Vaccination in Pigeons
By Dr. John J. Kazmierczak (609)771-0995
Control of infectious disease has become an important and significant aspect of modern day pigeon management and sciences. If we don’t control infectious diseases our birds will perform poorly and be unproductive.
Historically, this aspect of pigeon care has been handled through the use of antibiotics of various types. In varying degrees, this approach has been successful and has enabled us to keep our birds healthy and competitive. This however, is changing for several reasons.
Over the years, the bacteria targeted by antibiotics have developed internal antibiotic resistance, so that the old reliable tried and true medications are no longer as effective as they once were. This leads to the never ending cycle of using stronger antibiotics with bacteria developing stronger resistance to more antibiotics. Along with antibiotic resistance, the bacteria also develop greater virulence, which causes more harsh and devastating diseases. In addition, antibiotic resistance and greater virulence also enables bacteria to spread to new host species; for example, the Strep bacteria (Streptococcus bovis) currently so troublesome in pigeons originated from cows.
When bacteria expand their host range as described above, one possible new host could be humans, raising the potential for new zoonotic diseases and threats to public health. Since, humans consume animal products (meat, eggs, dairy products, wool, etc…); the routes of transmission are already in place. To deal with this potential threat, various government agencies (FDA, USDA, and EPA) have begun to regulate and restrict antibiotic usage in animals. Several drugs have been completely pulled off the animal market in this country, and this trend will certainly continue. This continued antibiotic usage in pigeons has a bleak future; this suggests that a new approach is needed to keep our pigeons healthy.
Since protection from disease is provided primarily by the immune system, this is a logical place to begin. The idea is simply to strengthen the bird’s immune system to fight specific diseases. How do you tell the bird’s system, which specific diseases to protect against?? The bird’s immune system is told this, by giving the bird a mild form of that disease and allowing it to mount an immune defense against the disease. Subsequently, when the bird’s immune system encounters the actual, virulent, disease-causing microorganism, the immune defense is already in place and blocks the disease from occurring. This mild form of the disease is called a vaccine, and presenting a vaccine to the bird’s immune system is called vaccination. Paramyxo Virus (PMV) is an example familiar to all pigeon fanciers. This virus causes serious neurological and renal disease in pigeons, and can easily be prevented by vaccination.
Another significant pathogen in pigeons is Salmonella. This bacterium, as described earlier, has already developed significant antibiotic resistance and virulence and is able to infect a wide variety of host species. Since one natural host for Salmonella is mice (and other rodents), the threat of exposure is always lurking nearby. Your author has developed a modern, up-to-date vaccine for Salmonella in pigeons, containing six strains of Salmonella recently isolated form racing, show and meat pigeons. The new vaccine also contains an extremely mild adjuvant which alerts the immune system and stimulates it to mount an immune response.
Vaccines for other pigeon diseases are also under consideration and development; a few of these are Herpes Virus, Circo Virus, Adeno Virus, Strep and Pasteurella.
Please contact the author to discuss vaccinating your birds to protect them from Salmonella.