Pigeons are short and stout birds related to the family Columbidae. Pigeons are not picky eaters and they can eat whatever they found in their surroundings.
Pigeon owners tend to take extra care of these birds as they are very vulnerable to many diseases. Pigeons are susceptible to diseases like diarrhea, flies, Coccidia, Worms, Hexamita, Mite, Pigeon pox, and many more.
Pigeon pox is one of the most infectious diseases. I have shared some of the most useful information on pigeon pox in pigeons.
What is Pigeon Pox?
Pigeon pox is a type of pox virus infection that can cause unsightly and extremely uncomfortable skin proliferation or deposits. It affects both feral pigeons and reared flocks alike, occurring most commonly during particularly humid summers or warm winters.
Types of Pigeon Pox
There are two types of pigeon pox to be aware of; these are:
- Skin type — Pigeons with this type form proliferation usually around their eyes, beak, and legs. The marks can be seen clearly.
- Mucosal type — Here, deposits are found on the crop’s mucosa and pharyngeal cavity. This type tends to impair feeding and water intake.
These are the two basic forms of pigeon pox that are found widely all over the globe. Pigeon pox is highly transmissible and can spread quickly from one bird to another in no time.
How Is Pigeon Pox Transmitted?
Generally, pigeon pox is transmitted by inhaling or ingesting. However, it can enter wounds or open sores too. Not to mention that if you’re hand-feeding baby pigeons, you may unknowingly give them pigeon pox with unsanitary equipment.
Additionally, mosquitos carry and transmit the infection if they bite a pigeon.
Related Read: Do Pigeons Carry Disease?
It’s very easy for pigeons housed in aviaries to spread the virus amongst them. Hence why it’s super important to understand how to deal with and prevent it.
Many other insects are responsible for spreading pigeon pox, some of the most common vectors of pigeon pox are –
The process of Transmission of Pigeon Pox
Pigeon pox as mentioned above is generally spread from bird to bird by many vectors. The most common way of spread of the infection is illustrated below-
- The vectors generally bite an infected bird, with the bite of the bird, the virus from the bird is transmitted to the vectors through the blood.
- These vectors now carry the same virus inside them and can transmit it to other birds when they bite them.
- The rates of transmission from such vectors in a colony of birds or a habitat depend upon the number of vectors in the given area.
- Another method of transmission of pigeon pox is direct exposure to the virus through contaminated food, water, feeders, drinkers, infected bird, or other people carrying the virus.
- Another way of transmission is through the air, sometimes the pigeon pox virus may get mixed in the air in a closed area. This can result in a large number of birds getting infected in that area. This type of spread is very rare.
How Does Pigeon Pox Affect Pigeons?
Pigeon pox affects the pigeons on various levels by causing many discomforts and illnesses. Some of the common things that a pigeon will go through in pigeon pox are-
Many birds experience bumps on many areas of the body like legs, nares, beak, feet, eyes, and around the back and front. The development of these bumps is mainly concentrated in feather-less areas.
There are higher possibilities that if these bumps are left untreated, many bacterial and fungal infections can form pustules in them. If the infection reaches the high there are high chances that it can cause harm to many eye parts like the eyelids, cornea and may even cause cataracts.
Another way pigeon pox affects pigeons is by causing conjunctivitis. Growth of lesions is marked with it in the food pipe of the bird. In many cases, it becomes hard for the bird to swallow solid food and even experiences difficulty in drinking water and other liquid foods.
Pigeon pox also acts on many life process operating systems and can cause serious issues like loss of appetite–
- Low energy levels
- Loss of feathers or fluffed feathers
Different forms of Pigeon Pox
The Skin Form of Pigeon Pox
The skin form of pigeon pox creates small papules that, over time, turn into thick, dark scabs around the bird’s eyes, beak, and legs.
You’ll be pleased to know that these scabs tend to fall off rather quickly, and at around 4 weeks, the pigeons should be completely healed. This type isn’t life-threatening and is commonly just a nuisance for a month.
The Mucosal Form of Pigeon Pox
The mucosal form affects the membranes of the pharynx, larynx, trachea, and mouth. People tend to call this the “wet” version of the virus. Why? Because the lesions aren’t hard and crusty but soft and almost squishy.
Sadly, this form of pigeon pox is very serious. Pigeons who are affected by it will lose a lot of weight, stop eating, find it hard to breathe, and just seem overall, extremely ill.
Death tends to come from asphyxiation where the lesions grow to block the respiratory tract.
The Mixed Form
Rarely, pigeons can become infected with both types of pigeon pox. Here, they will suffer from hard, crusty scabs and soft lesions.
Typically, racing pigeons and those living in less-than-average conditions will develop both forms. Fighting between the birds occurs in overcrowded cages which can facilitate the transmission.
Relates Read: How long do pigeons live?
How to Treat Pigeon Pox
Currently, there isn’t an anti-viral pigeon pox treatment. If the condition of the pigeon worsens, there is almost nothing to be done except attempting to keep them as comfy as possible.
Having said this, vets will often prescribe a type of antibiotic. This won’t get rid of the virus completely. However, it will help to fight any other infections that can arise from various skin proliferations.
Alongside this, you can try to give your birds vitamin A. Why? Because it’s known to support the healing of skin lesions and abnormal growths on other areas of the body.
Even though it might be tempting, don’t remove the lesions — especially the ones inside the pigeon’s mouth. Taking them off can cause extreme bleeding.
How to Avoid Pigeon Pox
The best course of action when thinking about pigeon pox is to try to prevent it as much as possible. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do.
Firstly, get your pigeons vaccinated! If you choose, they can have the vaccine from as young as six weeks. Generally speaking, your birds can have the PMV jab at the same time.
Secondly, you need to ensure you adhere to a strict hygiene schedule for your birds. Pigeon pox is spread far easier in dirty and overcrowded conditions.
If you live in a region that suffers from a bunch of mosquitos, invest in solutions that stop them from entering your pigeons’ home. Mosquitos spread the virus incredibly quickly.
Lastly, always treat cuts and open wounds that you find on your birds. This will stop the infection from seeping into their bloodstream.
Pigeons are very vulnerable to the pigeon pox viral infection. The infection is easy to spread and can quickly spread from one flock of birds to another.
It is very important to keep all the measures to protect your birds, and if infected to give proper treatment.
Pigeons are lovely birds and by maintaining all the required preventions you can protect them from a deadly infection.