, i.e. examination
of the saliva and droppings, to assess any concurrent disease that
may need treatment and general on-going good care to ensure a good
response to medication.
A gradual return to exercise.
Always with respiratory infection there is an extended convalescence
of usually 1 - 3 weeks. The birds must be given time to recover their
fitness once medication has cleared the infection. They should not
be forced to fly around the loft and once it is apparent that their
vigour for flying has returned, initially short tosses only should
be given (less than 1/2 hour). Observe the birds closely for signs
of breathlessness on landing from these tosses and only when they
are handling these well should longer tosses be given. When managing
tosses of 1 - 1 1/2 hours well, it is usually safe to resume racing.
In well-managed lofts with no other health problems, response to treatment
can, however, be dramatic and I have had an interesting experience
where two flyers both diagnosed with Mycoplasma in their teams
succeeded in gaining 1st and 2nd Federation (3000 birds) in an all-day
500-mile race 3 weeks after treatment.
Good food, good care and an
appropriate multivitamin supplement speed recovery.
Medication. The choice of drug
is sometimes dependent on the involvement of secondary organisms such
as Chlamydia and E. coli. Baytril can be used with care
during racing. Other antibiotics such as doxycyline, Tiamulin or Tylan
are effective. However, the current recommendation is that doxycycline
and Tylan combined be given. An initial course of usually 5 - 10 days
is given depending on the severity of the infection with several follow-up
courses, usually 2 - 3 days every 2 - 3 weeks until one is sure that
the birds are well. The usual preparation used in Australia is Doxy-T
which contains doxycycline and Tylan.
In some Federations in Australia, there is significant risk of picking
up nasty Mycoplasma strains in the race basket. In these areas
and Federations, antibiotic combination medication is given throughout
the season to control the problem, usually for 2 - 3 days every 2
- 3 weeks depending on the severity of the problem and the control