Pigeon parasites & malaria

Renowned South African veterinarian Dr Ockert Botha gives advice on prevention and treatment of pigeon diseases.

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World-renowned avian vet and racing pigeon expert Dr Ockert Botha recently gave a lecture on the latest findings in pigeon disease and medication. Ockert is the technical director of Aviomed, a company that supplies avian health supplements and medicines.Established in 2006 by Sanna Botha, Ockert’s wife, Aviomed’s cost-effective products combine synthetic compounds with natural ingredients. These products aim to boost the pigeon’s natural immunity, while treating it.

External parasites (ectoparasites) include red mites, feather mites, skin mites and pigeon flies. An invasion of ectoparasites is an indication of poor pigeon keeping. Red mites are blood-sucking parasites, and usually emerge at night to feed on the host pigeon. Quill mites are found inside the pigeon’s feather shafts, while feather mites are seen on the feathers. The pigeon fly spreads lice and mites. This fly also sucks blood, but is more harmful that a red mite as it can transmit pigeon malaria.

Ectoparasites cause extreme irritation and restlessness in pigeons. This is detrimental to racing performance as champion pigeons need rest to perform at peak levels. To check for red mite presence in your pigeon loft, Aviomed suggests placing cotton wool in nests and to inspect it in the morning. Examine your pigeons’ body and feathers for the presence of feather and skin mites and lice .

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Endoparasites such as roundworm, which can cause stunted growth, hairworm, which can cause anaemia, and lungworm, which can cause respiratory problems, can all be diagnosed through a faecal floatation test.
Aviomed’s Ekto and Endo drops are effective in the control of both ecto- and endoparasites. Simply apply two drops directly on the skin of the lower neck towards the upper back every six weeks. Avio-Ekto and Endo tablets combine both Ivermectin and Praziquantel and eradicate all worms and most ectoparasites, if used once every 12 months, alternated with Aviopowder.

Pigeon malaria
Once pigeons contract pigeon malaria, the disease remains in the body for life, becoming active under stress. For treatment, Ockert recommends Primaquine. The standard dosage of 1ml/? isn’t very effective, he believes, so he recommends dosing with 2ml/? for 10 consecutive days.

General hygiene
It’s essential to keep your lofts hygienic and dry. A good scrub, fumigation and annual blowtorch-burning (to clean the surface, not burn down the loft) is a must for hygienic pigeon keeping. Overcrowding is a definite no-no, as stress promotes disease. Pay attention to loft design to ensure effective ventilation by having stale air move out at the highest point at the rear and fresh air entering steadily through the bottom front.