Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homing Pigeons 101 - Health Care Regimen - Preventive Health Care With Diagnostics

There are two approaches to preventative health care that a fancier can use.  The best is to make use of diagnostic laboratory procedures before administering any medications.  Unfortunately, due to financial limitations or lack of laboratory facilities and personnel familiar with pigeon diseases, diagnostics may not be used.  Two programs, therefore, are outlined here.

Preventive Health Care
With Diagnostics

 Breeders done 4-6 weeks before pairing, other birds done 6-8 weeks prior to racing or showing.

  I. Vaccinations - done 4-8 weeks before mating 
     or racing.
     A. Paramyxovirus - use oil emulsion vaccine 
         approved for pigeons
     B. Paratyphoid
     C. Pox - Young Birds*

Vaccinate for Pox about 8 weeks before races begin.  Paramyxovirus or Paratyphoid may also be used at this time.  Where Paramyxovirus or Paratyphoid is endemic, youngsters may receive their first vaccination at weaning.  Give boosters at recommended times after initial inoculation.

* Vaccination for Pox may introduce the virus into a loft or to an area, so weigh this potential with the possible benefit in areas where pox is not endemic.

II. Fecal Examination - direct smear and flotation.
     A. Helminths (worms) those species commonly 
          found include: Ascarids (roundworms), Ca-
          pallaria (hairworms), Tetrameres and Dias-
          pharynx (stomach worms or stomach-wall
          worms).  Aporina (tapeworms) and Orni-
          thostrongylus (strongylids or strongyle
          worms).  Treatments:
          1. Ivermectin (cattle wormer - trade name 
              Ivomec) - diluted 1:9 with popylene glycol
              and dosed at .1cc per bird orally.  Effec-
              tive against all worms except tapeworms. 
              Dosage may need to be increased up    
              to .1cc of straight Ivomec for stomach
              worms.  Blood sucking arthropods may
              also be killed while there is a blood level
              of ivermectin in the pigeon.  Ivermectin is
              also effective (perhaps more so) given by
              injection.  It may also be very effective
              topically (applied directly on the skin).
          2. Mebendazole (dog wormer - trade name
              Telmintic) - dosed at 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
              of powder per gallon of drinking water for
              3-5 days.  (Do a repeat treatment in 21
              days where worms are diagnosed).  Use
              the higher dose when treating stomach-
              wall worms and during cool weather when
              water consumption is down.  Feather ab-
              normalities and infertile eggs have been
              reported when using ten times the recom-
              mended dose.  For this reason avoid us-
              ing Telmintic during the moult and during
              egg laying.
          3. Levamisole (trade name Tramisol) - dosed
              at 1000 to 1500 mg per gallon for one or
              two days.  Use liquid or soluble powder as
              the tablets do not dissolve readily.  Leva-
              misole is sometimes poorly effective
              against Capallaria and will not eliminate
              stomach worms or tapeworms.  Levami-
              sole may also cause vomiting.
          4. Praziquantel (trade name Droncit) - use
              1/4 of a cat tablet per average size pigeon. 
              Effective against tapeworms only.
     B. Coccida - if present in significant numbers 
          treat with:
          1. Sulfachlorpyridazine (trade name Vetisulid)
              powder dosed at 2/3 to 3/4 teaspoon per
              gallon of drinking water for 3 to 5 days.
          2. Amprolium (trade name Corid or Amprol)
              powder dosed at 1 tsp. per gallon of drink-
              ing water for 3 to 5 days.  Note: Follow ei-
              ther of these treatments with 1-2 days of
          3. Clazoril, a European drug, not yet available 
              in the U.S., may eventually be the drug of 
              choice.  Dosed at 1 tablet per pigeon.
          4. Nitrofurazone - less effective and not rec- 
              ommended for coccidia.
III. Pharyngeal and crop smears (immediate, direct
      saline smear) for trichomoniasis, and fresh fecal
      or cloacal smears for Hexamitiasis.  Hexamita,
      a flagellate, can cause serious diarrhea in
      young birds.  Treatments (for either):
      A. Emtryl - dosed at 3/4 teaspoonful per gallon 
           (less during periods of high water consump-
           tion) for 3 to 5 days.  Emtryl has been taken
           off the market and the supply is limited, but
           is an excellent drug.
      B. Ipropan - dosed at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon
           for 3 to 5 days.  More expensive but works
           well.  This may also be withdrawn from mar-
      C. Spartrix - available in Europe and will prob-
           able be available here soon.  Will probably
           be the drug of choice.  Pigeons dosed at one
           tablet per bird.
      D. Flagyl (metronidazole) - a prescription drug -
           tablets may be finely crushed and mixed in
           water so that each pigeon receives 25-50 mg
           daily for 3 to 6 days.
      E. Ronidazole - A European product (4-6 mg/kg
           body weight for 6 days).
 IV. Fecal culture - either of individual birds, or of a
      composite specimen from a compartment.  The   
      main pathogens are gram negative bacteria
      such as Salmonella or E. coli.  E. coli may be
      present normally, but when it is cultured in large
      numbers and/or in pure culture it is considered
      a potential pathogen.  If a pathogen is cultured,
      an antibiotic sensitivity (antibigram) should be
      performed to determine the appropriate antibi-
      otic(s).  If indicated Ammocillin trihydrate is a
      good drug of choice since it is bactericidal.  It is
      dosed at 25-50 mg per pigeon per day for 2
      weeks.  Vetasulid is often very effective against
      E. coli. as is Apralan (apramycin).  The latter is
      not absorbed from the gut so it may curb an out
      break, but will not be effective against a sys-
      temic infection.  The same is also true of Neo-
V. Blood smears for Haemoproteus and Plasmo-
      dium (stained with Wrights stain) in areas
      where these blood parasites are a problem,
      routine use of antimalarials may be indicated to
      keep it suppressed.  To actually affect a per-
      manent cure, a pigeon reportedly must receive
      10 mg of Atabrine daily for 30 days.  The rou-
      tine use of antimalarials in endemic areas in-
      volves medicating the drinking water with Ata-
      brine (1-2 tab/gal), Primaquine (1 tab/gal) or
      Aralen (1 tab/gal)  for 1-2 days each week dur-
      ing the race season.
 VI. Routine control of ectoparasites:
      Since water preparations do not penetrate the
      feathers well, it is better to use an insecticidal
      dust.  Dusts must be applied carefully and
      thoroughly to be most effective.
      A. Feather lice and mites can be controlled by
           regular dusting with Permethrin, Malathion
           or Carbaryl.
      B. Pigeon flies (spread Haemoproteus) are 
           more difficult but Permethrin dust applied
           every 2-4 weeks or Malathion dust applied
           weekly are effective.
      C. Mosquitoes (spread Plasmodium and Pox)
           are a real challenge.  Insecticidal strips
           hung in the loft are helpful.  The amount to
           use varies greatly with size of loft and
           amount of ventilation, and is a best guess-
           work.  Screening helps, but this is often very
           impractical in pigeon lofts.
      D. Ivermectin applied as a spray mixed fresh
           using 1cc per quart of water has been
           shown to be fairly effective against lice but
           has failed to keep pigeon flies off.
      E. Judicial use of insecticides in the loft
           (including nests) is often necessary to break
            the life cycle of some of these parasites.
VII. Culture for Mycoplasmosis or Chlamydiosis   
      when indicated treatment:
       A. Erythromycin (Gallimycin) 25-30 mg per pi 
           geon daily or Tylocin (Tylan) 50 mg per pi
           geon daily or Lincomycin (Lincocin) at 35-50
           mg per pigeon daily for Mycoplasmosis.  
           Treat for 1-2 weeks.
       B.  Tetracyclines (without grit) at 50 mg per pi-
            geon daily for up to 6 weeks for Chlamydio-
            sis.  This may be effective against Myco-
            plasma also.
  C. Doxycycline hyclate tablets, or drops, at 25 mg/   
      lb twice daily for 5-7 days then once daily for up
      to 6 weeks.
  D. Nasal flushes with appropriate antibiotic
      (antibiogram) for chronic sinusitis which may be
      primary or secondary.


Homing Pigeons 101 - Health Care Regimen - Preventive Health Plan Not Using Diagnostics

Refer to previous plan for specifics.  Breeders done 4-6 weeks before pairing.  
Other birds done 6-8 weeks prior to racing or showing.

   I.  Vaccinations:
       A. Paramyxovirus
 B. Paratyphoid
 C. Pox
 Wait one week…
  II.  Worming:
 A. Ivermectin (Ivomec)
 B. Mebendazole (Telmintic)
 C. Levamisole (Tramisol)
Two days of vitamins...
Wait 2-3 days…

  III. Coccidiosis Treatment:
 A. Sulfachlorpyridazine (Vetisulid)
 B. Amprolium (Corid or Amprol)
 C. Clazoril (when available)
 Two days of vitamins…
 Wait 2-3 days…

 IV. Trichmoniasis (canker) & Hexamitiasis   
 A. Emtryl
 B. Ipropran
 C. Spartrix
 D. Flagyl
 E. Ronidazole
 Two days of vitamins…
 Wait 2-3 days…

Note: Telmintic can be dosed at the same time as Emtryl and Amprolium or Vetasulid, thus treating worms, coccida and trichomonas concurrently.  Follow with two days of vitamins.  Use caution when mixing other medications not proven compatible, as toxicities may develop in some cases of drug combinations.

  V. Prophylactic treatment for Paratyphoid or E. coli  
       with antibiotics is medically unsound, but may 
       have benefit in some cases.  Ammoxcillin, Ni-
       trofurazone, Vetisulid, or Apralan are common 
       drug choices.

Prophylactic treatment for, or periodic treatment
for respiratory infections (Chlamydia and Myco-
plasma) may be beneficial only is there is some   
evidence of respiratory disease.  Erythromycin
(Gallimycin), Tylocin (Tylan), Lincomycin
(Lincocin) and Tetracycline drugs are com-
monly used.

Note:  Using any antibiotic blindly is a hit or miss proposition and may actually predispose to infection with a pathogen because of distributing the normal bacteria.  Indiscriminate or incorrect use of antibiotics may also contribute to the development of resistant strains and resistant forms of bacteria.

Partial restoration of the normal intestinal flora can be accomplished by the addition of live bacterial products such as Feed Mate 68, or others available from pigeon supply houses, to the feed or water after antibiotic withdrawal.

Homing Pigeons 101 - Health Care Regimen - Husbandry and Loft Management & Disease Control

Husbandry and Loft Management

Loft design should vary with the climatic conditions of a given locale, but lofts should be built with foresight, especially concerning ease  of cleaning. 

Raised floors (slatted or wire) or open bottom wire floors have significant merit.  Concrete floors are easy to clean and disinfect, but may hold moisture at times.  Most eggs and oocusts must undergo development in the environment before becoming infective to the next host.  Warm and wet environmental conditions enhance this development.  Therefore, regular (preferably daily) scrapping and a dry loft are of utmost importance to prevent spread within the loft.  Clean lofts mean healthier birds.

Deep litter, if done properly, will create a very dry environment and can be a satisfactory method.  Deep litter does produce a fine dust which can be hazardous to the hypersensitive fancier.  It may also serve as a reservoir for problems once disease organisms are introduced into the environment.  For these reasons it is discouraged.

Overcrowding is the fancier’s worst enemy.  Crowded birds never have the general good health of uncrowded birds, nor will they perform to their potential in races.

Disease Control

     Quarantine new birds.  These are very often the source of disease in the loft.  The same goes for strays.  New birds should be quarantined for 30 to 60 days, ideally.  Sick birds should be removed from the general flock and quarantined in cages that can be disinfected between cages.

Don’t guess—get positive answers to problems before random treatments are used.

Most veterinarians can help even if they have no specific interest or knowledge of pigeon diseases.  They can at least direct you to labs which can examine sick or dead birds for diagnostic purposes.  The cost is usually very reasonable.

There are many veterinarians with an interest in avian medicine and some specifically interested in pigeon medicine.  They are trying to provide a service to you.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.

Homing Pigeons 101 - Figuring the Race

Race Day and Figuring the Race
On the morning of the race you should find out from the club’s race secretary when the birds went up (liberated) so as to estimate the approximate arrival time. Racing Homers fly at 45 mph air speed, but their ground speed is controlled by the wind direction and velocity. Their ground speed is estimated by adding or subtracting the amount of the wind component the birds have to fly with or against, respectively, from 45 mph. Knowing your airline distance, the simple relationship of time equals distance divided by velocity is used to compute the estimated arrival time of the birds. The next thing to do is to lock your traps, locate your “poling sticks,” put your “droppers” in a carrying crate close at hand for ready use, and to place your clock and capsules near the trap.
Manual Non-Electronic Clocking
When a bird arrives from the race, a “dropper” is released to bring the Racing Homer down to the landing board. The race bird is herded into the locked trap with the “poling sticks” whereupon its countermark is removed, put into a capsule which is then placed in the hole in the top of the clock and the crank on the clock turned until it stamps to record the official time of the bird on the paper tape.
The trap is then unlocked to let the race bird into the loft. The trap is then immediately relocked, the dropper put back into the carrying crate and the next bird is waited for. At this time, some clubs require the fancier to report the arrival time of his first bird. This should be done promptly so as not to disqualify your bird. The race birds, after they have been clocked, should be fed and have fresh clean water to drink.
After the birds have been clocked, and when the members assemble to compute the speeds, (or as it is commonly called “to open clocks” or “to figure the race”), the clocks are again synchronized with the master timer by stamping the clocks together in a manner similar to starting the clocks. The clock is then opened by the race secretary and the paper tape removed. The capsules are removed from he clock one by one. A countermark, after it is removed from the capsule, read and recorded on the entry sheet and paper tape, is immediately placed back in the capsule and replaced in the clock in the hole from which it was removed. After all countermarks have been read and recorded on the entry sheet and paper tape, the times recorded on the paper tape are read starting with the stamp that started the clock and noting each on the tape. For example, the tape may have four stamps as follows: 20:00:00, 12:01:56, 12:25:10 and 14:00:20. This shows that the clock was started at 8 p.m.; the first bird clocked at 12:01:56; the second bird was clocked at
12:25:10 and the clock was 20 seconds fast when synchronized with the master timer at 2 p.m.
Electronic Clocking

The AU has developed a computer program for computing races. The time each bird is clocked, his band number and description, and the clock variation is input to the computer. The computer then computes the speed of each pigeon in yards per minute (ypm). When all participants’ information has been input into the computer, a race report will be printed out showing the winners. The bird with the fastest average speed in ypm is the winner. This program offers a variety of different features to enhance the club’s record keeping for the complete race season. 
Electronic Systems
In the mid-1990’s, a number of firms introduced a new technology to the scoring of racing pigeon competition. Using micro-chips imbedded in special leg bands, and with a reading unit installed at the loft entry point, pigeons are automatically “clocked” as they step across the system antenna and into the loft.
These electronic systems eliminate the need for placing a countermark on the bird as it is entered in each race. They also do not require that you have a trap to hold the bird as it enters the loft, so that you can remove the countermark. The greatest benefit to some flyers is that they do not necessarily have to be at the loft for their birds to be clocked as they arrive home. The traditional methods of clocking pigeons still work fine, however, the electronic systems are gaining an increasing acceptance. 
The winner usually receives a trophy, and, in addition, clubs award “diplomas” to the top few birds in the race. The AU recognizes diploma winners on the basis of one diploma for each 20 birds entered in the race. Most clubs have an annual banquet in which the awards are given to the deserving winners. AU Centers and the AU itself have annual conventions, held in a different state of the United States each year. At the AU convention, the winners of the AU Hall of Fame awards for the most outstanding Racing Homers, as determined from the entries submitted, are given special recognition. Every Racing Homer fancier’s dream is to win the Hall of Fame award. You could be a future Hall of Fame winner!