Canker Disease In Pigeons


Canker, also called Trichomoniasis, is a very common and dangerous pigeon disease. It is important for the pigeon fanciers as it can cause heavy losses. Almost all pigeons are carriers of the pathogen, and there is some equilibrium between the pest and defense mechanism of the host’s body. Only when such defenses are lowered due to excessive stress caused by other factors, including other parasites’ activity, first molting of youngsters, poor loft management, adverse climatic conditions, that the pathogen multiplies profusely.

Causes Of Canker:

The disease is caused by Trichomonas, which is a single called flagellate protozoan that reproduces only asexually. It infects the stomach and gizzard, sometimes even the liver, membrane protecting the heart, lungs, and pancreas. Found in the blood and other body fluids and, in case of conjunctivitis, in the eye fluids.

Under such conditions, a slight infection can pose serious problems. The other major source of infection and spread of the pathogen are contaminated water pots and feeders. Excessive infective pressure may lead to a serious disease outbreak.  The number of pathogens entering a pigeon’s body also matters, and weaker pigeons succumb even to some smaller number of pathogens that cause no damage to healthier pigeons.

Canker occurs year-round and infects both sexes and pigeons of all ages. Squabs contracting the disease die within a few days of hatching. Young pigeons are attacked during the first molt and older ones at any age. Squabs are infected by pigeon milk and older by billing and contaminated water and food through the infected pigeons’ saliva. The disease also spreads through flies, mites, lice, and other insects inhabiting the loft and by the fancier himself.

Pathogen Strains:

The pathogen exists as Milder strain Intermediate strain debilitating strain. In milder strain, infected pigeon’s throat becomes red, and mucus becomes thick and dense. Pigeon’s health is not affected much. It is recommended that the milder type of infection be eliminated as it helps the pigeon develop immunity against the other two dangerous strains of the pathogen.

Intermediate and debilitating strains cause lesions in the mouth or the oral cavity and excessive mortality. Such lesions destroy papillae at the base of the palate’s flaps and appear as yellow cheeselike masses or buttons that grow and join in blocking the gullet and trachea, causing death.

Forms Of Canker:

Cankers take several forms according to the part of the body it affects. These are Pharyngeal, Visceral, Umbilical, Cutaneous, and Cloacal form.

Mortality depends on the form it takes, the pigeon’s health, the immunity it has developed against the pathogen, and the strain’s virulence. Newly introduced pigeons cause disease in birds of a loft if the pathogen carried by them is more virulent. The reverse is also true. Breeding pairs convey the pathogen to the nestlings through feeding, and this produces natural immunity in youngsters. However, diseases develop if the number of pathogens they get from their parents is very large. Pigeons may die within one to three weeks of infection or may linger on longer. Such pigeons are a permanent source of infection and endanger the life of other pigeons. Losses are high if the pigeons suffer from excessive stress and some other disease or diseases simultaneously.

Lightly infected pigeons show no clinical signs. Heavily infected pigeons reveal a grayish sticky, viscous smelly fluid in the mouth and thin yellowish localized patches or buttons that may expand and cover the entire roof of the mouth, gullet, and windpipe as in case of pharyngeal form. Infected pigeons show ruffled feathers, lack of interest to move, and inability to fly. They also huddle together in corners. Internally, thick mucus may be found in the upper digestive tract and well-defined yellow lesions in the liver, lungs, and air sacs,
etc., in case of visceral form.

A throat infection can be confused with a mucosal type of infection by pigeon pox. However, crumbly canker deposits can be separated from the tissue, whereas pox is inseparable fissured skin growths.

Canker infection of internal organs can also be differentiated from similar infection by salmonella in pigeons suffering from paratyphoid. In the former case, yellow clearly defined growth in the liver is embedded in its tissue, whereas in the salmonella infection, these are grey greasy foci.


Prevention is advisable for about a week before pairing the breeding stock with 1/4 Flagyl 200 mg tablet. Instead of Flagyl, can use one Spartrix tablet per day for per pigeon. Reduced dose for the nestlings and youngsters according to their size and age. It will help the pigeons if one Bevidox tablet or some other multivitamins tablet is added to provide minerals and vitamins. Such medication is useful three times a month as a preventive measure. Special attention should be spared to the pigeons’ health and remove factors that promote stress and increase the pathogen’s population and growth.

Medicine For Canker Treatment:

Many drugs are available for treatment against Canker. Harkers Spartrix Canker tablets, Cankerex Plus, Canker Combo, Canker Tonic, and Ronidazole tablets are the most affected pigeons Canker drugs. Tricho Plus, a product of Oropharma that contains Ronidazole, is another useful drug. It is water-soluble and can be provided to the entire flock through drinking water with ease. Prepared the solution of this drug by dissolving one sachet in two litter of drinking water. Such local application with a dilute solution of common salt or a mixture of equal parts of water and tincture iodine is also helpful.

According to the different forms of Canker, the following treatments are also suggested.

In Pharyngeal Form:

Use 1/4 Flagyl 200 mg tablet per pigeon with three drops of Nilstat Drop in the morning and three drops in the evening for five consecutive days.

In Visceral Form:

Make powder of one Flagyl tablet and take 1/4 of this powder with one ml of Hepa-Merz syrup per pigeon for five consecutive days.

In Umbilical Form:

1/4 mixed powder of one Flagyl 200 mg tablet and one Augmentin 375 mg tablet per pigeon for five consecutive days. Apply diluted Pyodine above on the affected Navel after giving a slight incision to the Skin.

In Cutaneous Form:

1/6 mixture of one Spartrix tablet and one Flagyl 200 mg tablet with one ml of Hepamerz for five consecutive days per pigeon.

In Cloacal Form:

Let the nodule in the Cloaca mature, give a minor incision and press it out. Apply Pyodine solution or Cicatren powder on the cut. Oral treatment is the same as for the Umbilical form.

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