COCCIDIOSIS ~ is caused by single-cell organisms affecting the intestines. The two types of coccidiae known to affect pigeons are Eimeria columbanum and Eimeria labbeanna.
The disease being most severe in young birds, Coccidiosis is prevalent in warm, damp conditions, and risk of infection is higher where there is poor hygiene or ventilation.
Infection can be spread through any contaminated source and disease results when susceptible birds (ie young birds or those that have not previously been protected) are exposed to higher numbers of parasites.
Coccidia, the cause of coccidiosis, are also parasites, but much smaller than worms; they are single-celled protozoa. Coccidiosis can kill pigeons but can also be chronic. In such chronic cases the birds lose condition but are not noticeable ill. Birds harbouring coccidia cannot usually achieve good results in races and, left untreated, the infection may increase rapidly- often in response to stress, such as a hard race or some other illness.
Clinical signs of coccidiosis are loss of weight and condition (“going light”), watery, discoloured droppings (only rarely liquid and green), loss of colour from the iris of the eye, dull plumage and pale mouth and throat.
Microscopical examination of droppings helps to confirm the presence of the parasites.
Coccidia have a complicated life cycle, partly in the intestine of the bird, where the damage is done, and partly on the ground (or loft floor). The parasites are passed out in the droppings in the form of oocysts and, if oocysts are picked up, will infect the bird.
Prevention of coccidiosis is important. Strict attention should be given to loft hygiene and damp patches should not be allowed to form around drinkers. Maturation of oocysts can be delayed by keeping loft surfaces dry and removing droppings daily from the loft. Coxoid or Coxitabs are effective treatments and regular use of Loft Treatment is also recommended to keep the surfaces dry.