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The Pigeon Vaccine Lab
Featuring NuSal KM-1 a New Paratyphoid (Salmonella) Vaccine & KM- PMV Vaccine (Paramyxovirus)
John Kazmierczak,DVM, 568 Grand Ave., West Trenton, N.J. 08628, (609)771-0995, Email:JJK0820@aol.com
Managing Pigeon Health by Dr. Paul G. Miller
Article by Dr. Paul G. Miller 10/22/19

Managing Pigeon Health

Young Bird Losses

  • Diseases – Possibly subtle; understand the young bird immune system
  • Condition – Degree of Muscle development
  • Form – The desire and attitude to perform well; love of flying; hawks
  • Health is NOT lack of Disease; also includes Condition & Form
  • Training: Basket vs Routing/Travelling; gain familiarity with territory
  • Methods of Orientation
  • Earth’s Magnetic Field: Proliferation of radio waves(cell phones, sun spots,..)
  • Clock – Sun
  • Sub-sonic Sound Waves

The Traditional Approach

In Pigeons (as well as the Poultry Industry


  • Biosecurity: Design Management so as to prevent disease
  • Environmental conditions (Light, Ventilation, Litter management, et al)
  • Stress Management (Crowding, Training/Racing Schedule, et al)
  • Nutrition (Feed quality, method of feeding, supplements, et al)
  • Vaccination (Viral diseases, Bacterial diseases, Toxins)
  • Disease Control
  • Traditionally done by medications: Antibiotics, Wormers, Coccidiostats,...
  • Were freely available through dealers, feed stores,...

Current Situation

  • Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) issued by FDA (Food & Drug Admin)
  • In place the beginning of ‘17; promoted to veterinarians during ‘16 through a series of mandatory meetings for all licensed vets.
  • Originally described as a required Veterinary ‘Management’ Program for dairy and hog producers. Requirements are quite onerous for vets, requiring a separate ‘management plan’ for each producer.
  • Once in effect, the requirements extended to all species, and all medications and all routes of administration (especially feed and water).
  • Effects not only agricultural antibiotic use, but all animal owners, as well as feed manufacturers/dealers and many others.
  • Turning out to be extremely burdensome for everybody involved; obviously just another bureaucratic ploy to build FDA (have no idea of what a ‘farm’ is).

Response: Be PROACTIVE

Review approach to pigeon health


(Happening also in Poultry Industry)


   •   Manage the Immune System more intensely: vaccination, reduce stress

  • Probiotics = Beneficial bacteria and other organisms; work with host
  • Assist host with normal physiological functions
  • Crowd out pathogens (competitive exclusion)
  • Seed down the environment (inoculateTypical Young Bird Race birds from the environment)
  • Include Monitoring for disease in your management program: test before treating
  • Fecal Floats for enteric parasites: Worms, Coccidia
  • Throat swab direct wet mounts: Flagellates (Canker, et al), Yeasts (Candida,.)
  • Bacterial cultures ONLY when necessary (no need to recover probiotics)
  • Complete Necropsy on all unexpected dead and moribund birds.
  • State Labs (http://www.aavld.org/accredited-laboratories),Private Labs, Veterinary Practices.
  • Select for a strong immune system: cull immune incompetent birds
  • See Dave Shewmaker: www.shewmaker.comfor pigeon genetics.


Managing the Young Bird Immune System

  • Why do young birds get infectious disease ?????
  • A weak immune system: Inadequate immunity
  • The key to young bird health is to manage the young bird’s immune system.
  • Note that the young bird’s immune capacity is very low the few (3 to 10) weeks after weaning.
  • The young bird’s immune system has two components:

 Passive and On-Board.


Managing the Young Bird Immune System


Passive (from Parents)

  • Highest at weaning
  • Declines/depletes as bird ages (in weeks)
  • Received from Parents... Depends on parents immune status
  • Consists of Antibodies from mother (through yolk) and both (through crop milk)
  • Note: No Cellular component


    Managing the Young Bird Immune System





    Text Box: 8Text Box:  Text Box: 10Passive Immunityfrom

    Parents only lasts a few weeks







    Text Box: 0Passive Immunity              Effective Immunity

    Weaning                                                                                                                                                        Age (Weeks)

    The Young Bird Immune System

    Young Bird’sOn BoardImmune System

    Effective Immunity

    On-Board Immunity















    Weaning                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Age (Weeks)

    The Young Bird Immune System

    Text Box: 12Text Box:  Text Box: 10Text Box: 4Text Box: 2Text Box: 6Text Box: 0Text Box: 8Text Box: Total Immunity is LOWText Box: Passive Immunity
Effective	Immunity
Text Box: On-Board Immunity Total Immunity Weaning                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Age (Weeks)


    • Definition of Vaccine: A biological substance given to a bird to promote and establish immunity to a specific disease or toxin.
    • This requires a competent, available immune system
    • Vaccine = Antigen + Adjuvant + Preservatives + Buffers + others
    • Antigen: Specific disease causing agent protected against
    • Can be live agent, modified-live agent, killed agent, or (modified) toxin
    • Adjuvant: A non-specific immune system stimulant
    • Preservative: Prevents contamination with unwanted disease agents
    • Buffer: Adjusts pH and other chemistry to maintain effectiveness

    Vaccination Components

    • Antigenis usually the disease organism protected against.
    • It can be live, killed or modified-live; other forms of antigen can be used.
    • Adjuvantis usually a chemical specifically designed to generally

    stimulate the immune system, and is NOT specific to any disease.

    Adjuvants can be very harsh, and can cause ‘vaccine reactions’.

    • Do not mix live and killed vaccines in the same syringe.
    • Preservative (antibiotic or formaldehyde) from killed will kill live agents
    • Adjuvants (and other components) must be compatible

    Response to Vaccination

    Acquired Immunity with Vaccination & Boost

    Text Box: 9Text Box: First 	BoostText Box: VaccinationText Box: 3Text Box: 2Text Box: 8Text Box: 7Text Box: 6Text Box: 5Text Box: 4Text Box: 10              2             3              4            5            6              7            8            9             10            11          12          13            14          15          16                17           18            19          20          21

    Vaccination Programs

    • Vaccinate when birds are not undergoing a lot of stress
    • Not when racing, breeding or moulting
    • Vaccinate only immune-competent birds
    • Vaccinate old birds twice and young birds three times
    • Before breeding season: to stimulate production of parental antibodies in both parents (recall passive immunity)
    • Between old bird racing season and young bird racing season: to protect young birds on the road, before road work and wide travelling/routing
    • (young birds only): Additional booster shortly before racing season.
    • Other times: in the face of an outbreak, vaccinate only healthy birds
    • Many diseases suppress the immune system: vaccination is ineffective

    Text Box: Between Old Bird Racing and Young Bird Racing
First vaccination for young birds; booster for old birds prior to moult.
June or July
Text Box: (Young Birds 
Booster for young birds prior to young bird racing season.
July or August
Vaccination Programs

    Before Breeding Season

    Late Fall: November through February, depending on when you put your birds together.

    To build up antibody in hens to pass through egg to young birds (to boost passive immunity).

    Booster for all birds prior to racing.


    Young Bird DiseasesAdeno Virus

    • Primarily affects digestive system (intestines)
    • Can also affect other systems (chronic in Liver)
    • Immune suppressive (other diseases likely)
    • Birds regurgitate whole grain; also diarrhea
    • Treatment: Fight dehydration - provide plenty of water with electrolytes; reduce stress
    • Freeze regurgitated grain, and feed to next year’s young birds
    • Mix with other young birds before racing
    • Often accompanied by a bacterial enteritis: E.coli, Salmonella... Treat as appropriate.

    Controlled exposure: Adenovirus in Young Birds

    • Adenovirus: Primarily affects digestive system (intestines)
    • Can also affect other systems (chronic in Liver)
    • Birds regurgitate whole grain; also diarrhea
    • Treatment: Fight dehydration - provide plenty of water with electrolytes; reduce stress
    • Freeze regurgitated grain, and feed to next year’s young birds
    • Mix with other young birds before racing
    • Often accompanied by a bacterial enteritis: E.coli, Salmonella... Treat as appropriate.


    • Definition: A component of the management system designed to

    detect, avoid and eliminate biological hazards to birds.

    • Late/slow returning birds are one aspect often over looked
    • Often will mix with ferals or other flying pigeons, forage for food and water
    • Can be carrying diseases with long incubation period, also parasites
    • Observe these birds carefully, and segregate if they show any signs of disease
    • Plan training/racing program to minimize nights away from loft
    • Cull late returning birds. See Dave Shewmaker for Breeding Programsv

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