Trichomoniasis – Canker in pigeons

Trichomoniasis (or canker, by its common name used by most fanciers) is the most common disease of the racing pigeons. It is said that most of the pigeons are infested with canker during their lives, but it rarely shows symptoms of the disease in mature birds.
However, stress can trigger a serious growth of trichomonads producing canker and the disease starts to affect the pigeon. It looks ruffled, stops to feed loosing weight and if not treated, it soon dies. Youngsters are the most affected. This is why fanciers use to treat them against canker right after weaning. I personally don’t treat my youngsters so that they can build immunity. I only treat before the first races, when the stress comes into the scene. If the birds can’t stay healthy with minimum levels of stress, they have to go. This is how I did last year, and this year also (2007) and my young pigeons were fine.

The old birds introduce small amounts of trichomonads to the nestlings while feeding them, and so they develop immunity.

Signs of canker:

  • Repeated swallowing movements can be a sign of canker. I usually notice this after the birds land on the loft, after the training
  • yellow stuff in the throat and beak of the bird
  • ruffled plumage
  • apathy of the bird
  • weight loss and weakness
  • increased water intake – this also produces the so called “wet nests” when the parents having canker pump a lot of water in the nestlings
  • the birds are reluctant to fly

Trichomonas, being a flagellate, can propel itself in fluids. So, usually “clean” pigeons get it very easy during the transport when hundreds of pigeons drink from the same place.

The disease has several forms:

Pharyngeal Form is the most common. Fanciers will usually notice yellow stuff in the throat of the bird. In severe cases, the yellow stuff can inhibit feeding and even breathing.

Umbilical canker passes from the infected nest box into the body of the young bird still in the nest.

Organ Form: In the most severe cases, canker will attack internal organs. It is often found in the liver. Some signs might be apathy, ruffled plumage and diarrhea. Most of these birds die of liver failure.

Ronidazole is the most used drug in treating the canker in pigeons. Lately, dimetridazole and metronidazole were removed from the market being risky for health.


  1. James Richardson

    I was unaware that you could build up immunity as canker was a parasite. So briefly it is apparent all of the time and immunity cannot be built up?

    Has anyone ever noticed birds using their feet to scratch around the wattle area?

  2. Andrei

    Hi James. Yes, I noticed the birds scratching too.

    By building immunity, I wanted to say that it is good to let their bodies fight with a bit of tricho as long as it doesn’t affect them bad and as long as they don’t have to race. This way, they get stronger, and get used to “some” amount of these parasites. Then, when you treat them there’s a real benefit, boosting their energy and performance…I rarely treat them but when I did, I immediately noticed such a wonderful boost.

    Something else I did, based on Alan Wheeldon’s article about avoiding medication, was to remove weak birds. In my first year, I kept getting canker a lot in many of my young birds. As the years passed, I let young birds only from those pairs that were producing birds that could be fine without meds even after weaning.

    After 5 years I came to the conclusion that it was a good idea, since the canker stopped affecting my youngsters. The 2008 team wasn’t treated for tricho a single day…and they were perfectly healthy – I could say that by their crazy desire to fly, “breaking” the sputnik in the morning, and getting back in an hour or two, tired but happy. I loved to see that, knowing they did it without medication.

    However, what I also did was to reduce the number of birds every year, getting from 90 to 40 in 5 years. I think that helped too.

  3. Andrei

    I think you should NOT mix any medication unless it is written very clear on the package that you can do that.

    Some do say you can mix, for example electrolytes and BS for canker.

  4. hi all, myself and my wife are only starting out with pigeons; i myself philip looked after and helped my da with his pigeons as a kid but now i am married and have started my own loft in carlow. i have some amazing birds that friends gave me as presents, basically im only an ameteur as im sure most of u out there started too,i would really appreciate any guiding or tips u could help me with, also this canker how to identify it and deal with it as quick and easy as possible. ie, how often do i check my young and old birds for it and what do you out there reccomend i treat it with, and what else is there i should be on the ball with, etc, diseases foods etc. i would be so so gratefull to u for any help or ideas u could help me with. look forward to hearing from you. sincerly philip,.

  5. Andrei

    Hi Philip, please read this article:

    If you have new questions, please post them there.

    Regarding trichomoniasis, you will know the birds have it if they don’t fly too well at home or start to be sad… usually the mature birds don’t display visual symptoms, but the youngsters usually develop some yellowish stuff in the beaks that can be seen easily.

    I would focus on birds that rarely need treatments to stay healthy (breed only the ones that do that in your loft already) because having to treat them very often takes the pleasure away from the hobby.

  6. mark

    My dad found a baby piegon that had fell
    Out of its nest so he took it home and has been
    Feeding it. The piegon has now lost all of its
    Yellow feathers but it won’t stop shaking
    Do u think it could have cancker

  7. Andrei

    Shaking can be from Paramixo virus or Salmonela. Also make sure you feed it grit, most beginners feed pigeons only with grains and no grit for digestion and calcium.

  8. Anita

    When Mark said that the young bird was still shaking he meant, I feel sure, that the bird was shaking in the way a young bird does for its parent to feed it.Usually they squeak at the same time too, and we call them ‘squeakers’. I do not think it is sick.

  9. huma

    hey i found a baby pigeon lying on the ground and saved it from being eaten up by a dog. It seems to be around 22-23 days , i fed it boiled gram for two days , three times a day around 3-4 seeds at a time. Today morning it started breathing heavily and made sounds like hiccups and the symptoms have continued for 12 hours now. Does any one know what is wrong. Please help me i am very worried and have no vet here.

  10. huma

    I just saw inside its mouth and it is slightly yellowish and has slight red lining . is this cranker and if it is how do I administer the medicine ronidazole ? I am in India and am not sure if I will get the medicine anyway please write any alternate medicines that might work or any other name of the same medicine if any.

  11. carolina

    I have been feeding a couple of pigeons on my balcony for a few years now and a new one has showed up that keeps it’s beak a little open and makes a sound like it has something in it’s air passages. Could this be canker and will my other pigeons get it?
    I love pigeons and I thought if I fed it, it might overcome it’s illness; will I make thing worse? I don’t want to risk the health of the other 2.
    Thanks ,


  12. Carrie

    Flagyl is very good runs over a course it is an oral substance put directly into the crop via syringe, or you can try Spartrix which is a tablet that you put straight into the crop, if your not comfortable putting it into crop you can crush it up and mix with water and syringe directly into crop. These two treatments have worked the best for me.

  13. Pigeon Vitality have developed a natural organic product called “TriColi STOP” that kills canker in racing pigeons with only 1 x tablet. Proven results produced at Ghent University showed that after only 3 hours 99.8% of Trichomonas was dead.

  14. Well the most easies way to remove canker is to use the feather from pointed side and scratch away the canker lump. I’ve a pigeon that had canker on it’s eye! It made me thought that it was cancer! But then a local pigeon breeder scratched it a little and applied an eye drop, now the pigeon dances like a pro :D Or you could add very little, I mean very very little alum to the water in their drinking bowl, it would eliminate the canker.

  15. carmel

    Mmmm Well I know every inch of my Birdie the abandoned baby pigeon who is over 2 mths old now. Some time ago I felt a little pinhead pimple on the side of its beak To morrow I will have a closer look under a maggie lamp. and use one of its feathers to try and scratch it off.

  16. nhlahla

    I have more than 100 pigeons and most of them are suffered from canker .and these things result on killing young pigeon in large quantity .I’m looking for help with the place to get Ronidazole powder

  17. nhlahla

    Hi guys I am nhlahla from giyani and I like to call myself “fancier” my pigeons suffered from canker so i need help to cure and prevent these disease also looking the place to “tricoliSTOP” and “ronidazole” in limpopo

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