In order to preserve our animals' health we all try to do our best. Therefore, preventive measures, early disease recognition and treatment of diseases are vital factors. This can be personalized For pets but in the case of pigeon lofts - like any other animals kept in large groups - a well-structured loft health programme is essential.
Setting up a pigeon loft health programme is of crucial importance. Ensuring the well-being of the whole loft and the outstanding reproductive and competition performance is only possible with coordinated preventive and examination methods.
The first step is the inspection of the pigeon loft's health. This includes the information provided by the breeder, as detailed as possible, the analysis of the loft, its housing and nutrition circumstances and some basic laboratory examinations. Loft size, utilisation (sport pigeons, ornamental pigenons or meat pigeons), current or previous diseases of the loft, recent preventive measures and treatments (e.g vaccination) should all be included in the condition survey. The most significant laboratory examinations during the loft's condition survey are the parasitological (coccidiosis and ascariasis) and bacteriological (Salmonellosis) examination of droppings. However, numerous other examinations can contribute to making an accurate diagnosis such as bacteriological, virological, parasitological, serological, histological and pathological examinations.
If the loft's health conditions are already known, many preventive measures can be taken in order to improve and preserve it. Preventive programmes are applicable upon certain conditions in cases of coccidiosis and ascariasis. However, in case of bacteriological diseases positive results can only be achieved by targeted treatments supported by laboratory examinations.
Besides the above mentined diseases, pigeons are prone to some viral diseases as well, such as herpes virus, adenovirus, poxvirous, paramyxovirus and circovirus. The only defence against viral diseases is vaccinating and abiding the rules of disease control. In case of paramyxovirus, the loft's owners are even obliged by law to vaccinate their animals (both race and meat pigeons). Besides paramyxovirus, commercial vaccine is only available against poxvirus (pigeon pox).
In the last decades, pigeon AIDS - a disease complex caused by circovirus, attacking the immune system of the animals - is getting more and more widespread. The virus infects the leukocytes of young pigeons, mainly in the thymus and bursa, thus damaging the animals' immune system and making way for secondary infections (bacterial, fungal, parasitical and viral). The virus is also able to reproduce in epithelial cells, so in the bowel too. As a result, it is excreted into the environment by dropping, further infecting the whole loft this way. Unfortunately there is no vaccine against circoviruses yet so the only way of defence is to follow the rules of disease control and hygiene.
In order to maintain a healthy pigeon loft it is essential to use preventive vaccines against infectious diseases. At first sight the application of vaccines is quite trivial but it is worth taking a deeper look into the topic because many factors influence successful vaccination which may significantly affect the pigeons' health, weight gain and race performance.
In the case of certain pathogens, for example pigeon herpes virus there are no commercial vaccines or the existing registered commercial vaccine isn't effective. In such cases, an inactivated colony specific vaccine - autovaccine - can be produced. The autovaccine is completely designed for the needs of a certain loft.
The base of the autovaccine are pathogens isolated from the infected animals. These pathogens are cultivated and inactivated properly in our laboratory then the vaccine is made by adding an adjuvant (a material which strengthens the effect of the vaccine).
Besides producing the vaccine, the antimicrobial sensitivity of isolated pathogens can also be determined so that the loft can receive targeted treatment. This method can not only save money and time but also decreases the chance of resistence caused by unnecessary use of antimicrobial agents.
By using autovaccines, an effective and loft-specific defence program can be utilized. As the autovaccine contains the pathogens infecting a certain loft, a more effective protection can be achieved than by using commercial vaccines made of pathogens isolated elsewhere. This way, a more cost-effective defence can be achieved even on the short term.