Canker in pigeons | Prevention, Medicinal & Natural treatment

Heard of canker? It can be a tricky one to treat and stop spreading but we’ve got all the tips and tricks to help you out.

The Symptoms of Canker in Pigeons

Intro Video - Backtobirds x
Intro Video - Backtobirds

There are a variety of symptoms of canker, some of which are far easier to notice than others. These include the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Incredibly ruffled plumage
  • Apprehensive about flying
  • Abnormally large winter intake
  • Apathy
  • Excessive swallowing motions
  • A yellow cheese-like substance in the pigeon’s beak and throat

Depending on the combination of the above symptoms, your pigeon will have a certain canker form. Whether it is umbilical, pharyngeal, or organ canker, it’s usually pretty serious.

Let’s take a brief look at each type.

Organ Form

This is the most severe form of canker. It attacks the internal organs (most commonly, the liver). You’ll notice ruffled plumage, diarrhea, and apathy your bird is suffering from this. 

Umbilical Form

Here, the baby pigeons still in the nest will have become infected by parasites in the nest box. 

Pharyngeal Form

This is the most common type of canker. If it becomes more severe, the yellow substance in the throat may restrict breathing and eating.

What Causes Canker in Pigeons?

The disease is caused by a one-celled parasite known as Trichomonas gallina. This pesky little parasite requires moisture to thrive and thus, seeks out the esophagus, crop, and occasionally other organs of pigeons to get it.

It is transmitted throughout a flock via their food and water (since Trichomonas gallina needs moisture to survive). If the parasite is dried, it dies almost immediately.

How to Naturally Treat Canker in Pigeons

You’re now familiar with types of canker, transmission, and the symptoms. So, it’s time to dive into the treatment choices. We’ll start with a home remedy option that kills the parasite causing the disease, thus treating your pigeons.

Related Read: How to treat injured pigeons?

Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Pour 5 ml of apple cider vinegar into 1 liter of freshwater. The parasite cannot live in acidic conditions like this — even though it is, of course, still moisture.

The apple cider vinegar works to lower the pH level to roughly 4 to 5 when you use the right dose. 

However, you need to check your water’s pH level after you’ve added the apple cider vinegar. This is because you may need to add less or more vinegar depending on the pH level of the water in your region.

Some people might tell you to do this every day but this isn’t wise. In the wild, pigeons would drink from freshwater rivers. So, it’s not natural for them to drink acidic water regularly.

Medicinal Treatment for Canker in Pigeons

If you would prefer to go down the medicinal path to treat canker, then there are two different forms:

  • Oral tablets — This is to treat individual pigeons. Obviously, you’ll have to put more effort in to administer this medication. However, you’re guaranteed to give the correct dose to the correct pigeon. Therefore, they’re far safer and more effective
  • Water-soluble medication — Generally, this is to treat your whole flock at once. It’s convenient but it’s less effective and can sometimes be toxic. For example, in hot weather, pigeons drink more, which will cause them to overdose.

As far as the actual type of medication that treats canker in pigeons, there are loads.

You will find that Carnidazole and Metronidazole are most commonly used as oral tablets. They are not for sale over the counter, so you’ll need to take your feathery friend to the vets.

The most popular water-soluble medication is usually Ronidazole. You would put this in your pigeon’s water for about a week. The reason behind Ronidazole’s popularity is the fact that it has the biggest safety margin.

How to Prevent Canker in Pigeons

Having said all of this, prevention is always the best form of treatment. There are three steps to take here:

  • Maintain hygiene — Make sure you scrub the water and feed bowls and leave them to dry completely every day. This will stop the parasite from finding a place to thrive.
  • Isolation — Quarantine new birds and ensure they are tested for canker before releasing them into the flock.
  • Treat When Breeding — You should get into the habit of treating all your pigeons for canker before the breeding season starts.

Related Read: How to care for pigeons?

How Can A Canker Be Transmitted From One Bird To Another?

Canker-causing parasites survive in moisture. It can be saliva, crop milk, food, and water. These places are most common for a bird to get infected if you have a flock of birds.

The primary symptom shows the yellowish cheese-like lesion in the pigeon’s mouth. The parasite contaminates the entire water and food and transmits it to others.

Another way is feeding. As infected pigeons feed their young, they unwillingly transmit the disease. Also, the chicks living in an infected nest also get infected. These babies have the weakest immune system, and they are very susceptible to infection.

Apart from pigeons, chickens, and caged birds catch the infection fast. In addition, birds that live in the wild, including chickens that come in contact with the outer environment, can get it from fellow birds.  

During race seasons as well, both young and old birds are at risk. The lifestyle and loft of a bird also cause Canker. Diet plays an important role. It builds immunity. A stressed bird has a weak immune system which can cause them to get infected even faster.

From Water To Birds

During racing, you can’t do a thing. Pigeons live, drink, eat, and stay together. Water being the main source of the infection, infects even the strongest birds.

For the pet flock, you must change the water every time you feed them. Wash the bowl and keep fresh water and remove it just after eating and drinking. You can also try adding some apple cider vinegar in water as Trichomonas doesn’t survive in acid.

 The wild birds are immune to this problem as they always drink from fresh lakes, rivers, and rain puddles. The domestic pigeons drink from the little bowl and contaminate it. During the summer, it gets worse.

Is Canker Genetic?

Only the strongest ones survive. It is applicable to every living being. Some pigeon families suffer from Canker due to being genetically susceptible to the infection.

Thus, many people treat youngsters at an early age. Little ones get the infection from their parents. If they survive, they become stronger.

Treating the mature birds before breeding is a good option but once they have laid eggs and are incubating, leave them be. When feeding their little ones, these birds expose chicks to Trichomonas, which help them build immunity against infection.

You can choose the pairs from your flock who have always resisted Canker and use them for breeding, so they will lay Canker-immune and strong babies.

Remember, babies can always get the infection, such as before the first races. Only the strongest birds survive this. You can only prevent the infection to a certain level. Rest is up to the bird and its immune system.

Be Canker Free

There you have it, you’re ready to release your newfound canker knowledge into your flock!

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