Pigeon health


09. 12. 2011.
Do you suggest vaccination against paratyphoid?
In pigeon-breeding it is perhaps paratyphoid that is the hardest to guard against. There are a number of reasons for this, with each reinforcing the others. One of these is found in the sport of pigeon racing itself. On the occasion of races and fairs, pigeons often come into contact with one another, giving and taking the various pathogens. As on such occasions the body is under stress, it is easy for the attacking pathogen to settle in it.
The other reason is that there are a number of variants of the salmonella bacterium that causes paratyphoid, and within these many thousand sub-types. Of these, many are capable of producing illness in pigeons. Their antigen structure varies, and so, even if our flock is protected against one of them, it will be less protected against another.
The third reason is that the salmonellas are capable of hiding within the body. This can mean that bacteria are carried for months or years without producing symptoms, sometimes accompanied by bacteria being released. Thus in any particular flock paratyphoid can erupt without being brought in.
For all these reasons, it is almost impossible to make pigeon flocks free of salmonella without prolonged active protection. This can only be achieved with vaccinations. So the answer to the question is yes: systematic vaccination against paratyphoid is recommended. Particularly in the case of flocks whose members participate in races and fairs, or where the introduction of foreign specimens is common.

This immediately raises the question of how the effect of the vaccination can be reconciled with the second factor mentioned, that of the variance of the antigen structure of the different types of salmonella. For this variance in antigens raises the very question of the effectiveness of the vaccination: one vaccine can only “introduce” the pigeon to one or at most a handful of salmonella variants. If it is a different variant that attacks, will the vaccination have no effect?
Fortunately this is not the case. Firstly, vaccines contain the most common variants. The law of large numbers means there is a good chance that our flock will be protected. Over and above this, the antigens in the different varieties are related to one another, which provides considerable cross-protection. Secondly, we can choose the time of the vaccination, which is a very big advantage. For if the infection reaches a flock that is weakened and under stress (and this is generally the case), then many specimens will not develop an adequate immune response, and so many pigeons will become bacterium-carriers. In contrast, if we prepare our flock for vaccination, and we make use of it in suitable conditions (stress-free state, balanced weather, immune boosters), then the immune response of individual specimens and the flock as a whole will be better and healthier than if an infection is brought in. Thirdly, we should vaccinate the entire flock at once. All of these measures allow us to take the sting out of salmonellosis: if we succeed in bringing our pigeons to an equally high immune state and putting an end to symptom-free bacterium-carrying, we can also stop the possibility of infection being passed to and fro within the loft. And this will allow us to look forward to the months to follow without any worries.

Many years’ experience shows that there are many fewer problems with flocks that are vaccinated regularly throughout the year, and so also during the racing season. The cost of medication for lofts that are not vaccinated is many times greater than for vaccinated ones, and regular doses of antibiotics, burdened by heavy side-effects, only serve to fan the flames, rather than offer lasting protection. Such flocks perform below their genetic potential at races, many of their specimens have to be rejected, and their reproduction statistics are also poor.
Naturally, all this requires a suitable vaccine. One that has a good preventive effect, can be used safely, and, not least, one that is affordable. Unfortunately there are still many countries where such vaccines are not available.
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