Letter from the readers n°22 – racing pigeons
Paul Vanfleteren from Ménin has to deal with a serious problem of ornithosis… “For several years, our pigeons have been suffering from ornithosis. In the early 80s, we noticed that our early youngsters were not in good condition. They only performed a few laps around the dovecote without ever moving away.
We thought it was going to pass since our yearlings and our old birds had good performances. But in May when the weather got warmer, we found that they were flying with their beaks open. The first time they were dragged away by another flock, a number of pigeons never returned to the loft. Lost pigeons were reported in neighboring towns and some in the same town. We then went with our pigeons to a specialist veterinarian who diagnosed the ornithosis. We treated the pigeons for 10 days with tetracyclines. After the cure, the pigeons flew a little better. But after a fortnight, we found in hot weather that the disease had returned in such a serious way. To spend the winter we kept only two youngsters out of our 35 youngsters. During the winter period, the sexes were separated. At the beginning of the year we noticed that all our old and our juniors also suffered from ornithosis. They were no longer able to win any prizes. They fell one after the other but a quarter of an hour after the first pigeons and that in clear weather (Clermont 170 km and Dourdan 270 km). From that moment we consulted several veterinarians and treated the pigeons each time without result. In the long run we got fed up and removed all the pigeons.
All lofts have been disinfected with bleach and blowtorch. We then bought late ones. The dovecotes were cleaned twice a day. These youngsters had been out for about a month, when we noticed the presence of identical respiratory symptoms. So, again, ornithosis. We then modified the dovecotes, so that the ventilation was optimal. During the cigarette test, the smoke disappears immediately and it is not possible to detect the slightest smell of pigeons. The first year during which the pigeons stayed there did not allow to get rid of the ornithosis. For our juniors in the garden lofts, the start was promising. Every now and then a pigeon in the top 20 and a second place. Then everything went wrong. That year we treated the pigeons for 6 weeks with doxycycline. It was high season. As we expected after a six-week cure with doxycycline, the shape was gone but the ornithosis still present. We then went with our pigeons to the University of Ghent where samples with cotton swabs, to establish if it was indeed ornithosis, were carried out. This diagnosis was indeed confirmed. We treated the pigeons for 10 days with Baytril but without result. As you can see, we have tried everything. From the end of June we no longer administered any medication to our pigeons. They receive vitamins. If the weather is good, they stay outside from morning to evening. You understand that we are at the end of solutions. In a temperature of 20° C our pigeons land and stay another 3 minutes with their beaks open, their wings dangling, trying to catch their breath, this is not normal. In my opinion the loft is not in question, because previously we did not have this problem. I am convinced that among the pigeons we killed (reducing the number from 50 to 28) there were good pigeons who did not have the opportunity to show their qualities due to respiratory problems”.
We went to enlighten our lantern at the poultry disease laboratory of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Ghent. Dr. Daisy Vanrompay is a specialist in this type of problem because she wrote a doctoral thesis on this subject, which she defended with the greatest distinction. She sent us a written response on this problem. I just want to add one thing about the ornithosis problem.
1) Medicines from the tetracycline group like doxycyline and terramycin should be served in very pure water because certain dissolved salts (ions) can bind to antibiotics and neutralize them (formation of chelates). In this form, these compounds no longer reach the bloodstream via intestinal absorption but remain inactive in the intestine in an insoluble neutralized form. So when using such treatments it is best to use demineralized water and also remove minerals and grit from the loft during the treatment.
2) These antibiotics need to be given in high doses and for a long time. The specialist veterinarian will therefore be your best adviser.
Dr. L. Mathijs.
Below is the response of Dr. D. Vanrompay from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Ghent to Dr. Mathijs regarding the problem of ornithosis.
“Following your letter concerning the problem of ornithosis in pigeons, I communicate to you the following answers.
Ornithosis is caused by a Gram-negative bacterium, which is called Chlamydia psittaci. It’s not a normal bacteria. This bacterium, unlike other bacteria, multiplies in a living cell. If respiratory problems, conjunctivitis and/or poor condition are noticed at the loft, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian immediately. Proper medication, dosage, directions for use, and duration of therapy are essential for successful treatment.
Improper treatment can be harmful and even cause resistance from this “special” bacteria to which we could find ourselves without active medication. Your veterinarian is fully aware of the means of diagnosis. He will take the necessary samples either from living pigeons or from dead birds.
He will be able to carry out “special ornithosis” stainings followed by a microscopic examination of the stained preparations. However, many veterinarians send the samples to the avian pathology laboratory of the University of Ghent, where examinations are carried out daily to detect the presence of this bacterium in the birds. If the diagnosis of ornithosis is made, the attending veterinarian can initiate treatment, possibly after consultation with the avian pathology department.
Currently, there is no vaccine available yet, so that in case of suspected ornithosis, the pigeons will be checked and possibly treated.”
Dr. D. Vanrompay
When respiratory problems, conjunctivitis automatically accompanied by a decline in condition appear, the fancier is often tempted to administer an antibiotic, without first consulting a specialist veterinarian. This is a serious mistake.
Don’t forget that inappropriate treatment can be harmful and even cause resistance on the part of this “special” bacteria against which nothing can be done.
[ Source:Article edited by Dr. L. Mathijs & Dr. D. Vanrompay – PIGEON RIT Magazine]
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