Canker in Pigeons – Trichomoniasis Prevention Tips

Trichomoniasis (or canker, by its common name used by most fanciers) is the most common disease of the pigeons. It is said that most of the pigeons are infected with canker during their lives, but it rarely shows symptoms of the disease in mature birds. This article discusses the racing pigeon canker management mostly but the information applies to any pigeon breed.

Table of Contents:

Pigeon Resistance to Canker is Genetic

Usually stress can trigger a serious growth of trichomonads producing canker in weak pigeons and the disease starts to affect them. The pigeon looks ruffled, stops eating losing weight and if not treated or if its immunity is low, it soon dies. Youngsters are the most affected and canker kills some young pigeons in every generation especially if the population immunity to canker is not very strong. There is also a genetic susceptibility to canker in some pigeon families. This is why fanciers use to treat the youngsters against canker right after weaning.

Some fanciers also treat the mature birds for canker when they are incubating eggs. I think this is wrong because the old birds introduce small amounts of trichomonads to the nestlings while feeding them, and so they gradually develop immunity. I might treat the young birds before the first races once, when the stress comes into the scene. If the birds can’t stay healthy with minimum levels of stress, they have to go. They would have no chance at the races.

I never treat the stock loft pigeons for trichomoniasis. For breeding just keep the most resistant pigeons and in a few years of natural selection the pigeons you will produce will be more resistant to canker and in fact this method applies to any other disease.

Symptoms of Canker Disease in Pigeons

  • 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.

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.

What Causes Canker in Pigeons?

Trichomonas gallinae that causes canker in pigeons is a parasite. It infects many other bird species including the peregrine falcon. Stress is one of the main culprits and it will allow canker to affect a weak and genetically susceptible pigeon. Along with stress, the loft environment, the lifestyle and diet of the birds are also important. For example in a loft where the water is available to pigeons all day long 24/24 it is much easier for trichomonads to move from one pigeon to the other and multiply, especially in warm weather.

How Contagious is Canker? Prevention Tips

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

pigeon canker prevention - remove water drinker after one hour
Too many pigeon beaks for such a little water volume. Remove the drinker after they drank, bring back with fresh water at the next feeding. This should prevent canker or at least slow its development.

While not racing, pigeon canker prevention is easy. Just focus on the water – it should always be fresh. After feeding the pigeons, I always remove the water and will bring fresh water again at the next feeding. I do this even in the stock loft when they have youngsters in nests. They learn and know how to use the water wisely. During the hot summer the water is the main source of infection – trichomonas won’t survive long in the cold water in winter.

pigeon canker cause water

I always think about mother nature: pigeons in the wild will always get fresh water from the rivers or lakes, and sometimes from puddles after rain. All of these are huge volumes of water. Now think about our domestic pigeons: they all drink from a minuscule volume of water and the beak secretions of tens or hundreds of pigeons mix in those few liters of water. This is already bad enough – now think what happens if that infected water gets warm during the summer and stays for hours in the loft: playground for germs.

Even that muddy puddle is less dangerous than the water fountain in the loft : better mud than flagellates.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Canker – Natural Home Remedy

Use apple cider vinegar in the dose of 5 ml / 1 liter of fresh water especially when you can’t remove the water for many hours after feeding. The parasite can’t survive in acidic water and apple cider vinegar drops the water PH to about 4-5 at the dosage above. I don’t see this mentioned anywhere but it is important: do a water PH test after applying the apple cider vinegar because you might need more or less vinegar per liter depending on the PH of the water in your area.

Some fanciers and even products for pigeons that acidify water mention this should be done daily but I don’t agree. It is not natural for the pigeon to drink only acidic water – always think about mother nature and how pigeons would drink fresh water from the rivers most of the time.

Treatment for Pigeon Canker – Medication Options

There are a lot of options for canker cure. Ronidazole is the most used medicine in treating the canker in pigeons. Dimetridazole and metronidazole are other not so good options. Read more about pigeon canker treatment and medicine options.

8 thoughts on “Canker in Pigeons – Trichomoniasis Prevention Tips”

  1. Can the cheesy material be removed carefully with forceps? I gave a pigeon the recomnended dose of Spartex, and the infestation and secretion does not appear to have subsided.

    1. You can use lemon juice on a cotton bud to carefully apply to the lesions which helps to break up the canker, careful not to be too forceful or it can bleed heavily.

  2. I am not sure how harmful it is to do that but I tried a few times for some pigeons and it helped them get rid of the stuff faster (also treated with medication). I tried to be very careful to remove small pieces because they can bleed.

    1. Yes mate, it is recommended, get a small flat headed nail and scrape it out, then put a pinch of turbasole down it’s throat for two days, problem solved

  3. Thank you I will try the aple cider and frequently change my water, also to pay attention to high resistant pifeon . thankyou from PST. Peter south Africa kzn

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