Dove and Pigeon Disease Prevention

Pigeon Lice, Mites, and Flies
You can see pigeon lice under the wings and tail feathers of pigeons.  They look like  a tiny dashes - and survive on feather dander.  Pigeon lice thrive in the late summer and early fall molting season. 
You can find red mites on the chest of doves and pigeons as tiny red dots.  Other mites are invisible to the eye but you can see the damage to the feather edges and quills.  Mites are blood suckers and may hide at night in the aviary or cage. 
Pigeons flies are similar to regular flies but have specialized flat bodies that allow them to hide in the feathers of their hosts for feeding and gliding. Pigeon flies are also blood suckers,  which can transmit Pigeon Malaria, a deadly disease characterized by reduced performance and dull plumage. 
Bloodsucking parasites such as mites, pigeon flies, and mosquitoes can also transmit pigeon pox to pigeons, a minor viral infection characterized by small blisters around the eyes, beak, or feet, which fester and scab before falling off.  The dove or pigeon becomes immune to the virus after infection.,  
Inspect the birds under their wings  and tail feathers regularly for these parasites.  You can spray them under the wings and tail feathers with a lice and mite spray like Scalex Mite and Lice, which you can purchase at your closest pet shop to get rid of the parasites. 
The easiest way to prevent and control lice is to clean the aviary or loft regularly and remove the loose feathers, which provide food for the lice. You should also allow the birds to fly and bathe outdoors regularly to prevent these parasites.
Pigeon Worms
Pigeons can carry roundworms, hair worms, stomach wall worms, gape worms, stronglylids, and tapeworms.  Worm infections can cause droopiness, weight loss, diarrhea, and breathing problems.
Pigeons can ingest the worm eggs from infected droppings, slugs, earthworms, and pill bugs.
If you suspect a worm infection you can purchase deworming medicine.  The worms are released with the stools once you apply the medication.
To prevent pigeon worm infections do the following: 
  • Do not give the pigeons free range to forage in the fields.  Release them a couple of times a day and otherwise keep them trapped in the coop.
  •  Remove stray feral pigeons from your loft.  Just drive them away a short distance and they won't know how to find their way back.
  •  Always give the birds clean fresh water outside the coop and remove the bird droppings from their living quarters regularly.

E. Coli (Collibacillosis)

A bacterial infection of the intestines and blood stream affecting young pigeons, which may die in the nest, and adult birds, which lose weight their droppings turn lose and slimy.
Treat with antibiotics, such as Aureomycin.
Keep the loft clean and the rodents outside the loft.  Make sure that the structure does not allow rodents to come in to the coop.  Plug holes in coop and use 1/2 inch grade poultry wire maximum to keep small rodents away.
Paratyphoid (Salmonellosis)
A fatal pigeon disease caused by the salmonella bacteria characterized by swollen joints, fluid filled lumps, swelling in the legs, and limping.  The disease can be spread by contaminated water and droppings from wild birds and rodents.
Once you are sure that a bird has contracted isolate it from the rest of the flock.
Coccidiosis (Going Light)
An pigeon infection of the intestines cause by ingesting a protozoan in the fecal matter of the pigeon causing the pigeon lose weight (going light).  The pigeon loses appetite and its stools become lose and  green.
The easiest way to prevent this is to keep the feeding area free of droppings and water, which should be given outside the loft to prevent moisture.
Paramyxovirus (MPV-1)
A highly contagious and incurable viral disease unique to pigeons characterized by watery droppings, loss of appetite, and loss of coordination, paralysis of the wings, and twisted neck.
The disease can be spread from contaminated feed, water, and direct and indirect contact.
Canker is is a deadly respiratory disease characterized by the a swelling in the throat and cheesy growth in the mouth of the birds.  It is  caused by a protozoan and spread from pigeon to pigeon.
You can use Ridzol Soluble Powder or Ronidazole Tablets to treat the birds.
Chlamydia and Salmonella
Chlamydia and Salmonella are bacterial infections that can be transmitted from from birds to humans.
Here common sense applies: The dove or pigeon caretakers should disinfect the aviary regularly and wash his or her hands with soap and warm water after handling the birds to wash off the bacteria.
Histoplasmosis (Mold and Dander)
Histoplasmosis is probably the most common and dreaded disease associated with pigeons and their caretakers. Histoplasmosis is a fungal lung disease that can be transmitted from pigeons, chickens, and other birds to humans via dust and dander. Under damp and humid conditions in some parts of the country, mold can grow in the pigeon coop. The mold mixes with dirt and dander. When the feather dander and dust are disturbed and fly in the air, the mold can be inhaled and lodged in the lungs, where it can multiply if not caught and treated. 
An infection can cause flu-like symptoms.  If you suspect a mold infection, please consult your doctor.
The dove or pigeon caretaker can take the following steps to avoid mold infection:
  1. A loft build off the ground or with a cement foundation is easier to clean and is not likely to create such moldy conditions.
  2. The coop should include plenty of windows for air circulation.
  3. Water should be given to the pigeons outside the coop to prevent humidity inside the coop and mold growth. 
  4. The dove caretaker should spray a light mist of water on the dirt before stirring the dust and dander inside the coop.
  5. The dove caretaker should wear work cloths, rubber boots, and a dust mask when cleaning the aviary. Those clothes should be washed separately and the boots should be kept outdoors.
  6. The dove worker should inspect and clean the loft regularly, at least once a month. Dander should be kept to a minimum during molting season in the late summer and early fall. Flying the birds at this time is a good way to keep feather dander to a minimum and keep the birds in top shape! 
  7. Keep the flock to a manageable size to prevent overcrowding and disease.  Remove eggs before they hatch or sell the young birds and make some money!
  8. The birds should take regular baths to get rid of the dust and dander. You can purchase inexpensive plastic or clay plant vase trays for bird baths.  Keep these bird bath trays outside the aviary or loft to prevent moisture inside the coop.
 Can doves or pigeons transmit bird flu to humans?
There are no known cases of doves or pigeons transmitting bird flu to humans.  You are more likely to get bird flu from wild ducks, wild geese, chickens, and pigs, which are known to carry the virus.  
Nevertheless, as a preventive measure and to protect the flock, the dove caretaker should should gradually introduce new birds into the flock. New birds should be placed in a a holding loft or hutch, where sick birds and new birds can be quarantined and treated until they are free of disease.
Cleaning the coop with disinfectant sprays or bleach solutions can be used to prevent any potential viruses.

Bottom Line
Like most animals and birds, pigeons can carry disease and require good care.  The best way to keep them healthy is to keep the coop, feed, and water clean and disinfected. The dove caretaker should have a medicine chest readily available in case the birds get sick. It's good for you,  it's good for the birds, and it's good for the business.