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.