In-depth PMV article:

Avian paramyxovirus 1, (Newcastle's Disease or PMV 1), is one of a group of nine distinct serovars (with several more yet to be characterized) of the virus that are dangerous to birds. Although paramyxovirus is theoretically vertically transmissible, this mode of transmission is considered unlikely because infected hens will generally stop laying eggs when they are viremic. Eggs contaminated by virus-laden feces immediately after laying could contaminate an incubator, and can serve as a source of virus for recently hatched neonates.

Exotic Foreign Doves & Pigeons, including the Ringneck and Diamond Doves are susceptible to this disease. Here is some data, which may be helpful to the fancier. This information does not take the place of the information from an avian vet.

Use the "killed virus type" vaccine. Most all of the pigeon & poultry supply companies carry it. A ½ " 20 gauge needle is the recommended size.

Pigeons & Doves of average "pigeon size" would take 0.5 ml (1/2 ml) per bird. Ringnecks & similar sized doves take .025 ml (1/4 ml) per bird. Diamond Doves and similar sized doves take half of the Ringneck dosage.

Young birds: give initial injection at about 4 weeks old & the second booster 4-8 weeks apart. Older birds are vaccinated the same way – using the two vaccinations. Yearly vaccinations are recommended also.

Injection of the vaccine is made just under the skin. Many give it in the neck, in the insides of the leg & others inject it in the belly area. No matter where it is injected clean the area with alcohol before inserting the needle.

Symptoms are many and varied, sometimes several together, other times singular. Watery feces, slimy green/brown feces, nervousness, lack of co-ordination, falling backwards, misjudging distance, fear of sudden noise, reaction to bright light, torsion of neck, complete twisting movement of neck, inability to pick up grain immediately etc. NO CURE but recovery after nursing and convalescence after 10-14 weeks. Mortality / fatality rate dependant upon viral strain contracted. Some strains may kill within days but extremely rare. Most strains result in recovery and future immunity for the individual although some may demonstrate continued nervousness for up to two years. Parental immunity cannot be transferred to young so natural immunity is impossible. Some immune individuals may become susceptible once again after several years of non-contact. The immune system rejects unused or unrequired defenses periodically whilst updating its armory. The disease has an incubation period of 8-12 weeks after which the symptoms begin to appear. During this period the pigeons are infective to others. The symptoms are actually the onset of recovery, which takes another 8-14 weeks. Immunity is passed from immune parent to nestlings, however this immunity only lasts for 3 weeks. Youngsters should be vaccinated at 21-28 days old. Prevention is via vaccination for both young and old but, 14 days must be allowed for vaccination to become affective; immunity is not immediate and also builds and wanes over a period of ten months full effectiveness (not 12 months as many imagine) Not all pigeons contract Paramyxovirus, some are resistant, possibly due to having contracted a mild but unnoticed strain at some previous time. However, this is not an argument for none vaccination. Experience of this disease is extremely distressing and annual preventative vaccination of all owned pigeons is to be desired. The disease may be spread as airborne, fancier borne or contact borne, so aviary prisoner stock are not exempt from risk. Vaccination is ineffective against the disease once the pigeon is in the stages of incubation of virus. Recovered birds do not remain as carriers of the present pigeon related strain of P.M.V. However, virus do mutate so all information available may be subject to revision in future.

Paramyxovirus is a viral disease that does not affect man or animals, but a human that handles a pigeon with PMV or the live vaccine can develop conjunctivitis if sensible precautions are not taken (eg, do not touch your eyes immediately after handling a pigeon with PMV or the live vaccine).

* Incubation period can vary from a few days to several weeks.
* It is most often of moderate virulence with 5% to 10% mortality, but rarely highly virulent strains can cause 90% mortality.
* Mortality rates are significantly higher if supportive care is not given (eg. when the virus is injected experimentally in a laboratory).
* Water deprivation and stress increase mortality.
* Spontaneous recovery within 6 - 12 weeks is common, but recovery can take longer.
* Nervous symptoms can persist for life or return in times of stress.
* Some pigeons will suffer from persistent diarrhoea after recovery.


Diarrhoea is often the first symptom, but feral pigeons will not often come to the attention of a rescuer until the nervous signs appear. Not all symptoms will be present at the same time. All symptoms are aggravated by excitement.

The most common symptoms seen by the rescuer will be:

* Thin broken solid droppings in a pool of liquid
* Fine tremor of eyes or head
* Staggering
* Somersaulting in flight
* Crash landing
* Difficulty picking up seed, pecking and missing.
* Tossing seed backwards
* Twisting neck, head upside down (torticollis, star gazing)

* Paralysis of legs or wings
* Spiralling in flight
* Flying backwards
* Turning in circles
* Having fits


* During the recovery period keep pigeons with Pigeon PMV in a quiet, warm (not hot) cage with soft flooring away from any intense light source.
* Towelling is ideal for flooring as they can damage their feathering if they have fits.
* Provide a brick for perching.


* Place seed in a deep dish so that if they stab at random they can pick seed up.
* Because Pigeon PMV can cause fits pigeons are at risk of drowning but they need free access to water. Provide water (with added electrolytes if possible) in a deep narrow container to minimise the risk of accidental drowning. Watch the pigeon to ensure it is drinking.
* Hand feeding may be necessary. If feeding by gavage tube is not an option the pigeon's mouth has to be opened and the food pushed to the back of throat. Suitable foods that can be fed this way include pellets of egg food paste dipped in water and soaked dog biscuits.
* Weigh the pigeon daily and carry out a poop count to ensure that he is getting enough food. As a guideline: a healthy pigeon will pass between 20 and 30 raisin sized poops a day.


* Supportive care is usually sufficient.
* Resistance to other diseases such as coccidiosis, trichomoniasis and aspergillosis is reduced. Avoid conditions that could aggravate these conditions (stress, damp etc), watch out for symptoms and provide prompt treatment if symptoms appear.
* The disease runs its course in about 6 weeks, by that time the pigeon has stopped shedding the virus and won't infect other pigeons but nervous symptoms and gastro-intestinal may persist longer.
* Vitamins should be given to boost the immune system.
* Probiotics can be used to crowd out any bad "gut" bacteria.
* Electrolytes can be given to replace the electrolytes lost through polyuria.
* I have found that providing a calcium supplement on arrival (Gem Calcium Syrup with Vitamin D3) has helped. The dose I gave was two drops a day for 3 days.
* Do not use antibiotics without consulting a vet. They can intensify the lesions and aggravate the course of the disease.


* I have had some success treating the paralysis/stroke symptoms of Pigeon PMV using the homeopathic remedy Conium Maculatum (common hemlock) dosing with a single tablet of the 30 potency three times a day for up to 10 days.
* Birds that tremble and fall over when they try to move because their balance is impaired may benefit from Argenitum Nit 30 potency, one tablet given 3 or 4times a day for up to 2 days.
* Belladonna can be used for birds that are restless with convulsive movement and jerking limbs. 2 pilules twice a day.

Remember not to touch homeopathic pilules with your hands, this can contaminate them and reduce effectiveness, give them on a "clean mouth" (no food or additions to the drinking water 20 minutes before or 20 minutes after) and stop the remedy as soon as an improvement shows


* Pigeon PMV is highly infectious to other pigeons , victims should be kept isolated from other birds for at least 6 weeks.
* Maintain scrupulous hygiene , regularly disinfecting food and water containers with bleach.
* Always see to a pigeon with Pigeon PMV after you have treated your other birds. That reduces the risk of carrying the infection to other birds in your care.
* Wash hands after contact and take care not to track fecal waste or carry fecal dust to areas where other birds are.
* Some rescuers keep a clean overall and shoes just inside the isolation area, to put on while caring for Pigeon PMV sufferers and remove when leaving the area.
* Dispose of droppings wisely, they can be a source of infection to feral pigeons.


In a loft situation it is important to vaccinate pigeons against Pigeon PMV.
Remember that it is the pigeon that is not showing any
symptoms of Pigeon PMV but is shedding the virus that is the greatest danger to other pigeons. By the time the obvious symptoms appear the virus could have infected other pigeons in your care. Always isolate new pigeons. They can be vaccinated if they show no signs of the disease after 10 days in quarantine.

Protein poisoning

This may be a common complaint and young birds definitely benefit from a lighter diet during the warmer months. Psittacosis (parrot fever)

This is a virus disease similar to Paratyphoid and usually affects young birds. Although this is a disease affecting psittacines (parrots, budgerigars etc.), it can be found in pigeons as well. Symptoms include pasty and sticky mucous in throat lining and mouth, diarrhoea, green and white faeces (smelly), soiled mated vent, swollen abdomen, vomiting, poor appetite, listlessness, panting, rump may be seen to constantly rise and fall, dull partially closed eyes, sneezing, weaned birds tend to stay upon the loft floor. Birds usually die in their nest and death is fairly rapid for older infected birds. It is caused by a virus passed via sneezing and faeces, food contamination etc. Incubation is 2-10 days and onset is very sudden with a high fatality rate. It is usually accompanied by various secondary infections i.e. canker, pneumonia, peritonitis (liver & kidney infection), enteritis, roup. The effects include pus forming in air sacs and lungs, damage to heart, liver, kidneys and spleen. Birds that contract a mild form survive to become carriers. Action should be taken be destroy and burn all infected birds and routinely disinfect all lofts fixtures and fittings. Psittacosis is essentially a filth disease caused by damp and wet droppings. If you smell ammonia or foul odour, with houseflies in abundance then suspect the onset of this disease. Pigeons will very often eat maggots that may be contaminated. Keep your loft clean.

Pseudomonas Infection
in Pet and Breeding Birds
by Tiffany Margolin, DVM

Does your bird have a "cold"? Is his nose runny, is he sneezing, or having other signs of a respiratory infection? There are many causes of respiratory problems in birds, but one of the most stubborn and elusive culprits is Pseudomonas.

Recently, a green wing macaw named Jackpot was brought to our clinic because he had signs similar to those described above. A simple culture revealed that he had a sever Pseudomonas infection.

What exactly is Pseudomonas? It is pronounced "sudamonas", and is a water-loving organism. It is most often found in water sources such as hoses, taps and even water-filtering systems. It is a gram-negative rod-like organism that is not normally found in a healthy bird. If it gains a foothold, it readily proliferates in the warm, moist environment of a bird's respiratory system. Unfortunately for both the bird and its owner, Pseudomonas can be very resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.

Pseudomonal infections, by and large, involve the respiratory system. Signs of the infection may include clear or yellowish discharge from one or both nostrils, sneezing, scratching at the nose and ears, and conjuctivitis (red eyes). If the problem is detected early enough, much subtler signs may be the only ones present. For example, the feathers around the nostrils may just be slightly crusty.

When an orange winged amazon named ET was brought in, its owner said that he was, "Sneezing a bit, and just not acting himself.) ET turned out to have a very resistant form of Pseudomonas. It could be treated only with injectable antibiotics. Although we have most commonly observed the infection in psittacines, it is not limited to that group. Most adult birds have immune systems strong enough to wall the infection off to the upper respiratory system. As an infection progresses and becomes more severe, signs can include swollen sinuses around the eyes and complete obstruction of the nostrils.

Juvenile psittacines are at greater risk if exposed to Pseudomonas, because of their immature immune systems. Instead of localizing the bacteria to the respiratory tract, their systems may be overwhelmed and become septicemic (Carrying the bacteria in the bloodstream to all of the organ systems). This danger is very real if the formula water is contaminated. This can be avoided if one is careful to boil the water before using it. Also be sure that all utensils are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each use.

Recently, a four week old cockatiel was afflicted. The bird became extremely ill and died within 24 hours. It was brought to our clinic for necropsy. The environmeent was investigated for months before finding the bacteria living in the filters that purified her aviary water! One must culture taps, surfaces, and other areas that the water may contact. Even if bottled water is used --the most likely spot to find a problem is inside the cap.

We have discussed treatment in the individual bird, but how does one address aviary contamination? Surface disinfectants must be employed here. Nolvasan does not kill Pseudomonas. For surface disinfection with bleach, use a dilution of one part bleach to thirty parts water and rinse thoroughly. Remove all bleach residue from cages and bowls before contact with birds is allowed. Roccal-D, Kennelsol and many other disinfectants also labeled for use against Pseudomonas. Follow manufacturer's instructions.

If the water lines are contaminated, they must be flushed with an appropriate disinfectant and recultured. Check water filtering devices on a regular basis. It is also recommended to run the tap for several seconds before filling bowls to reduce the overall bacterial count.

I cannot overstress the importance of having a known Pseudomonas bird rechecked and recultured on a regular basis. This bacteria has an extremely high rate of recurrence if this is not done. If often becomes stronger and more resistant with each subsequent generation. Consult your avian veterinarian if you suspect a problem with your aviary or pet bird.


Several important viral diseases are vertically transmitted in birds. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, (PBFD), has been demonstrated to be vertically transmitted, since the virus is found in the blood of infected birds. It has been shown that artificially incubated baby birds from PBFD-infected hens will consistently develop PBFD. So, attempting to control PBFD by pulling eggs for artificial incubation is futile.

HERPESVIRUSES, most of which are quite species-specific, include Pacheco's Disease Virus, Amazon tracheitis virus, respiratory disease in Neophema sp. and Psittacula sp., wart-like or flat plaque-like lesions on the skin of psittacine birds, budgerigar herpesvirus, pigeon herpesvirus (infectious to budgies and cockatiels), falcon herpesvirus (infectious to budgies and Amazon parrots), and Marek's disease (suggestive lesions in budgies). It has been theorized that some hens latently infected Pacheco's Disease virus can pass the virus (and antibodies to the virus) to their eggs. The resulting neonates would be latently infected carriers that might not develop detectable levels of antibodies. Herpesvirus of European budgerigars causes feather abnormalities (referred to as "feather dusters") and is thought to be egg transmitted, and has been demonstrated in dead-in-shell embryos and is considered a major cause of early embryonic death in affected flocks, resulting in decreased egg hatchability.


PDD, is an enigmatic disease that is being diagnosed with increased frequency. Although we have much to learn about this disease, my personal experience indicates that PDD may be vertically transmitted. I am working with an aviary that has a pair of severe macaws whose eggs were taken for artificial incubation because the parents often damaged the eggs after being laid. The eggs were placed in a brand new incubator, and the babies were the only ones in the nursery while they were being hand-fed. The owner had problems with the babies from day one, as the crops were slow to empty, and they did not gain weight properly. The babies had to be given antibiotics, antifungals and motility enhancers (cisapride) to get them to digest their food at all. One baby died when it was six weeks of age, and histopathology showed all the classic PDD lesions. The second baby died shortly after weaning and once again, histopath confirmed PDD. Histopathological examination of tissues from a dead bird (especially the proventriculus, ventriculus, crop, small intestines, and brain) is the only way to confirm PDD in a dead bird, as grossly, many diseases can look like PDD. When the PDD tests that Dr. Branson Ritchie at the University of Georgia is developing are available, we will be very interested in testing the parent birds of these two babies. At this time, barium radiographs may render a presumptive diagnosis, and biopsy of areas of the gastrointestinal tract may prove diagnostic if positive, but once the new testing becomes available, it will be much easier to screen for this terrible disease.

Some adenoviruses, REO viruses, and reticuloendotheliosis viruses can be vertically transmitted. Influenza A may be vertically transmitted, as well.

The Off Legs Syndrome is caused by a variety of factors.

• insufficient calcium and trace elements in diet, laying hens draw these from their bones to provide shell to eggs: ensure adequate supply in feed content.
• Excess weight causing pressure to nerve endings : reduce feed slightly but maintain quality.
• Lack of iron causing anaemia: Bivinal liquid 5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening for a week or B. Complex (no more than twice weekly).
Do not give Brewers Yeast to parents rearing young due to possible yeast/fungus problems. Although Brewers Yeast is excellent for supplying B Complex vitamins there are times when it must not be used i.e. during rearing, whilst administering antibiotic treatments or nursing pigeons with fungal afflictions.

Catarrh (Coryza •• common cold•- Mycoplasmosis see ornithosis & psittacosis)

Symptoms - clear watery discharge from eyes and nostrils, throat and wheezing or rattling sounds when breathing. This is yet another equilibrium disorder; pigeons live permanently with the causative agent and there is nor never will be a total cure. However it may be treated with antibiotics when it appears in a severe form. Broad-spectrum antibiotics used are Oxytetracycline liquid 5 drops of which should be given in the morning and 5 drops in the evening for at least 3 days or Enrox Oral solution with the same dosage. It may be cured by injectable Oxytetracycline into the subcutaneous tissue of the neck or into the breast muscle. One shot only is required to effect cure together with aviary convalescence. Convalescent birds should receive honey and garlic plus additional vitamin C in drinking water and probiotics to speed recovery

The most common afflictions to cause problems are:

One Eyed Cold

This takes several forms; some innocuous and some pernicious being the symptom of a more serious disease. One eyed cold is identified by clear water and air bubbles in one eye only, accompanied by slight swelling and reddening of eyelid and cere. Most commonly noticed is a watery or mucousy discharge in only one eye. But occasionally both eyes will have a watery appearance. Sometimes one eye can become completely shut depending upon the degree of infection. Should these symptoms develop to dark reddening and hard mucous deposits plus nasal discharge and severe breathing problems then the bird has a more serious disease. One eyed cold in young birds often occurs with the peak moulting time coinciding with atmospheric (temperature) wide variation (hot days-cold nights). Generally speaking this is easily rectified by greater ventilation or isolation to an aviary and increasing the Vitamin C supplement. Left to take its course the patient recovers in 4 - 7 days and gentle swabbing of the eye to remove dried particles certainly helps. One-eyed colds are also associated with a peck in the eye or some other type of physical injury affecting the eye. They are also often confused with the onset of mycoplasmosis.

Dry Cold

Dry cold is rather like hay fever in humans. Symptoms are sneezing, breathing difficulty, etc., and yet perfectly healthy in all other respects. The cause is most probably lack of humidity and air circulation during dry spells or lack of air circulation within an excessively closed loft environment coupled with overcrowding. To detect a dry cold - first gently press upon each side of the wattles with finger and thumb; the bird will sneeze. Inspect under the wattle and one will observe a blunt needle like appendage. This is the incumbent valve and serves the function similar to hair in the human nostril i.e. it prevents dust etc. from entering and blocking the airway.

In an unaffected bird this should appear slightly moist (not wet) and clear, being a healthy pink. The affected bird will be different; when applying slight pressure to the wattles, instead of sneezing, the pigeon will awkwardly open its beak and attempt to shake its head. The incumbent valve will appear dry and powdery with slight deposits of dust and mucous. The pigeon will only breathe through its beak and any attempt to close the slight gap will meet with resistance. The inside of the wattle must be gently cleaned with a slightly moistened feather taking care to remove any deposits. Remove all dust from the loft and increase humidity (put in an extra drinker). Most importantly do not overcrowd and keep down the dust as much as possible. This is the most common respiratory problem and antibiotics are not required nor will they cure.


This is a symptom rather than a disease and may indicate disease of enteric nature, arsenic, copper, lead poisoning from pesticides etc., change of diet, poor diet, hunger, stress from exertion, reaction to medication or additives, excess vitamins, medical additives to galvanised drinking vessel causing chemical reaction,algae build up in hose pipes used for filling drinkers etc.. It could also be due to a sudden drop in air temperature. If the faeces is devoid of odour it is only a metabolic imbalance -give more fibre/protein in diet, bicarbonate of soda (it helps minor complaints) in water or use Entrodex and Electrolytes to re-hydrate. For the general treatment of diarrhoea administer Furazolidone-half a tablet (5mg) both morning and evening for five days. You can also give Gramogyl syrup, 5 drops morning and the faeces be foul smelling, unusually coloured or blood spattered then use this check list for the probability of other disease. The pigeon will always try to physic itself by flushing out the system, in some respects this is good

but, the danger lies in cross infection of other loft inmates when normally harmless carried bacteria can flare into a problem caused by increased activity. Always isolate suspected sick birds immediately to prevent further spread of the disease.


This is more usually a problem with old pigeons that demonstrate a swollen abdomen filled with watery is another name- the accumulation of lymph or tissue fluid in the tissue between cells. The bird gasps for breath with constant panting and signs of exhaustion. There are several causes - obesity at laying, lack of exercise; over-breeding, weak heart, worms (severe), coccidiosis, digestive problems, injury and internal tumour. Birds rarely recover from this condition and there is no treatment for the same.


The symptoms are inflammation of the mucous membrane of the intestine, watery droppings, weakness or listlessness, poor appetite, excessive thirst. It is caused by bad digestion, severe worm infection, and rodent contamination of feed. It may cause liver damage and problems in other vital organs dependent upon the causative organism. Simple cases may be nursed and convalesced in the same manner as diarrhoea. The treatment is symptomatic i.e. the treatment should be carried out on the basis of symptoms. Liver problems are controlled by administering Liv 52 (vet) 5 drops morning and 5 in the evening.

Feather Rot

There are two causes - fungus/feather and boring mite. Both cases thrive in damp patches i.e. residual damp from faeces on perches / nests/ floor corners. It is usually found to affect birds of coarse webbed feather type. The fungus, microbe or mite lives within the soft pulp of the feather shaft, gradually breaking to the stubble until bald patches appear. Affected pigeons may be bathed in Camphor water. Pigeons will moult clean but the problem may reoccur at the next humid season. The modern veterinary treatment is injectable Ivermectin, which also acts as a complete de-louser and wormer. Ivermectin has proved safe for pigeons and has also shown a capability to improve feather quality at subsequent moulting. IVOMEC can be applied via a single drop upon the skin, under the feathering at the very rear of the birds head - this has proven to be remarkably effective for keeping the birds louse or mite free for the season.

Going Light

This again is a symptom rather than an illness and may be related to a number of causes. The bird suffers rapid weight loss, listlessness and emaciation. This may possibly be due to coccidiosis, ornithosis, psittacosis, a fungus related disorder, canker etc. There is also another form of going light which is very common. This is when an apparently healthy bird with full body appears extremely light (not fit) and seems to lack vitality, will not fly and when made to do so appears to be •all in•. Often these birds will rarely leave the loft floor or struggle to reach

their perch; somehow they just seem lifeless in the hand. It could be suffering from over exertion and all will and physical power is destroyed and somehow the bird never recovers its former character. Monitor all offspring for signs of vigour loss! Give a multi vitamin solution like Vimril or Alviton-5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening for a week.


Birds infected with the Haemophillus bacteria suffer from a severe conjunctivitis, which affects both eyes. In this condition the eyelids are markedly swollen and there is purulent discharge. Affected birds often show respiratory distress signs due to infection of the upper respiratory tract.

The disease spreads by direct contact and droplet infection from one bird to is based on the clinical signs and laboratory culture from the eyes or nasal this is a bacterial infection a suitable antibiotic such as a Tetracycline can be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon once the disease has been confirmed Indigestion

A symptom is that the pigeon fails to digest its full feed overnight. This may be due to probably gorging after being hungry. If it has affected more than one bird the grain was probably kiln dried and too hard to soak and digest. Too much barley; irregular feeding; too heavy feeding , lack of grit in gizzard are other reasons. Convalesce by feeding sparingly then gradual build up in quantity; replenish fresh clean grits and minerals; bicarbonate of soda in drinker. Give the bird a liver tonic like Liv 52 (vet), antibiotics-oxytetracycline or Enrox. If the bird has a grain or any other feed stuck in its throat, help induce regurgitation (vomiting). Pour warm water (not hot) into the bird•s beak with a dropper and then press the crop lightly. The other possibility is hernia of the gizzard which has no cure.


This may be caused by injury, Staphylococcus arthritis, Aspergillosis, Tuberculosis, Salmonella Typhymurium. Give the bird an analgesic suspension like Ibugesic for 1 •2 days and massage the leg with turpentine liniment, which would give warmth to the affected leg. Consult a vet if not obviously injured. If diseased - cure with injectable antibiotics like Enrox 0.1ml I/M or Gentamicin 0.5ml I/M.

Liver Problems

Symptoms include consistent yellow fluid droppings, lassitude, thirst. The condition may be attributed to genetic fault, overuse of vitamins A & D, lack of sunshine, damp, lack of exercise, too long imprisonment, damage from previous disease, excessive use of stimulants or incorrect use of antibiotics (overdose). Plenty of sunshine

and exercise should be given to the ailing pigeon. Do not give multivitamins! Administer the bird Liv 52 (vet) 5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening.


Mycoplasmosis is caused by tiny microscopic organisms transmitted from pigeon to pigeon through droppings in water and food. One to two weeks after the initial infection, you may note a watery nasal discharge, which later develops into a slimy pus-containing discharge. A grayish deposit appears in the beak and the saliva is tough and hangs wire-like between tongue and palate. There is swelling in the infected beak and throat cavity; an unhealthy smell is apparent. The nostrils become grey. If you press the nostrils, a thick discharge emerges. As the air passages become congested, breathing becomes laboured; the patient sits with open beak and makes wheezing noises, especially in the evenings and at night. The air sacs can also be infected.

In mycoplasmosis there is usually not an infection of the eyelid. Fatalities rarely occur, although the disease usually has a long duration. The disease appears to lower the bird•s resistant to other disease and chronic infection can markedly affect performance due to respiratory problems. Internally the air sacs can be seen to be affected and secondary bacterial infections can occur at this site


Serious cases require antibiotic treatment. Enrox-2 tsp in 1 lt of water or 0.1ml injection I/M or Sulpha drugs-1/ 2 tablet in 1 lt water for 3-4 days. All healthy pigeons of the same loft should be treated with Althrocyn or similar medicine. Althrocyn, which is usually available in the powdered form, should be given 4 gm in 1 lt water for 5-7 days. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the whole coot, preferably on a weekly schedule.

Suitable antibiotic medication with Enrofloxacin, Tetracyclines, Tylosin or Tylamulin is effective against uncomplicated cases of Mycoplasmosis.

Mycoplasma infection is endemic in the pigeon population and the majority of pigeons will be affected by the organism. Stress conditions favour the development of the clinical disease in birds. The principle clinical finding is one of catarrh and initially there is a clear nasal discharge which in time becomes thicker due to the presence of pus.


The disease is caused by Chlamydomonas, a group of organisms with characteristics of both viruses and bacteria. The disease is not fatal to fully grown pigeons. Ornithosis is due to a micro-organism called Clamydia. It is susceptible to antibiotics like bacteria but lives within and destroys body cells like a virus. Clinical signs vary from poor performance to an acute disease causing a marked conjunctivitis, decreased appetite, respiratory disease, diarrhoea and death.

Isolated patients will quickly respond if placed in a warm, draft free cage and will in a few days or weeks be their old selves again. O-c (• ornithosis-complex•) under normal circumstances does not present a great danger. But should the birds suffer from stress (molting, bad food, cold and damp in the lofts, drafts, etc) they become more susceptible to a heavy o-c infection. If an additional disease should infect a bird, then the danger is also greater. A bird suffering from o-c is less inclined to fly, a symptom that also occurs in many diseases. After a time, the bird will develop respiratory problems, will quickly tire, and sit with open beak gasping for breath, hunched up in appearance, raised feathers on rump, damp matted patches upon wing butts (eye wiping or scratching) constant sneezing. Thereafter, the normally white or light rose coloured eyelid membranes will well and become gray or brown. The eyes water profusely, and an inflamed, wet patch soon forms under the eyes. In serious cases the eyelids will stick together, and secondary bacterial infections can cause blindness. The nostrils become gray and are also wet from a running nose. The bird will sneeze and scratch at its face. Should the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and trachea become infected, the bird will sit with open beak, gasping for breath. As the trachea fills with mucous, you may hear a rattling sound as the bird gasps. The intestines may become infected, resulting in diarrhoea.

O-c is very infectious. It can be transmitted via infected drinking water and also through the air. The cote must be well-ventilated, clean and light, and disinfected at least once a week. Damp, stagnant air will spread the disease more quickly. Disinfect loft and all utensils, blow torch disinfect again and limewash. It is extremely difficult to eradicate and may reoccur. Completely isolate all others into a fresh air aviary quarantine. It is essentially a disease due to filth or lack of observation.


You should do two things:

1. Allow the bird to be injected by a vet:0. 5 ml oxytetracycline in the breast muscle; repeat after 24 hours and

2. Administer chlortetracycline powder in the drinking water or Hostacycline powder 4 gms in 1 lt water for 5 to 7 days or more. Multivitamins must be given for 30-60 days.

Diagnosis of this disease in the live bird is difficult and must rely heavily on the clinical symptoms present. Blood tests will identify birds that have been exposed to the organism but are not a good indication of the present disease status. Where dead birds are available, samples from the liver or spleen can give a positive diagnosis in the laboratory. The disease needs to be distinguished from Mycoplasma infection, Haemophylus infection and •One Eyed Cold•.

Paratyphoid (Salmonellosis)

Salmonella bacteria, mainly found in the intestines causes problems with the bone joints, diarrhoea and nervous problems. In general, the disease is not fatal, as long as medicines are given on time.

The bacteria are passed in the droppings of infected birds, or via the crop milk, the saliva, or infected eggs. It is well known that certain unaffected pigeons can be carriers. Birds are infected by ingesting food or water contaminated by the droppings of infected birds.

Pigeons infected with salmonella bacteria get serious intestinal problems in four to five days. Fatalities occur quickly in young birds, because they have no immunity. Older birds, however, incubate the disease over a long period, and if they are not adequately cured, they will become carriers capable of infecting other birds via their oviducts and their droppings.

Squeakers may suddenly lose weight at 4-6 weeks and show signs of staring eyes, twisted necks, losing balance, gasping, difficulty in eating or digesting, mainly water filled crop, will not fly up to perches. Old birds demonstrate dropped wing, wing swelling, lameness, swollen foot (usually left foot), hens become barren, eggs fail to hatch. Affected birds have enteritis which may be blood stained. They are depressed, become dehydrated rapidly and emaciated. Death quickly follows if they are not treated. It is possible for Salmonellae to enter the blood stream and a generalised infection will result. In addition to the two forms of Salmonella recorded above cases are seen where the organism localises in one or more joints. Affected joints are swollen and painful and movement of the joint is lost due to the pain involved. If the organism is localised in the brain nervous signs will be seen depending upon the area of brain involved.

Infected pigeons may show only one, some or all of the symptoms. Carriers rarely show any symptoms at all. The complexity of correct diagnosis makes this the most common but often wrongly diagnosed illness. The many and varied symptoms cause confusion for treatment but, are actually good signs for diagnosis when several birds appear to be ailing in different ways. The greatest problem is in identifying the carrier which may appear fully fit (start with the oldest first and work backwards). The main cause is rodent contaminated feed, cross infection from wild birds or contact with a carrier from elsewhere. It is often confused with P.M.V. due to the symptoms. Treatment

Serious cases must be injected by a veterinarian with 0.5ml oxytetracycline, repeated after 24 and 48 hours. In addition oral administration of chlorytetracycline must be given via the drinking water twice daily for five days. After the first five days no medications should be given for two days, or an individual treatment of one Furazolidone tablet per day should be administered. The cote must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The bird should receive no grit during the course of treatment.

The disease is particularly severe in young birds and can be introduced into a loft by an apparently healthy carrier bird that can excrete the organism in faeces or saliva but which shows no clinical signs of disease itself. Young birds can be affected from crop milk or affected faeces. Salmonellae most commonly affects the intestinal tract. Laboratory testing is required to confirm a diagnosis of Salmonellosis. The disease needs to be differentiated from other causes of diarrhoea (viruses, other bacteria, parasites etc), injury to the joint and other causes of nervous signs including Paramyxo-virus and poisoning.

Where dead birds are available for post mortem, examination of cultures from the birds should determine whether or not the organism is present. In live birds faecal and mouth swabs may detect the organism.


This is a secondary infection usually accompanying Ornithosis, Psittacosis, cold etc. It is caused or spread via dust infected dried droppings (faeces) or spread via contact and feed trays or drinkers. There are two types - (1) Virus (2) Pneumonacocccus. There is no cure; however, secondary infections can be treated. Add Enrox oral 2tsp in 1lt drinking water.


The medication is a displaced oviduct or rectum protruding from the vent after egg laying. It is usually caused by obesity, over breeding or old age. The protruding organ may be gently replaced with gentle coercion but is liable to infection if not immediately noticed. Clean the organ that is protruding with warm water and gently press the organ inside. Do not leave the bird immediately after pressing the organ inside, instead hold for sometime in the same position to reduce straining.

Rickets (See bone troubles.)

It is caused by a lack of calcium or damp conditions, inattentive parents, impoverished diet and followed by arthritis or rheumatic condition with permanent weakening of muscular efficiency. Give the bird Ascal or Ostacalcium or any other calcium supplement.


This is a highly contagious form of avian Diphtheria. Symptoms include cold, running nostril mucous, inflamed eyes, catarrh, dry cheesy matter in throat and nostrils, sometimes pox like lesions, blue-grey membrane in throat, on tongue and grey coloured wattles. Swab the throat, nose or any other part having the •cheesy• material with glycerine. Isolate patients, increase ventilation, fumigate loft and convalesce all birds in open-air environment as much as possible. The condition is mainly caused by overcrowding and bad ventilation or cross infection from wild birds.


This is a fungal disorder (Candida Albicans) resulting normally in loss of equilibrium but increased by stress. Causes include mouldy feed, spores from droppings or litter which can be airborne or waterborne. May attack the throat, respiratory tracts, reproductive organs and vent. More common in nestlings. Symptoms are grey coated throat, blue-coated tongue (do not confuse with blue tipped tongue which is inherited pigmentation not a disease symptom), rattling and general debilitation or poor growth. Old pigeons show lack of vigour, reluctance to mate or rear young, may refuse to feed infected young and change nest location where possible.

Cure for old pigeons -swab throat with mixture of aqueous iodine, glycerine and honey. Use water purifier in drinkers, blow torch dry any damp nesting area and disinfect. Check all feed for sourness. There is no worth while cure for nestlings. Worse case scenario - thrush can escalate via secondary complications into Aspergillosis or Psittacosis. Identify immediately and effect prompt action. The disease is not serious if caught immediately. Vitamin deficiency

This is usually a result of stress from moulting and insufficient vitamins are assimilated into the body from feed to maintain balance. Give the bird Vimral - a multivitamin solution-5 drops in the morning and 5 in the evening for a week. This deficiency can be cured with one Halibut oil capsule daily for 5 days and no recurring disorder in most cases.

My bird fell off her perch! (Birds Fall from Perches)
There has been a considerable amount of discussion regarding African Greys falling from their perches. This can be "normal" behaviour in Greys - some of whom are natural klutzes, or it can be a sign of underlying disease. In Greys, low dietary calcium resulting in hypocalcemia may be a cause.
Heavy metal (eg lead or zinc) poisoning should also be considered. Lead poisoning is the most common form of poisoning in the avian species. Zinc poisoning produces similar tozic effects, except that with zinc poisoning, seizures are uncommon.
I have been consulted on two cases of birds who fell off their perches, but were also depressed and anorexic. Zinc poisoning was the cause in both of these birds.
The first case was a Blue & Gold macaw, who had been previously healthy. He presented to the vet after falling off his perch. The bird was depressed and not eating. Blood work and x-rays were negative for lead.
The bird's cage had been painted two days earlier with a rust paint. This paint contained up to 1% of zinc chromate.
The bird was treated with S.C. Lactated Ringer's Solution (LRS) to rehydrate and with antidotal chelating agents to bind the zinc. The bird responded well to treatment.
The second case occurred this past weekend. A 4-yr-old, previously healthy CAG (Congo African Grey) presented at the veterinarians with a bleeding beak sustained during a fall from her perch. The bird was depressed, was not eating and had stopped vocalizing.
On questioning the owner, the bird had been quieter than normal for a few days prior to falling off her perch on a number of occasions.
The bird had been placed in a larger, old cage two weeks previously. It had been painted with a lead-free latex paint. However, the owner stated that the cage was rusty prior to painting. I asked if she had used an "anti-rust" primer.
The owner admitted using an anti-rust primer that she had been assured was safe for birds. The bird had been chewing on the paint which had started to flake off.
X-ray was negative for lead. Blood calcium was low normal. Blood zinc levels are pending.
The bird was given calcium gluconate, LRS, started on chelation therapy and placed in an Aquabrood unit. Yesterday (one day later), the bird was much brighter, more active and eating fairly well. Zinc poisoning from the "anti-rust" paint is suspected as the cause of this bird's illness.

When considering paints for your bird's cage, ensure that it is both free of lead AND of zinc.
Paints to prevent or to cover rust, usually contain zinc salts and should not be used around birds.
Heavy metal poisoning should be considered as a reason for unexplained falls from the perch.
Gillian Willis