With sick, emaciated pigeons that are in a bad condition, few fanciers consider a worm infestation. There are various kinds of worm infestations, of which the three most important ones for pigeons are the following:
1/ Roundworms (Ascaris)
Roundworms form the most common worm infestation in pigeons. They are present in the small intestine of the pigeon and in serious cases they can be present in such large quantities that the intestine is almost completely blocked. There are few external symptoms in case of a relatively light infection. Only the racing results will be disappointing in such cases due to the weakened condition.
In more severe infections, the pigeons lose weight and their droppings may be dirty and green. However, it is not always the case that you see bad droppings, because some heavy infections can emaciate the pigeons while they can still produce relatively good droppings.
The roundworms in the intestine absorb the food the pigeon needs to perform and stay in shape. The adult worms lay eggs that are secreted through the pigeon's droppings. These eggs become contagious after a while and if they are picked up by another pigeon, the infestation is passed on.
2/ Hairworms (Capillaria)
The hairworms are the smallest (not even visible to the eye), but most annoying type of worms. Just like the roundworm, they reside in the small intestine, but they bore their way into the intestinal wall and the blood vessels in the intestinal wall. This causes an inflammation of the intestines and the pigeons lose weight fast and get sick.
With a severe infestation, we almost always see dirty, green and thin droppings and quickly emaciating and listless pigeons.
The hairworms also lay eggs that are excreted with the droppings, but they are much more contagious than the roundworm eggs. A hairworm infestation will therefore spread much faster in a loft and cause much bigger problems.
A tapeworm infestation in the loft is usually limited to an individual case.
Usually, we see a pigeon with something like a grain of rice hanging from its hindquarters. This is a link of a tapeworm and in many cases, when you pull it very carefully, you can pull out a tapeworm of 30 to 50 cm in length. However, there are usually several tapeworms present in the body and treatment is recommended.
Tapeworm infestations are not directly transferred from one pigeon to another, but pass through an intermediate host. The excreted eggs are eaten by a snail and only develop inside the snail into a larva that can grow into a tapeworm. The pigeons have to eat an infected snail before they can be infected with the tapeworm larva.
How do you treat a worm infestation?
In case of an infestation, there are always two things that are very important:
- treatment with the right medication
- hygiene and the prevention of a new infestation
For a treatment against worms, we usually prefer to treat the pigeon individually with tablets based on Febantel (Oropharma Avicas).
In case of a roundworm infestation, we give 1 tablet and repeat this after 8 days.
In case of a hairworm infestation, we recommend to give 1 tablet 2 days in a row and repeat this after 8 days.
When it comes to the treatment of a tapeworm infection, there is no specific product for pigeons and a deworming tablet for dogs and cats based on pyrantel and praziquantel is usually used.
As mentioned before, cleaning and hygiene are very important during the treatment.
Try to clean and vacuum everything as much as possible before a thorough disinfection. After disinfection with, for example, Disinfect Spray, you can use a blowtorch to dry it.