Pascal Lanneau – Veterinarian
Kerkstraat 21 8552 Moen, Belgium
Tel: 0032 56 649143
Salmonella or paratyphus, most fancier think this is only present in lofts that are dirty, where there is no hygiene, the fancier doesn’t take care of his pigeons, and plenty of fanciers think that this can’t be a problem in their own loft.
I have to say, if you think so, you are quite wrong. Nowadays, during my daily practice I see plenty of problems related to the Salmonella bacteria. Especially during the molting and breeding period, but also during racing season etc, you can have Salmonella related problems.
Therefor I think it is useful to say in this article something more concerning this sometimes “hidden” disease.
A vet from the USA claims that there is Salmonella present in all lofts. All lofts is may be too much but I am convinced that the Salmonella bacteria is more present in plenty different lofts than is assumed.
All pigeons look very healthy, they are not thin, they don’t show any sign of illness, but…
We see a lot of homing pigeons with Salmonella, are those healthy looking pigeons but in their body there are small abscesses from Salmonella. When everything goes like it should be, the bacteria stays inside the body, but in cases of stress, the sleeping bacteria comes awake and there is excretion of the bacteria and the pigeons can become ill. The abscesses can be located in the lungs (see picture), ovaria, and testicles etc, what explain also sometimes (temporary) infertility in those pigeons.
Stress situations for a pigeon can be very various, such as moving the bird into another loft, or during molting, breeding, races etc, Every time the pigeon becomes a bit tired, exhausted, it has less immunity and at that moment it is possible that there is excretion of the bacteria to other pigeons that become ill.
The symptoms of pigeons infected with Salmonella can be very different like:
- Swollen articulations:
- Less appetite
- Becoming thin (see photo below)
- Sudden death
- Clear eggs
- Dark Eggs
- Unilateral ophtalmie,
- Abscesses at the head
- Legs: The pigeons will go limp
- Wings: The pigeons will drop a wing
So pay attention if a pigeon cannot fly anymore to their nest box, or a pigeon that starts to limb. Also too much clear (not fertilized) or dark eggs (embryo died in the egg, wasn’t able to come out of the egg) (see photo below.)
Fluffed up pigeons, and becoming thin. A Lack of good performances during the racing season can also be caused by Salmonella.
Always keep in mind that all these symptoms can be due to Salmonella.
Don’t think your loft is not vulnerable for Salmonella infections; it is not only in dirty lofts that this will occur.
The infection with Salmonella can be horizontal (transferred by the food, the water, the droppings, etc) and vertical (when the Salmonella is located in the gonads). This means that a youngster can be infected already in the egg!!!
Salmonella can infect a whole loft very fast, it’s very important to make a quick and efficient diagnose, not only for the pigeons that are ill, but also for the other ones that seems to be healthy at that moment.
1) Blood sampling:
Searching for antibodies in blood samples are a good and fast method to have a diagnosis, but blood sampling alone can give a false negative, because the antibodies are not yet in or already out of the bloodstream of the pigeon. When results are positive you can be quite sure, when negative, you can’t be sure at all.
2) Dropping samples:
Quick test: Is possible to do but not always reliable
Culture: This is the best method to diagnose, but the excretion of the Salmonella bacteria is not always every high enough to detect it by a culture.
Therefor collect droppings over a 5 day period in order to be sure of a correct diagnosis. Certainly for screening the lofts, gather 5 days droppings, from all the different pigeons, mix it very well and if it is very hot mix some water in it so it is not very dry. Make sure the lab examines specific the Salmonella strain of the pigeons, nl Salmonella Typhimurium var. Copenhaegen type II When it was possible to grow a culture of the Salmonella strain, the lab will make an antibiogram, so you will know what kind of antibiotics will be most convenient to treat your specific strain of Salmonella. Some labs have the ability to make an auto-vaccine; this means a vaccine specific based on your “home” Salmonella strain.
Regular screenings on Salmonella are very useful!!!
Once the diagnosis of Salmonella is sure, you have to treat first of all.
The antibiogram will tell you what kind of antibiotics you should use, in order to treat the Salmonella. Some antibiotics will be better than other ones to try to “cure” the carriers, such as medication based on fluoroquinolones. Others won’t have that much power to treat and “clean” the carriers.
Don’t forget to give after all antibiotic treatment probiotics in order to rebuild the intestinal flora.
Next to the antibiotics sanitary measurements are also very important.
Hygiene is one of the most important, cleaning, disinfecting with Javel, Dettol, eliminating rats and mice, and if possible burning the loft out with a torch.
Screening for diseases, vaccinating programs, etc., are the NEW NORMAL in the Pigeon Sport.
Make use of a quarantine place for: Sick pigeons, new pigeons before introducing into the loft, and pigeons after a race that entered very late.
Stop the stress factor, this means: Avoid overcrowding and stop breeding.
Sometimes euthanasia of some very ill pigeons is necessary when they don’t react to the treatment as it should be. This is sometimes the only possibility to eradicate the Salmonella completely out of the loft.
Regular screening after all this is highly recommended.
All these management factors mentioned as a part of the treatment are things to keep in mind for prevention of this disease.
Regular screening by collecting dropping samples over a 5 day period and asking the vet to make a culture of this, so you can treat immediately should your sample come back positive.
Some vets/fanciers are pro, others are not, but I am surely pro.
Vaccinating against salmonella will not only give more immunity against the Salmonella itself, but I am convinced that the pigeon will be stronger to beat any other disease. This doesn’t mean that they won’t become ill at all, but, there is certainly a positive effect on the health of the pigeon in general.
Here in Belgium we use attenued living vaccines, these give a very good immunity and it is only necessary to inject once a year.
When you use living vaccines after an antibiotic treatment, it is better to wait minimum 5 days between the vaccination and the treatment, so there is no interference.
You can also use an auto vaccine, based on the Salmonella strain in your loft which can be made in certain labs after they could isolate the Salmonella out of the 5 days dropping samples.
If you want to vaccinate against Salmonella, without having seen troubles before and having screened your loft, it is sometimes better to treat before the vaccination, because of the possibility of the presence of the bacteria. But… screening before is the best.
I have seen already much cases of Salmonella during the years, and it is a very difficult disease, it is sometimes very hard to get rid of it completely, but I saw that when a fancier treats like it should be, keeps in mind the sanitary measurements and the screenings and vaccinations, it is certainly possible to make sure your pigeons become healthy and clean of Salmonella afterwords.
Keep in mind that a healthy pigeon loft is 1 of the 3 important topics to achieve the best performances, but nowadays we have plenty more possibilities to screen and check our birds, make use of it!!!
THE NEW NORMAL in pigeon sports is there in every different aspects related to the pigeon sport and is more and more common, also concerning the medical, scientific part.
• Medical supervising
• Vaccination programs
• Regularly visits of a vet
• Parentage verification
• Quality genes
• Artificial Insemination
Don’t hesitate to contact me for more information about any topic. ~ Dr Pascal Lanneau