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
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
A. Paramyxovirus - use oil emulsion vaccine
approved for pigeons
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
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
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
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
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-
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.