Using medicine the right way

Using medicine

Dr. Frode BrakstadTo achieve the top condition of breeders and racers, a sound use of medicine has became a must in our sport. In general, overuse of medicine will in long term destroy the natural immunity of  your birds and reduce performance, both breeding and racing.

Reduced performance in breeding will affect the next generation of birds on your loft, decrease the performance on next generation and season as well. On the other hand, avoiding medicines 100% will most probably cause your pigeons to continuously wear the most common diseases as Coccidiosis and canker.

In this article we will focus on the proper use of medicine to handle the two most common pigeon diseases, namely the canker and the Coccidiosis. A common denominator for these diseases are their widespread presence, most pigeon do have some level of either or both. As a result, most pigeons are immune to canker and held some pre-immunity to Coccidiosis, and it may therefore be hard to see whether the pigeons are infected or not under normal circumstances. However, when pigeons are set under stress such as racing or breeding, the infections typically bloom and may cause reduced performance, or reduce the natural disease immunity in general  and open up for other diseases as well.

The presence of Coccidiosis and canker over a certain level will therefore certainly reduce their breeding and racing performance, affecting both results as well as the coming performance of the YBs. Having said this, some exposure of these two most common diseases is hard, almost impossible in practice to achieve. So what is then the proper way to handle these diseases? I believe there may be several opinion on this, but I will here tell how we cope with this in our lofts.

Canker – Trichomoniasis Canker Trichomonasis/ Canker

Canker is the most common pigeon disease. It’s caused by a microscopic protozoan which is flagellated and, therefore, mobile.

Although most canker is caused by Trichomoniasis, certain bacterial infections can also produce canker-type lesions. In fresh crop samples they look like small black shrimps moving around.  It can be transmitted from one bird to another usually through the drinking water, and parent birds can infect their young through feeding.

Infected birds over a certain level show a definite reduction in activity, ruffled feathers, loss of weight, increased water intake, and diarrhea. Cheesy yellowish deposits can often be observed in the mouth or throat. But note, there are also canker infection that may not be easy to detect by the visual inspection of the throat. Young birds without the developed natural immunity are most susceptible.


This highly infection and very common disease caused by a protozoa that infects the intensities of our birds. It usually presents to some degree in all Coccsidiosispigeons, and most adult birds have developed some pre-immunity so they are more resistant to infection than YBs. Consequently, the disease may be present in the adult pigeons even if they appear healthy. The effect of the disease are mostly seen on the YBs or  when the adult birds have been subjected to severe stress (i.e., racing, showing, lack of feed/water, or relocation). Coccidiosis is spread by oocysts-infected droppings contaminating food and drinking water.

Infected birds have little or no desire to eat or drink, will remain puffed up on perches, lack any desire to move and often close their eyes. Droppings are usually very loose, greenish in color and may become very watery. Loss of weight occurs, and death can occur in young birds.

Note that the symptoms for Coccidiosis and canker in many cases are similar.

Prevention and treatment

In our loft we would like our pigeon to develop natural immunity to these two most common diseases outside the breeding and racing season, as they will always be exposed for these diseases in the baskets through a long season. Improver
On the other hand, we have zero tolerance for these diseases in the season.

So we start to plan the medicine treatment of a season as soon as the previous season has ended. First of all, we give no medical treatment of our loft following the breeding and racing season. We secure however good loft management with a dry and nice atmosphere having no more than four pigeons per cubic meter of space. Note, air is free and most probably the best prophylactic treatment you can give your pigeons. Under the moulting period the pigeons are given half dosage of Improver/AntiFungal daily, and multivitamins and Oxy-B once a week. Recently we bought a (rather expensive) pigeon on an auction that showed sign on both one-cold infection and  canker, while our other pigeons seemed perfectly well. Even if this hen had a fantastic pedigree and did cost us lot of money, we showed no mercy. AntiFungal And this is the best way of developing natural immunity, avoid medicines outside the season and remove week individuals. As soon as the breeding season start, all pigeons (breeders and racers) are cured against Coccidiosis and canker when laying on the first round of eggs.

Treatment before breeding and racing

We are very happy with Baycox (50 mg toltrazuril per ml) for the treatment of Coccidiosis, as it is 100% effective and have no  known side effect, even with some degree of overmedication. We dose 3 ml Baycox per liter of drinking water, and give it to the pigeons for two days. Following this treatment, we cure against canker by giving Ronidazol (10%) 2.5 gram (a heaped teaspoon) per liter in six days.

For the breeders this is usually all they get through the whole year of medicines. They should now be prepared for the coming breeding season raising up to 5 rounds of youngsters. I will like to add that the loft management of our breeding lofts are superb. The climate is dry and there is plenty of place and air. No smell of pigeons at all, and the best is given of feed and feedstuff. The breeders and the young bird are given Improver/AntiFungal in half dosage 3-4 days a week the through the season to develop natural immune defense system. Of course grit, oyster shell, vita mineral, pick stones and fresh water are all available daily. Multivitamins and Oxy-B is given twice a week.

Treatment under the racing season

As our racing loft is kept dry, and cleaned twice daily, there is a small probability for Coccidiosis to spread in our loft during the racing season. However, Coccidiosis may easily be picked up by individual birds in the baskets easily, so as a rule of thumb we give our racers one day treatment against Coccidiosis every sixth week through the racing season. If possible, we cure half the team either Sunday or Monday with Baycox, before their resting weekend. We give our pigeons resting weekend from time to time, depending on their program. Before long distance racing they will always rest for at least three weeks. In our experience rest is the best way for building up the necessary energy to compete in the demanding long races.

All racers are treated with medicine against canker every third weekend. We add some sort of canker medicine in an alternating way, to avoid resistance. Additionally all racer get the following in their drinking water every week:

– Saturday, return from race:     Double dosage of Improver/ AntiFungal mixed with the electrolyte based product BelgaMax;
– Sunday, day after race:           Regular dosage of Improver/ AntiFungal mixed with BelgaMax; Every third week Canker medicine is added to this mixture;
– Monday:                                  Pure water (every third week with canker medicine)

The rest of the week including basket day, only pure water is given. Exceptions are extremely warm summer days, where occasionally we add half dosage of BelgaMax to the drinking water.

Our recently research has shown that most canker strains are depressed by the presence of Improver in the drinking water, so the administration of Improver in the drinking water every weekend secure a  low level of these. Note that though most canker is caused by Trichomoniasis, certain bacterial infections can also produce canker-type lesions. Those type are depressed immediately by Improver. The administration of Improver/AntiFungal is however not primarily done for the canker treatment, but for i) reducing/depress the pathogenic bacteria the pigeons may have picked up in the basket or on from drinking sources on its way home, and ii) to rapid restore the natural Microflora in the pigeons intestines, decreasing the recuperation time of the birds to a minimum. The medical treatment every third week secure that no tolerance of this performance decreasing disease is fulfilled through the season.  To avoid resistance, we use as many different medical canker products as possible in an alternating way. In our loft we do use Ronidazol (10%) usually before the season (on first round of egg), while we in the season alternatively use Gambakokzid, Dimetridazole /Emtryl (note: low safety margin), Metronidazole/Flagyl and Spartrix/Carnidazol.

We use the roundabout system as motivation for our racers.  The climate is dry and there is plenty of place and air. In Scandinavia the temperature may drop to significantly during the nights, affecting the condition to the birds. As a consequence we have placed heating ovens (tubes being 80Watt per meter) under the sitting places of the hens and boxes of the cooks. In the racing season, these ovens are turn automatically on when temperature comes under 18 ºC. Like in the breeding loft, there is no smell of pigeons at all, and the best is given of feed and feedstuff.  We follow the feeding regimes as most other fanciers, carbohydrates for sprint and more fat towards the long distance. Note that we give our hens a feed with less protein that our cooks, to reduce their lesbian tendency. Of course grit, oyster shell, vita mineral, pick stones are all available daily. Multivitamins is gives once a week, usually on Tuesdays. Oxy-B is given twice a week, usually on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Although there are many ways to win races, only healthy birds have a chance to top the prize lists.
To achieve healthy birds with a strong natural immune defense system, both over dosage of medicines as well as “no medicine policy” are wrong strategies.
Although it is many ways to achieve healthy birds, this article show one way to treat and fight against the two most common pigeons diseases, canker and Coccidiosis. Then it is left to wish you all the best in the coming season!

Best regards,
Dr. Frode Brakstad
Nutrient Specialist
Pigeon Vitality

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One thought on “Using medicine the right way

  1. Derek McCormick says:

    Thank you for an expert’s insight into health care of racing pigeons. Although I do not race my pigeons (small flock of 11), however, I do let them out every day for liberation and exercise.
    I was seeking advice on the best methods of administering medicines orally ; to reduce stress for both bird and owner. Anyway good fortune to you in the season, and kind regards.

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