Parasite Diseases That Infect Pigeons

Parasitc Diseases That Infect Pigeons

There are many parasites that infect pigeons and I feel that it is beyond the scope of this post to discuss all of them in detail. The most important and most commonly encountered parasites are roundworm, hairworm, tapeworm, the external parasites, lice and mites and Coccidia.


Worms are a primary and serious parasite and it is important that they are completely eradicated for the birds to perform at their best. They weaken the bird, meaning that race performance cannot be optimal, and also increase vulnerability to other secondary diseases, such as canker and respiratory infection. There are three common intestinal worms – roundworm, hairworm and tapeworm.

Roundworm and hairworm

These worms live in the digestive tract of the pigeon and release eggs, which are passed with the bird’s droppings. After several days in the environment, these eggs become infective and, if then accidentally ingested by a pigeon, hatch inside them and grow into the new worm.

In the loft, there is no easy way for the fancier to tell whether his birds have these parasites as the adult worms are only rarely passed in the droppings and indeed hairworms are microscopic. They are usually diagnosed by microscopic examination of a dropping sample, in which their eggs can be seen.


I recommend Moxidectin to treat hairworm and roundworm. Moxidectin (2 mg/ml) is a clear fully water-soluble liquid that, when diluted in the drinking water, is readily taken by the birds.

The dose is 5 ml per 1 litre of water for 24 hours. It has a wide safety margin and is perfectly safe to use during racing, breeding and, in particular, moulting. Moxidectin does not cause nausea and vomiting as many older worming preparations do and so the birds can be fed and loft flown quite normally.

Moxidectin also has the added advantage that it eliminates any external parasites that feed off body fluid. Mites in pigeons live off blood and so these are all cleared with Moxidectin.

Lice live off feather debris and bloom and so in theory this drug should have no effect on them but in practice, during the 3 weeks following Moxidectin treatment, most lice also disappear.

Moxidectin is also a safe and effective treatment for airsac mites at the usual dose given above.

Parasitc Diseases That Infect Pigeons

Control in the stock loft

The stock loft should be completely free of worms. The roundworm life cycle can be completed in 3 – 4 weeks and so a single worming before breeding (or racing) will improve things for that period of time only. Eradication can be achieved by using Moxidectin twice at a 3-week interval followed by a superthorough clean after each treatment.

This removes droppings passed before medication, which may contain infective parasite eggs with the potential to reinfect the birds. It is a good idea to have the droppings rechecked 3 weeks after the second worming to ensure that the parasite has been cleared.

Once these parasites have been cleared, worming any new bird before it goes into the stock loft should prevent reintroduction of worms. The dose of Moxidectin for a single bird is 0.25 ml of the neat liquid.

If it is not possible to completely and thoroughly clean the loft, Moxidectin can be repeated every 3 weeks over a 6-month period as the longest that eggs can remain infective in the environment is 5 – 6 months.

Worms can also reenter the stock loft if the droppings of pigeons or doves outside the loft can enter.

To prevent this, any external flight should either have a grid or suspended floor.

Control in the racing loft

It is important that the race team is free of worms before racing. The need to treat can be determined by a dropping analysis. In the absence of testing, it is better to assume that the birds are infected and treat twice at a 3-week interval followed by a thorough clean before the commencement of racing.

With the commencement of Thursday night basketing, race unit reinfection can occur and so it is important that the droppings are regularly checked during racing to monitor this. If a positive result is returned, worming is usually done on the Sunday or Monday (when racing is on the Saturday).

In the absence of testing, it is a good idea to give the birds 1 day Moxidectin every fourth week (usually on a Monday) to clear any roundworms or hairworms that might have been picked up in addition to any lice or mites that they might be carrying.

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