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.