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Trichomoniasis in pigeons: causes, symptoms and treatment

Do you really think you know everything about trichomoniasis? Regular swabbing of the crop can reveal many surprises, such as the presence of Trichomonas less than 15 days after the end of a supposedly effective treatment.



THE DISEASE

Trichomoniasis is manifested by acute exudative inflammatory lesions (whitish or yellowish patches) of the oropharynx, sinuses, oesophagus and crop, as well as by necrotic lesions and liver abscesses. The differential diagnosis must rule out herpes virus and smallpox. Both of these diseases are precursor triggers for trichomoniasis.


Trichomoniasis is caused by flagellate protozoa called Trichomonas gallinae and Trichomonas columbia. 80% of pigeons are healthy carriers. Trichomonas are the usual hosts in the intestines of birds. Naïve" squabs take in a certain amount of protozoa during gavage. Intestinal stress caused by a course of antibiotics or by a series of exaggerated physical efforts induces an increase in the population of these parasites, which invade neighbouring organs such as the crop.


MICROSCOPIC ANALYSIS

The etiological diagnosis of trichomoniasis is simple. After swabbing the bottom of the crop, we can examine the sample directly under the microscope. Trichomonas are extremely mobile. The examination cannot be delayed because their survival outside the pigeon is relatively short. They die quickly in dry conditions.



INTERPRETATION

Depending on the amount of germs observed, I assign a severity score:

0

Absence of trichomoniasis

1

Presence of isolated protozoa

2

Presence of several clusters of protozoa

3

Presence of a cluster of protozoa covering the field of vision

Trichomoniasis always has an underlying cause. In some cases, a primary infection that should be investigated causes a secondary trichomoniasis infection.


THE UNDERLYING CAUSES

  1. An environment favourable to the survival of these protozoa, such as poor water quality, a loft that is too hot or poorly ventilated and therefore too humid, as well as an overpopulation of birds, favour the multiplication and aggressiveness of these microbes.

  2. Weak natural defences:

    1. Permanent hereditary immunodeficiency concerns subjects susceptible to all diseases and this weakness is transmitted by the parents. The parents and their offspring cannot be kept in your colony.

    2. Temporary immunodeficiency is found in youngsters and yearlings and corresponds to the period of learning active immunity in these categories of birds. They have to adapt to the different diseases encountered and this takes time. For this reason, the convalescence period after an illness should be at least 3 weeks. An early return to competition would be catastrophic both in terms of losses and results.

  3. The stress or general adaptation syndrome is an identical organic defence reaction against any "stressor" that opposes the pigeon. The latter triggers and stimulates the production and release of adrenaline and cortisol. The disappearance of the stressor ends the reaction and is concluded by a release of endorphins, the hormones of satisfaction.

  4. If the aggression is repeated, the pigeon is physically and psychologically tense, or on the contrary, it may be depressed. In any case, the pigeon will be much more susceptible to trichomoniasis or will tend to have watery droppings even in the absence of germs.

  5. The simplest solution is to isolate the pigeon with its female.

  6. Fatigue is caused by feeding the pigeon inadequately for repeated sporting events or by an inadequate pace of events. A well-informed pigeon fancier will always seek to improve his feeding method and will have the instinct to offer rest periods to his champions.

  7. Primary infections such as circovirosis, herpesvirosis or other agents of respiratory disorders, not to mention worms and paratyphosis, favour the development of trichomoniasis.

Unfortunately, these underlying causes can combine to further weaken our pigeons.


CURATIVE SOLUTIONS

Treatments are based on molecules of the nitro-5-imidazole family: carnidazole, dimetridazole, metronidazole and ronidazole.


To varying degrees depending on the molecule, these substances have notable side effects such as a drop in white blood cells, liver damage, light or black eggs and neurological disorders reminiscent of Newcastle disease. In addition, they kill bifidobacteria that are useful for the body. This is why I combine them with supplements to control their side effects.


It is therefore necessary to use these drugs according to the appropriate rules: preferably after an etiological diagnosis and according to a precise timing.


Case 1. Strategic treatment at the time of breeding :

1 month before mating

Deworming

3 weeks before mating

Vaccinate against paramyxovirus and paratyphosis

After the 2nd egg is laid

Administer anti-protozoal treatment for 3 to 5 days

At the end of the treatment

Reseed the flora and administer a hepatoprotector for 10 days

By following this protocol, we strengthen the immune system, eliminate three major primary infections and avoid the side effects of treatment.


The result is that the squabs have a strong passive immunity and will have a minimum of microbes.


Case 2. Treatment of a pigeon diagnosed with severity grade 3.

The other pigeons are unaffected and therefore have a severity of 0.

Day of diagnosis = D0

The following 3 days D1 to D3

Administer an ocular mucolytic, carnidazole 20 mg or metronidazole 125 mg and a vitamin B tablet.

D4 to D14

Administer pre- and pro-biotics together with DESMODIUM. Mating with the usual female.

​D15

Repeat a swabbing of the crop of the male and his female.

The mucolytic is indicated when we observe a carpet of protozoa. Indeed, these clusters of microbes produce a shield of muco-polysaccharides attenuating the effectiveness of the nitro-5-imidazole derivatives.


CORRECTIVE SOLUTIONS

The improvement of the loft and the search for an efficient feeding system are still topical. I will not go back to the study of the loft, the main subject of my article in the National Bulletin (FCF) N°173. I insist on the importance of fighting against heat stress. I have had the opportunity to visit some pleasantly tempered loft facilities this summer when we were experiencing a heat wave. Some fanciers administer electrolytes every day in June and July and are completely satisfied with this practice.


Feeding remains a major element of success in pigeon racing. The first step is to provide a balanced ration, which is not yet the case in all the colonies visited. There are no absolute rules, but a sum of particularities. You should be followed or advised by a nutritionist.


CONCLUSION

It is never sufficient to make a clinical diagnosis by observing only visible signs of health or performance. On the other hand, microscopic examination does not dispense with looking for the presence of other infections, such as paratyphosis. Finally, a minimal treatment combines a derivative of the nitro-5-imidazole family with a supplement containing B vitamins, methionine, electrolytes and DESMODIUM.


This must be followed by a pre- and probiotic supplement.


In summary:

  • Trichomoniasis is a disease that can affect pigeons and manifests itself as lesions and inflammation in the mouth, throat, oesophagus and crop.

  • The causes of the disease are protozoa called Trichomonas gallinae and Trichomonas columbia, which can be found in the intestines of birds. 80% of pigeons are healthy carriers.

  • Diagnosis can be made by swabbing the bottom of the crop and examining it under a microscope. The severity of the disease depends on the number of germs found.

  • Trichomoniasis always has an underlying cause, such as an environment favourable to protozoa, a weak immune system or stress in the pigeons.

  • It is important to investigate the underlying causes and manage the risk factors to prevent trichomoniasis in pigeons.


Dictionnaire du pigeon voyageur par Guy BRASSEUR, 1990. Le pigeon voyageur par Henri VINDEVOGEL, Jean Pierre DUCHATEL et Paul Pierre PASTORET, 1994.

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