Salmonella – Paratyphoid in pigeons

Salmonella is the causative/pathogen agent and paratyphoid is the outcome.

Salmonella are gram negative bacteria that infect pigeons, other birds and even animals or humans. There are about 2000 species. Free-ranging birds can be sub-clinical carriers and so they simply are a reservoir of Salmonella. It is known that also mice and rats (and even flies) may be vectors of Salmonella. Various Salmonella species vary with geographic location and the types of food consumed. Imported birds may serve to introduce different Salmonella species to the local birds and  can cause a devastating outbreak. This is what experts say when they refer to Salmonella in general, but if we consider our pigeons and think about the one loft races or other situations when many pigeons from different lofts are put together, we understand that this doesn’t really apply to pigeons, maybe they are pretty immune to it. Paratyphoid in pigeons is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium var. Copenhagen. It can not affect chickens for example, and chicken salmonela can’t affect pigeons. So, it is species specific. In 99% of cases pigeon paratyphoid comes from other pigeons (usually healthy looking, in a carrier state). No, rats and mice do not give pigoens salmonela like we often use to think, says Dr. Wim Peters.


Transmission is done primarily through the air. The bacteria is in the nasal and or ocular secretions, fecal material, and feather dust. Salmonella outside the body dries as a dusty substance. This dust contaminates the air that can be inhaled by another bird. Susceptibility and the amount of contamination determine whether or not the new bird becomes infected. Contaminated feed and water can infect the bird too. Transmission of the bacteria to an egg can occur. The embryo may die if bacteria levels become too high. I guess this is why we sometimes find those “black” eggs with a dead chick inside. Youngsters fading away, going light, not growing like they should ca be signs of an infection with Salmonella, Paratyphus. Some tests done at the end of a racing season revealed that 73% of the race baskets were infected – and fanciers do not send sick looking birds to races so all the infection comes from healthy looking pigeons.


The most common symptoms of Salmonella/Paratyphoid in pigeons:
1. Diarrhea;
2. Torticollis;
3. Infectious arthritis;
4. Subcutaneous abscesses;
5. Infertility;
6. Acute death;
7. Chronic death / wasting away.

More than one of these can occur together in one pigeon.

1. Diarrhea is seen in pigeons of all ages. The intestinal type of infection usually produces a loose watery, green, voluminous and bed smelling dropping. It is important to distinguish it from the paramyxo dropping which is a watery splash with very little solid feces in the middle (looking like a worm in a splash of water). The droppings from paramyxo do not have any white (urates) from the kidney as paramyxo affects the kidney. In the salmonella droppings the urates (white matter) are usually visible, often greenish – yellow. The bird becomes light weight and wastes away.

2. Torticollis (the cerebral type of infection) occurs when a Salmonella abscess forms in the brain. The balance of the bird is affected and it will turn its head just like in the nervous symptoms of paramyxo. This movement is very difficult to distinguish from paramyxo. However, this kind of infection is pretty rare, and appears when the infection gets to the brain or when the internal ear is affected.

3. Infectious arthritis is seen as a swelling in the shoulder joint of an affected wing or as lameness caused by an infected joint in the foot or leg. The “ankle” joint is a favourite location. Pigeons with an infected wing joint droop the wing and tremble from the pain. The wing can even touch the floor hanging. The articular infection type is the most common type in a chronic Salmonella disease.

4. Subcutaneous abscesses occur allover the body but usually below the eye as a small swelling containing hard, yellow and dry pus. Often that will be the only sign.

5. Infertility (partial or total) in hens and cocks can often be accompanied by chronic death / wasting away.

6. Acute deaths can occur at any age. Young pigeons on the nest can die but even adult birds looking healthy can die suddenly.

7. Chronic death usually follows a long period of poor eating, listlessness losing weight and wasting away.

The carrier state may be present in totally unexpected birds. In the carrier state, no symptoms are observable. This is the “hiden” LATENT type of infection and is usually found in adults that apparently are healthy. There’s no desire to fly, they might have reproduction problems and the chicks in the nest get sick and might die. These pigeons are vectors that can infect the other birds any time.

The diagnosis for the carrier state can be made from a droppings culture collected over 5-6 days. While the droppings are being collected you should keep them refrigerated. Dead and clinically sick pigeons can be sacrificed and examined with a bacterial culture done on all the organs. A culture from the joint fluid in bird with a drooped wing will usually confirm a diagnosis of Salmonella. Dead youngsters on the nest and “black eggs” can also be cultured.

HOW TO PREVENT Salmonella infections:
Proper hygiene is the best way to keep Salmonella away from the loft. Don’t overcrowd! The disease has a greater chance of spreading in overcrowded conditions and stale air environments. Overcrowding also lowers immunity by stressing the birds. The chance of becoming infected depends a lot on the number of bacteria taken in by the pigeon. If a pigeon swallows just a few of the bacteria, it will probably not become infected. This is why cleaning the loft can lower the spread of the disease. Taking in large numbers of bacteria can overload the bird’s immune system, the germs will proliferate and the disease becomes active. Then the bird will also spread the bacteria through its droppings.

Lowering the pH of the drinking water with apple cider vinegar can control the disease. The use of probiotics is also recommended. Lowering the pH of the intestinal content inhibits the growth of Salmonella, E coli and other pathogenic organisms. I tested my tap water and for a PH of 7 with a GH of 0, 5 ml of vinegar for 2 liters of water drop the PH from 7 to 4. Most fanciers recommend 5 ml/liter but you might need to adjust to suit your needs for the local water.

The problem is that there is no antibiotic that is 100% effective. Treatment of salmonella infections should be based on laboratory tests so that the appropriate antibiotic can be administered. You collect some droppings samples from the birds for several days and send them to a laboratory where, after a bacteriologic culture and an antibiogram, the right antibiotic will be prescribed. Make sure the pigeons didn’t receive antibiotics before the test for several weeks…or the test might be useless.

Treating the birds only for 4-5 days is pointless and stupid. Such a short cure will not cure Salmonella. It might just lower the symptoms and eventually put the bird in a carrier state (which is worse!).

Enrofloxacin / Baytril is usually prescribed for treating Salmonella, but only the lab test will confirm what exactly you need for your pigeons. A treatment with thrimetoprim (1 gr / 4 liters of water) takes a long time… if the weather is cold, the treatment should last 2 weeks, because the birds drink less water. DO NOT forget to give probiotics to the pigeons after the treatment because the antibiotics destroy ALL the bacteria in the intestines including beneficial bacteria. I’m amazed to see that often probiotics are forgotten, although they are extremely important in the fight against salmonella and for the well-being of the bird.

Vaccines can be used to prevent the disease. Before you vaccinate against Salmonella you must be sure that there is no Salmonella infection in the loft and this can be checked only by a lab test. If you vaccinate pigeons that already have Salmonella, you can have some serious vaccination reactions and many pigeons die because of this. Should I use vaccines for Salmonella? Well, some are good, some are no effective at all.


  1. Yaset

    i have a horseman thief pouter and i noticed it only stands in one leg and has watery droppings so i asked a forum where i am subcribed called and they told me it could be salmonella so i bought a treatment hope it works but thanks for the article now im more informed about salmonella

  2. darcourt louis

    I have a different problem and maybe someone can help it would be deeply appreiciated in several of my nests one youngster has problems walking they drag themselves with their wings I have been raising pigeons since the age of 13 and never seen this before please advise if you have the answer thanks in advance

  3. sev

    I find that this disease affects permormance more than tric
    Many fenciers dont treat for it in the off season/breeding season, it may affect our birds more then other disease during this period.

  4. Pigeon pets

    Some advice please

    After reading this article I think one of my two indoors pigeons fits in the intestinal type of salmonella, the problem is I gave her parastop a couple of weeks ago only for four days which is a preventative dosage.

    Can I give her the curative dosis of two weeks now or the possibility she developed a resistance to the medicine is too big?

    I used parastop to treat her, she has been already 5 month with me at home I bought her in a shop and they do not know much about her past, but she came to me with theis problem already.

    she lays normally two eggs a month and stay mostly from 19:00 ours till 14:00 ours next day when the male takes the turn.

    She flys sometimes erratically although she dos not have problems in the wigns or legs, she eats normally

    The signs of salmonella that make me think she has it are diarrhea, watery droppings which sometimes are green and have a bad smell, excessive thirst, and the fact that she stays most of the time in the nest not willing to come out the male always have to force her to give him the turn otherwise she stays there forever.

    I do not know the composition of parastop I am not sure if I should use better thrimetoprim or if parastop contains already thrimetoprim

    Some advice please!!!.

  5. S.M.H. ZAIDI

    Realy im very happy 2 read this article,actually ,i have about 150 pigeon s different breeds,but since last 15 days ,about 27 pigeon die with differents sympton,and29 are infected with salmonella bacteri,as im sure aftr reading ur article, there are so many symtoms like wt loss watery green color fecet droping,twisted neck ,becomes so many times violent,and surroundings round,excess demand of watr,some birds calmn quite seperate corner without feeding unable 2 swalloo,itreted with mv ,ampicilline but no better respone
    plz help me what shoud be done , beckz its veri difficult to feed them by hand,for this purpose there shoud be so much time,n i have naot,plz plz any body help me and advise which medicine will be better,n hou manage them ,i will be highly thankful, thanks . S.M.H.ZAIDI

  6. carmel

    Now this is very interesting. My sons pigeons seam to be hatching wonky babies maybe the salmonella may be the reason. Some get abandoned about 3rd or 4th week. This baby that I have was abandoned about 4 weeks its sibling died.
    This one was weak. Later my son brought in another baby 3 weeks maybe a big baby I forced fed it. It also dragged itself on its wings it was pitiful. His wings grew and were too big so I trimmed them. His poop was like slurry I had given him fome Tricon Powder left over from the chickens. I put it o bread and popped it in his mouth. He did not get better his legs and muscles were wasted.
    My other little fellow Birdie was putting on wieght he was like a little lead bullet. But Later he began pooping a bright copper green I was alarmed my son said it was normal. I had given it also a does of Tricon for several days. At one point I think it had a temperature he was fluffed up in front of the fire. And I noticed he drank a lot, I was beginning to think it had diabetic symptoms like my cat, who drank and peed. I saw Birdie pee a lot. I felt he must not have food in its stomach although I force fed him a bit. He is OK now he is pooping nice balls and not drinking as much he does not eat the big stuff.

  7. ahmedfettoh

    We discovered herbal treatment eliminates salmonella during a very short time
    Without the elimination of beneficial bacteria and without side effects
    Note here we have some species are expensive and when we say no because we are professionals and we have the Egyptian Pigeon has a special standard specifications – not racing

  8. Sadegh


    You mentioned:

    ”PH of 7 with a GH of 0, 5 ml of vinegar for 2 liters of water drop the PH from 7 to 4” !!!

    I am afraid if you could decrease the pH from 7 to 4 with 0.5 ml of much more potent acids!!!

    What do you mean of ”GH”?

  9. there is no treatment for salmonella…….i have tried more than 6 different medicine from £15 to £80……….even though i vaccinate my pigeons against salmonella,i did give them parastop for 2 weeks before vaccination.there is no treatment of salmonella and none of the vaccine works………..its just waste of money……..did try 2 in 1 (colombopolivac vaccine)…..its useless

  10. there is no medicine for salmonella,if you want to get rid of salmonella then get rid of pigeons,ALL THE MEDICINE ARE USELESS THEY ONLY CURE THE TIME YOU USE THEM,TO CURE SALMONELLA YOU NEED ANTIBIOTICS FOR MORE THAN SIX MONTHS CONTINUOUSLY…………

  11. Kat Lorimor

    Thank you for all your time and knowledge, these are very helpful articles. I am just learning about the pigeons that I feed and share my back yard with, here in Phoenix, AZ.
    Two of the 30ish birds have died in the last 3 weeks from what looks like canker, so I am madly reading about how to protect the other birds.


    Shaun, I stopped treating salmonella years ago, and do not vaccinate. Not all pigeons make it, but the ones that do, breed more hardy youngsters… we need strong birds for a more relaxing hobby. Probiotics, vinegar, loft management…

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