Hexamitiasis is an intestinal disease of pigeons that is associated with muco-aqueous, or even bloody, faeces.
The flagellate, Hexamita columbae occurs in pigeon flocks mainly in the summer and autumn months. It primarily colonises the rectum. Especially susceptible are newly weaned squabs, whose resistance is still low. Infected adult pigeons do not normally show visible signs of the disease, but can excrete the pathogen in large quantities in their droppings (chronic carriers). The incubation period is 4-5 days.
Symptoms of the disease:
Acute catarrhal (or even bloody) enteritis with liquid, rice water-like or mucoid, malodorous diarrhoea.
Affected pigeons refuse feed and drink more water, resulting in emaciation and debility. Young birds in particular sometimes succumb so severely that the entire intestinal tract is involved and the soft or aqueous faeces is mixed with blood.
Recognition of the disease:
Hexamitae are demonstrated via microscopic examination in body-temperature smears from the intestinal mucosa of a recently killed, acutely affected pigeon. With extremely severe infestation, it is also possible to demonstrate the parasites in a cloacal swab from a live bird. They can be recognised from their characteristically rapid movements in a straight line - in contrast to trichomonads, which exhibit slow, circular movements around their own axis.
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