Bird illnesses that every racing pigeon keeper should know about

Aside from predators, one hazard that keepers of racing pigeons watch out for are the diseases that their birds might contract. Maintaining loft cleanliness and providing the right kind of food and water are the basics of keeping racing pigeons in top shape. But sometimes, these birds could also get sick for different reasons, barring them from flying in special events.

It is important for fanciers to know which illnesses commonly affect racing pigeons so that they will know what to do. If you are an avid fan of pigeon racing or know someone invested in the sport, here are some of the diseases that temporarily disable them from performing:


This is a disease caused by a coccidian parasite that infects the intestines of racing pigeons. Coccidiosis could prove fatal in young birds while adults who have strong immune systems may not be affected by it. Symptoms include green droppings, weight loss, and loss of appetite and energy.

Coccidiosis is treated by water-soluble or tablet medications. Prevention measures include regular disinfection and keeping the birds away from mud and puddles.

E. coli

It’s not just mammals who can be affected by E. coli. Racing pigeons and other birds can also get afflicted with this bacterium, and the most common way to notice this in them is by seeing loose droppings in their loft. Infected birds may also experience vomiting, weight loss, and joint infections, particularly in their wings.

E. coli infections are usually treated by antibiotics administered for seven to ten days. However, different kinds of antibiotics need to be tested on infected birds as the bacterium could develop some resistance.


Also known as trichomoniasis, pigeon canker is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas gallinae. This parasite thrives in areas with high moisture and commonly infects the oesophagus and the liver of birds. Symptoms of pigeon canker include weight loss and vomiting. Some birds might not even exhibit symptoms of infection after several years.

Canker can be treated by incorporating ronidazole in the drinking water. Oral prescription drugs can also be administered. Prevention measures include isolation of young birds for testing, as symptoms may not be detected right away.


Paratyphoid is a disease caused by any one of three strains of the Salmonella bacteria and can usually be detected by weight loss (especially during moulting) and diarrhoea. This infection is spread via lofts contaminated with droppings. Paratyphoid begins in the intestines before affecting other internal organs such as the spleen, liver, and brain.

This infection can be treated by antibiotics and other prescription drugs, depending on which strain affected the bird. Prevention measures include sanitation, isolation of new birds, and vaccination.

One-eyed cold

Also called ornithosis, one-eyed cold is caused by a bacterium called chlamydia. It initially manifests as a swelling of the skin around one eye before infecting the sinuses and lungs. Further complications could lead to poor fertility, pneumonia, and death. It can easily spread to other pigeons if the loft is overcrowded.

The treatment for one-eyed cold is doxycycline, but a probiotic should also be administered during the first three days of rehabilitation.

Pigeon racing is a well-beloved sport in certain parts of the world, but its popularity might face a decline if illnesses on both humans and birds keep on increasing. The knowledge of ill and ageing fanciers can be passed on to younger trainers in a short amount of time, but proper pigeon training and maintenance can take quite a while. Avoiding the diseases on this list will ensure the well-being of racing pigeons for future events.

Keep tuned into Team Grove and Pienaar for the latest updates and tips on pigeon racing.

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