Pigeon diseases

In almost every pigeon loft we can find coccidiosis, but only a very serious infection will cause visible clinical signs. Pigeons are able to build up some natural resistance against coccidiosis and therefore a treatment will only be necessary in case of a very serious infection. With our pigeon we find most commonly the nest the species of eimeria: Eimeria labbeana and Eimeria columbarum. These are the parasites multiplying in the intestinal cells and damaging them.


Your pigeon will get infected by picking up sporulated oocysts from the ground. The 3 most common ways of infection are:
dirty contaminated baskets
eating and/or drinking of contaminated food or drinking water
drinking of contaminated water on roofs or out of gutters
In case of a serious infection the digestion will be less efficient, the droppings will become watery green and the pigeons will lose their condition. A good daily hygiene is of the utmost importance and should always be coupled with a good treatment and a dry climate on the loft.

Clinical symptoms:

For young pigeons during their first months of their life the coccidiosis will cause the most problems, once the youngsters are over 6 months old the symptoms/problems will be less severe.


Disturbed digestion
flat and watery droppings
weakness causing other secondary infections
delayed growth of young pigeons

Older pigeons:

Less severe symptoms but still very important!
Lower immunity level
Pigeons will not reach the ideal condition
Keeping their old down
Racing results are not good enough
Many pigeons can be carriers of coccidiosis without any special clinical symptoms. Sometimes you can have pigeons that are craving for grit, minerals and their normal grains but you can’t get those pigeons round and well fed. Then you must not only think about worm infections but also coccidiosis can play an important role in these pigeons.


The diagnosis of coccidiosis is quite easy, a simple microscopic investigation of the faeces can tell whether there is an coccidiosis infection yes or no.


The treatment consists of 2 main parts: first you have the environment of the pigeons (loft hygiene) and as second you have the pigeons themselves (medical treatment)
Environment: Good hygiene in the loft is essential, as is the provision of clean uncontaminated food and water. If birds show signs of diarrhoea, a coccidial oocyst count is advised. Routine faeces analysis before pairing is also recommended. Most disinfectants fail to destroy coccidial oocysts and they can survive for long periods of time in the environment. A blow torch can be very useful to destroy the coccidian eggs.

The pigeons:

There are 2 sorts of products you can use: on one hand you have the coccidio – static products: these will slow down the growth and multiplication of the coccidian, you have to administer these for 5 – 7 days. These products will not destroy the coccidian! Most common are amprolium and sulphonamides. On the other hand there are coccidio – cied products. These are more powerful and will kill the coccidian. These are products based on toltrazuril, for example Baycox or based on clazuril, for example Appertex.
Giantel has Cocci – Tricho (coccidio- static) which you can give during 5 to 7 days during the racing season or before the breeding season to make sure that your pigeons are free from coccidiosis. You can also use Pantacox Os (coccidio-cied) during 2 days.

Natural products:

Giantel has now developed their own Green Line based on natural herb extracts and acids. Within our Green Line we have the product named Triple Acid Green that has to be administered by the drinking water and after drinking will create an acid environment within the pigeons crop and gut flora. Thanks to this acidifying action the coccidia will not be able to survive in your pigeons gut flora and there will be no infection.

Young bird disease (Adeno – Coli)

Every year the same story among the young birds, it starts with youngsters that don’t come in the loft after daily training, some start vomiting, stop eating and go sit on the floor. Mostly this is caused by a combination of the Adenovirus and E.coli bacteria.

Inside the pigeons it mostly starts off with a Adeno infection which will destroy some gut cells. Hereby it will create an ideal environment in the gut for E. coli bacteria that will start to grow and reproduce very quick. Once the E. coli bacteria pass into the bloodstream pigeon get very sick and can die very quickly.

Recent years we see that also the circovirus can play a role in these young bird disease problems. The circovirus only appears at the young birds under 1year. Mainly pigeons around 4 months old are sensitive for this viral infection, the circovirus attacks the immunity of the young birds and so these pigeons can’t defend themselves against circulating infections and also we see that sometimes vaccinations don’t start up in contaminated birds.

Clinical signs:

  • Watery crop, bad digestion
  • Vomiting
  • Green and mucous diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wasting young birds and eventually death



During 3-5 days a “light” mixture of protein poor feed. Even no feeding during the first day of the symptoms. But keep on giving a daily portion of grit and minerals. If possible try to feed days several times a day a small amount of feed.


Daily fresh drinking water with Electrolytes.


  • Coli Stop
  • Para Therapy

Caution: we often see an additional infection with Trichomonas (Canker), so definitely treat against Canker as well.

Golden Giantel hint:
Whenever your pigeons are eating, drinking and training well again after an episode of young birds disease, please don’t start training tosses and racing to soon. If you think they are ready for it wait another additional 2 weeks before you start racing again. All too often we hear of fanciers with massive losses of young birds after an Adeno – Coli infection because they started too soon after the infection and the birds weren’t 100% again.


Dehydration in pigeons will only occur whenever your pigeons are sick or whenever they are flying in very warm weather. It can be a very big problem in (young) birds whenever they have severe diarrhoea. This way they are losing lots of water and nutrients because of the diarrhoea and almost no nutrients are taken in by the intestinal passage. The birds can become lame and duff because of this dehydration. There were we see that sick pigeons very quick lose their appetite we see that they still keep up drinking during sickness and therefore it is very important to pride Electrolytes through the drinking water. This way sufficient nutrients as sodium, magnesium, salts and sugars are taken up in abundancy and dehydration can be avoided. Also in hot circumstances it is wise to add Electrolytes through the drinking water both before and after the races to keep the hydration status at a high level.

Immune System

Just as in humans it is the same for pigeons that they need an optimal health and optimal condition to deliver great racing performances. This is only possible when their immune system is in perfect condition.

What makes birds unique, and so also for our pigeons, is that their immune system is located for 80% around the intestines. This means that the immune system and the intestinal health are connected to each other. If you want a good working immune system you will need to ensure a good gut health. This specific immune system for birds is called GALT: Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue.

This specific interaction is well known and recognized within the industrial poultry industry and now also within the pigeon sport we give more and more attention to the optimisation of the gut health and the intestinal function.

Also at Giantel we recognize this specific interaction and therefore we have developed good products to support gut health like our Metabol Green and the Recovery Plus Green. By delivering the right nutrients at the right place in the intestines we will enable the good bacteria to grow and so create the best gut flora which will ensure that the immune system is in perfect condition.

Actually we should define this under the name Ornithosis – complex, because of the fact that there are more pathogens, viruses and bacteria, responsible for airway problems.


Is mentioned above there are multiple pathogens responsible for airway infection such as : Herpes, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, fungal infection, Trichomonas,…

Another very important cause for airway problems is the environment and aeration of your loft! A good loft is dry and free of draught but with a good and sufficient frsh air flow. Whenever you have bad ventilation airway problems will stay a problem even after treatments with antibiotics.
Another important reason for a pigeon to get sick or not is the state of his immune system. his immunity level should be as high as possible and that is something that you as a good fancier can/must try to achieve. Especially for the youngsters you can bring up the immunity level for example by applying a good and strict vaccination schedule and by avoiding stress and overpopulation.


Symptoms can vary from less training, bad flight performances, dry plumage, blue/dark breast meat, old down to specific airway problems such as:

  • Watery eyes
  • Brown eye lids
  • Red throats
  • Sneezing and scratching ears and nose
  • Raw and thick heads

Not all of these symptoms should be present with all of the pigeons before speaking of a ornithosis problem. The age of the pigeons is an important risk factor, we see that youngster are much more susceptible then older pigeons.

Because of the reason that there are many possible pathogens it is not easy to set up a standard treatment.


1. Hutch

First of all, ensure a good loft climate and a good environment. No overcrowding, don’t put too many youngsters from different fanciers together. Try to place as many youngsters of the same age in the same loft as possible.

2. Good immunity

With a good vaccination schedule: vaccinate the young pigeons for Paramyxo in good time, 2 x vaccination is also recommended. Vaccination is also possible with Paramyxo Herpes vaccine.
Supporting health through natural products: with our Respi Green, which is specifically aimed at keeping the airways mucus-free, good results have been achieved in recent years.

3. Medication

You can treat the pigeons individually with Orni-DS tablets, it is best to set up a treatment as follows: 2 tablets on the 1st day, 2 tablets again on the 2nd day and then 1 tablet on the 3rd day.

Via the drinking water or feed you can cure for 3-7 days, depending on how bad the symptoms are with:

  • Orni-DS
  • Super Ornithose mix
  • Transportmix

Tricho 40 or Tricho 50 is also best given simultaneously. This is because we often see in practice that pigeons with an Ornithosis infection often also have an increased Trichomonas infection.

To avoid losses:

Make sure that young pigeons in particular are free from the ornithosis complex before training. If necessary, of course, also keep the pigeons at home for a week from the races.


Paratyphus in pigeons is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium. This is, together with Streptococcus gallolyticus, the main cause of bacterially induced disease in pigeons. Wild pigeons are a source of infection. Infected pigeons can often no longer eliminate the germ and therefore remain carriers. These carriers can start excreting the germ again in periods of stress.


Pigeons infected with Salmonella Typhimurium can excrete large numbers of the germ in the droppings, promoting horizontal spread of the infection. It is assumed that the bacteria is ingested per os (via mouth/mouth) via contaminated feed or water, after which the germ enters the intestinal cells and causes an inflammatory reaction in the intestine. The germ then reaches internal organs such as lungs, liver, spleen, kidney, gonad, brain, muscles, eyes, skin and joints through the lymphatic and bloodstream. The germ can multiply in these organs and remain present for life. When the Salmonella bacteria settle on the reproductive organs, they can already pass on the paratyphoid infection to the young pigeons via the egg.

So contamination is possible both from the parents to the young through contamination in the egg (vertical contamination) and from pigeon to pigeon via contaminated manure (horizontal spread).

Symptoms and signs:

Due to the involvement of almost all organs, very diverse symptoms can be observed:
Eating less and losing weight are the main symptoms of paratyphus.

Other common symptoms include diarrhoea, limping and/or inability to fly, poor breeding results, apathy and death.
Polyuria – polydipsia is also a common symptom. (excessive drinking and very watery manure)

Clinically, the outbreak in a loft usually starts with one pigeon that loses a lot of weight and often briefly shows mucous, sometimes bloody diarrhoea.
Rarely is a peracute course of the disease seen. Nestlings die from 5 days. The surviving young are stunted and show enteritis. The plumes are not tubed out and some youngsters show paralysis.

Finally, there are also a large number of subclinical carriers. (pigeons that are infected with the Paratyphus bacteria but show no symptoms)

The lesions seen in salmonellosis can vary according to the stage of the disease. In the acute stage, intestinal inflammation can be diagnosed. Usually the liver is enlarged and there are foci of necrosis on the liver and spleen. In acute cases, there is sometimes also a clear green discoloration of the liver. Furthermore, more or less organized abscesses can be found in various organs, in particular in the lungs, testes, fallopian tube and rarely also in the eyelid, eyeball (panophthalmia) and pectoral muscles. Sometimes one finds cloudiness of the air sacs. Typical is the arthritis (with severe swelling), usually at the level of the elbow.


Diagnosis is made by bacteriological and/or serological examination. Bacteriological examination of a slurry sample, collected over a period of 5 days, is performed after enrichment by culture on a selective medium. This is the most sensitive group diagnosis technique. The technique is less suitable for individual diagnosis in chronically infected animals, because such animals may excrete the germ intermittently. However, it is important for the treatment to know whether the entire loft is infected or not.

Blood test: This test is useful in the acute stage. A positive test can provide rapid confirmation of the clinical diagnosis, as this indicates an active infection. A negative test has little meaning because false negative reactions are common. Especially in the chronic stage, this rapid blood test is almost always negative. This simple diagnostic test is therefore only an aid for group diagnosis.
Paratyphus must always be present in the differential diagnosis ‘eating little and losing weight in pigeons’. In addition, diarrhea due to paratyphoid must be differentiated differentially from other causes of diarrhoea, such as adenovirus infection, hexamitiasis, acute ornithosis, ascaridiosis and capillariosis.


The treatment of Paratyphus in pigeons is difficult. It is aimed at eliminating the clinical symptoms and is based on a combined hoof remediation, drug treatment and possibly immunotherapy.

Loft remediation means that in the first phase of the treatment all clinically affected pigeons are euthanized and that the loft is completely cleaned and thoroughly disinfected several times. Very valuable pigeons can be treated individually in quarantine until the manure is bacteriologically negative. Furthermore, culturing should be stopped because continuous transmission of the infection is unavoidable during culture.

Overcrowding of the loft should in any case also be avoided. Furthermore, a number of hygienic measures must also be taken, such as weekly cleaning and disinfection, keeping the pigeons indoors and no participation in competitions.

The second phase in the pen treatment consists of a medicinal treatment via the drinking water. So far, very little acquired resistance has been found in Salmonella Typhimurium isolates from pigeons. Nevertheless, it is advisable to have an antibiogram installed. If the isolate is sensitive, the use of fluoroquinolones is preferred as these products can completely eliminate the germ from infected pigeons. However, these treatments by no means guarantee a complete reorganization of the pigeon stock for a longer period.

Inactivated paratyphus vaccines can help in the overall concept of curative paratyphus control. Such vaccine can be administered by subcutaneous injection in the neck 2 days after the end of the antibiotic course. The intent of the vaccine is not to protect against re-infection. No vaccine against paratyphoid can prevent (re)infection with Salmonella. However, vaccination can reduce mortality as well as germ excretion. The result of this treatment protocol should be followed afterwards by, for example after 1-2 months and then six monthly, monitoring of the Salmonella excretion by bacteriological examination of slurry samples. If it subsequently appears that germ excretion has resumed, the entire treatment protocol must be repeated.

Medication (best after antibiogram/susceptibility test)

The vet can use a sensitivity test to see with which medication one can treat.

  • Coli Stop
  • Para Therapy
  • Amoxicilline


Can happen with a live vaccine like with Zoosal T or with a dead vaccine. It is best to ask your vet for advice on the best course of action in your case.

One of the most common pathogens in pigeons is this small one-celled parasite: Trichomonas gallinae, also known as ‘the yellow’ in the vernacular, because this causes a yellow coating in the mouth of the pigeons in case of serious infections.


Pigeons become infected by ingesting this parasite through feeding or by ingesting contaminated water. The biggest source of contamination is the drinking water in the travel baskets. The small parasite settles in the mouth (pharynx and esophagus) of the pigeons and will affect the mucous membrane in the event of a serious infection. This will reduce resistance and make it easier for other pathogens to take hold. So if you can keep your pigeons free of trichomonas, you will also be able to avoid a lot of other problems.


With a light infestation you often see that there is a loss of condition, the flight performance is not optimal and there is more mucus in the mouth. In case of serious infections, there is a yellow coating in the mouth and the pigeons drink much more. And in very serious cases, the organs can also be affected, we sometimes see this in the death of nestlings. Due to a serious trichomonas infection, abscesses can be found in the liver and sometimes on the navel.


With a crop swab you can easily detect these parasites under the microscope. A microscopic examination can clearly determine the degree of contamination, in order to gain a better understanding of the dosage and duration of treatment.
Prevention – treatment

When your pigeons are infected with trichomonas, you can treat them with the following substances. It is very important that you stick to the correct dosage and the times indicated.

Normal Dosage:

  • Carnidazole: 20mg per kg feed / once
  • Ronidazole: 80-100mg per liter of water / 5-7 days
  • Cocci –Tricho tab: 1 tablet per pigeon / 3 days
  • Tricho 40: 4gr per 2 liters of water / 5-7 days

In recent years we have seen many fanciers that there is still an infection, despite the fact that they have just been treated. That is why it may be wise to give 2 Cocci – Tricho pills first in case of a serious contamination and then to cure with Tricho 40 for another 7 days. In cold weather it is best to cure via the feed or double the dose in the drinking water. And then also feed the pigeons 2 x a day, so that they certainly get enough substances.

The trichomonas gallinae parasite therefore feels best in an aqueous environment, in which it can easily multiply. But we can also benefit from this. The use of 2 sets of drinking pots, allowing both to dry out alternately, is already a first aid in natural control. In addition, this parasite does not like acidified drinking water. So if we lower the acidity of the drinking water, the chances of survival of this parasite are significantly reduced. This is a simple way to combat the parasite, but you must regularly acidify the drinking water. Giantel has developed the ‘Triple Acid Green’ of our new Green Line for this purpose. If you add this product to the drinking water 2 to 3 times a week, it creates an acidic environment in which the Trichomonas parasites have difficulty surviving.

One last useful tip: The substance Allicin, which is released from garlic, has an anti-trichomonas effect. The frequent provision of garlic via the drinking water can therefore also help in combating this parasite.


Dehydration of your pigeons will mainly occur after illness or when flying in warm conditions. Certainly a very big problem with (young) pigeons when they make wet manure. No nutrients are absorbed in the intestine and large amounts of water are excreted through the manure, whereby the pigeons become drowsy and lethargic due to this dehydration. Where the appetite of sick pigeons virtually disappears, they still drink enough and it is very important to administer Electrolyt via the drinking water in these circumstances. In this way, important substances such as sodium, magnesium and important sugars are absorbed in abundance and dehydration can be remedied. Even in warm conditions it is wise to add some Electrolyte to the water both before and after the flight to bring and maintain the moisture reserves.

Vitamin deficiency

A vitamin deficiency can be caused by a too one-sided diet, a large loss of vitamins due to diarrhoea, during strenuous exercise, …
In racing pigeons we mainly see a need to add extra vitamins during the following periods:

  • Rui: important to provide the pigeons with a good constant supply of the right vitamins during this difficult period.
  • Sport season: due to the many training sessions and flight hours, our pigeons consume quite a few vitamins. It is very wise to quickly supplement this via a Vitamino-mix powder or a Multivitamin preparation so that no shortages arise.
  • Breeding period: very important to offer a good vitamin preparation. For the parent animals to already have the right building blocks for the production of the eggs and later also a sufficiently nutritious crop milk. For the youngsters because they have an exponential growth during their first weeks of life and must have the right building blocks for this.
Unfortunately, worm infestation is still too common in practice! In pigeons it mainly concerns 2 types of worms: The nematodes or roundworms (to which the roundworm and the hairworm belong) and cestodes or tapeworms.

Ascaridia columbae / roundworm:

A roundworm is sometimes observed in the dung by the fancier himself, these can be 3 to 4 cm long and 1 to 2 mm wide. The adult worms live in the intestine, where a female worm can produce up to 5000 (!) eggs per day. This is therefore a major source of contamination for the loft mates. The eggs that come with the manure are not visible to the naked eye, you can only see them under a microscope. The eggs must undergo a maturation process in the outside world before they are contagious to other pigeons, this maturation process takes 10 to 14 days. In a moist, warm environment, ripening will go faster than in a cold environment. Eggs that have not completed this maturation process and are eaten by other pigeons do not cause a new worm infection.

When a pigeon has eaten a ripe egg, a larva emerges from the egg in the intestine of the pigeon. This then settles in the mucous membrane of the intestine. They will remain in this for about 15 days during which they mature through several larval stages into an adult worm, which in turn can start producing eggs. Roundworms have a prepatent period (the period between the time of infection and the time the eggs appear in the faeces) of about 30 to 40 days, so they can massively infest the environment fairly quickly.

Cappilaria obsignata / hairworm:

This small worm, about 18 mm long, is not visible to the naked eye in pigeon droppings. The adult worms live in the intestinal wall of our pigeons and cause more damage there than a roundworm.

Here too, the eggs that come out with the faeces will first have to undergo a maturation before they are contagious to other pigeons. This can happen in 8 to 10 days, which is remarkably shorter than with the roundworm. But here too, ripening takes place faster in a humid and warm environment. When a pigeon ingests mature eggs, a larva hatches in the intestine of the pigeon and settles in the intestinal mucosa. There it will undergo another maturation cycle into an adult worm. The prepatent period is only 21 to 28 days, which is also shorter than with roundworms.

As with the roundworm, the eggs of the hairworm must first undergo a maturation, preferably in a moist and warm environment. The eggs are easy to identify under a microscope due to the presence of bipolar polar caps.

A number of small hairworms can already lead to (strong) emaciation of the pigeons, loss of condition, less down and diarrhoea. In the case of a severe infection, it can take a long time after treatment before the pigeons have built up sufficient condition and body mass again. Top performance will not be achievable after a heavy hairworm infection.

Treatment and prevention:

If you want to treat your entire colony, you can do this by giving Worm-Therapy for 2 days. Due to the fact that this will not kill all the worms, this treatment must be repeated 10 to 12 days later. Only in this way are your pigeons worm-free.
For pigeons that have been lost for a few days after a flight, it is more than wise to separate them and give them a Worm Plus Tab.

Damp spots in your pigeon loft are to be avoided, it is best to go over them with a gas burner. It is also wise to frequently go through your pigeon loft with the burner, especially in those places where your pigeons come into direct contact with the manure.
After a treatment with Worm-Therapy, worm eggs can be excreted up to a few days after the treatment. That is why it is advisable to continue to burn for a few days after a treatment.

For questions and/or to make an appointment, please contact Giantel B.V.

You can also directly contact Dr. Stijn Rans