Coccidiosis in pigeons | Pigeon Coccidia – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

You need to take extra care of your pet pigeons, especially the younger ones. There are several diseases that can threaten the life of your pet if not diagnosed and cured on time. One such disease is coccidiosis.

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Intro Video - Backtobirds

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease. Coccidia or coccidian protozoa are common pathogenic parasites seen in the intestinal tract of animals. It is prevalent among several animals such as dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, and even birds. Unfortunately, pigeons are also not immune to this disease.

Now let’s talk about coccidiosis in pigeons, in particular. You can rarely see this parasitic disease affect adult birds; it’s just the young ones that are susceptible to it. To really get into it, the prevalence of this infection is 5.1% to 71.9%, with a global mortality rate anywhere from 5.1% to 71.9%.

What is coccidiosis? 

Coccidiosis attacks the bird’s digestive system. The intestines are the most important part of the digestive system, and this disease attacks your bird’s intestine. As it is an intestinal problem, the most visible symptoms can be found in the feces. If your pet is acting strangely, look for the symptoms. The young birds always show them while the adults may be asymptomatic. If you are attentive, you can save your pet’s life.

In domestic birds, the problem often arises from the neglected and unhygienic cage. A bird’s house also needs regular dusting and cleaning. If they keep eating and pooping in the same place, problems are bound to arise.

What are the symptoms of coccidiosis?

When the protozoa replicate and damages the tissues in the intestine, it will definitely disrupt normal digestive and absorption processes, as well as pigeon’s feeding habits. 

If you have a pet pigeon that you are worried might be affected then you can look out for the following symptoms that might be indicative:

  • Severe diarrhea that can be bloody, watery or contains green mucus. 
  • Droopiness and depressions
  • Inactivity
  • Loss of appetite, followed by the inevitable loss in weight and emaciation
  • A decrease in thirst, followed by dehydration
  • Decrease in growth
  • A decrease in egg production
  • Development of culls
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Depigmentation or pale skin
  • Tremors, convulsions and shivers
  • Lameness
  • And finally, death. 

Before you get to the part where you treat the pigeon for coccidiosis, it might be helpful to find out how it got it in the first place.

Related Read: How to treat injured pigeons?

Cause of Coccidiosis in pigeons

We read earlier how one infected bird can pass it on to another when the latter either comes in contact with infected fecal matter or accidentally eats infected tissue.

Other possible causes include:

1. Contamination of food or water

2. Contamination of soil, dust, or litter

3. Contamination through human carriers, handlers, equipment, or clothing

Now, let’s move on to the treatment for the infected birds

Treatment

1. Drug Administration

There are several anticoccidial drugs that can be administered to treat a coccidian infection. Some of these drugs will arrest the coccidia growth, while others will inhibit mitochondrial energy production.

You can use folic acid antagonists, arsenic compounds, and amprolium, which can be used as an antagonist of thiamine—a vitamin produced by coccidia. 

Your local vet will be able to prescribe you the appropriate dose of the right drug as well as monitor your pigeon. The drug is usually given along with water or through food for up to two weeks, with a possibility of another cycle of either the same dose or an altered one.

If your pigeon is displaying any secondary infections, then antibiotics are usually prescribed, along with vitamins A and K to improve your pigeon’s health and boost its recovery process.

2. Immunity

Your drug might develop a natural immunity to the treatment. You can also choose to vaccinate your bird to help boost his immunity if so wish to.

Related Read: How to care for pigeons?

3. Eliminate risks of further infection

Keeping his allotted area clean, with enough light, ventilation and regularly cleaning out his litter will help to reduce the chances of him getting another bout of the infection, or perhaps prevent him from getting sick in the first place.

Plenty of freshwater, food, and exercise helps to keep him fit and will build up his immune system.

How To Prevent Coccidiosis?

Prevention is far better than cure, especially if it can risk the life of your pet. The treatment is the only way to cure an infected one, but if you are cautious, you can stop your birds from getting infected in the first place.

Here are the ways to prevent Coccidiosis-

  • Always keep the cage or loft clean and dry.
  • Rinse their water regularly, wash the basket and fill it with fresh water twice a day.
  • Clean the droppings sooner, so your pigeons don’t have time to catch infections.
  • Always keep their food on a clean plate.
  • If any of the birds is unhealthy, isolate it.
  • Never let them eat or drink from any unhygienic source.
  • Also, keep your pigeons away from the wild birds as they carry different bacteria for which your pet’s immunity may not be enough.

Is Coccidiosis Infectious?

Yes, it can quickly spread from one bird to another. The first thing to do if you think one of your pets is unhealthy is to separate them. Generally, healthy birds get infected by drinking contaminated water and sharing contaminated food. The healthy ones are at great risk living and eating with the infected bird.

But as a human, you are safe. The disease won’t spread to you as it spreads to fellow birds. But it is always best to take precautions.  For example, when you clean your bird’s droppings, always wear gloves. Coccidiosis is not contagious, but several other bacteria can infect you.

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