Disease (YBD) is a collective term coined by pigeon fanciers over the
last few years. It is actually a combination of a few different
diseases, which have very much the same clinical symptoms.
Circovirus is the main cause of this syndrome but it also
includes Paramyxovirus, Adenovirus/E Coli and Herpes virus.
diseases such as Coccidiosis, Paratyphoid and even severe worm
infestations may mimic the disease but will normally not spread so
Understanding the syndrome
that YBD is actually a few different diseases that may be found alone or
in combination, is often very confusing to the pigeon fancier whom will
consider this as one single disease entity. Circovirus is often the
initial cause of this syndrome. This virus was originally seen in
parrots where it causes the dreaded Psittacine Beak and Feather disease
(PBFD). In pigeons it will rarely affect the feather growth but will
rather affect the immunity of youngsters. The virus will target fast
replicating cells in the body and as result of this, its target organ in
youngsters will be the organ known as the Bursa of Fabricius. The Bursa
is a small organ found only in young birds up to the age of 1 year. It
is the organ where all the white blood cells (wbc) of the young growing
pigeon are produced. The wbc are the cells that circulate throughout the
body and are responsible for the whole cascade of immunity against
diseases. If these cells cannot be actively produced in the bursa, the
pigeonís entire immunity will be destroyed and it will become
susceptible to any infectious disease. Circovirus will effectively
destroy the cells in the bursa and render the pigeon defenseless against
It is thus
important to understand that if a pigeon is infected with Circovirus it
will very often succumb to other viral diseases, and will also not be
able to fight against diseases such as Crop canker, Coccidia and others.
From the above it can be understood that it is extremely important to
try and prevent pigeons from contracting Circovirus.
however also possible that pigeons may contract one of the other viral
diseases without Circovirus being present and that the fancier will
consider these as being Circovirus where in fact it is not.
Symptoms of Young Bird Disease
exception of Paramyxovirus where the nervous symptoms of loss of
balance, tremors and extremely watery stool are seen, the symptoms of
YBD in pigeons are all very much the same irrespective of the inciting
cause. Pigeons will initially become slightly droopy and show a loss of
appetite. Some pigeons may show symptoms of vomiting. If the pigeons are
already training they will become lethargic and will train poorly. Many
youngsters are also lost during the training tosses once the syndrome
starts. The pigeons will
loose condition rapidly, they will start to consume an excess of water
and a very loose stool will be seen. The loose stool may vary in
appearance but is often a very green, sloppy and voluminous stool. If
however the pigeons are suffering from Paramyxovirus the stool will be
extremely watery with a typical well formed small feacal segment, found
in the clear watery droppings. In most cases nervous symptoms will
follow in a few days if Paramyxovirus is present.
on which of the viruses are present, between 5 and 40% of pigeons may
die. It is clear that it will not be possible for the pigeon fancier to
make a diagnosis as to which of the viruses are involved in the
syndrome. The only way of making a firm diagnosis is by way of a Post
Mortem and laboratory tests. However, if this is not possible or
practical it is still possible for the fancier to control and treat the
disease as the basic principles stay the same irrespective of the
underlying cause of the disease.
exception is Paramyxovirus where other control measures of vaccination
need to be done.
stage there are no effective vaccines for the other viral diseases
causing YBD. The use of chicken vaccines for related viral diseases such
as using the Egg drop syndrome vaccine of chickens to try and prevent
Adenovirus in pigeons, is not effective and not recommended due to
significant strain variations in pigeons and chickens.
Preventing YBD in pigeons
prevention of an outbreak of YBD in pigeons is dependant on some basic
principles of flock management.
Preventing exposure to the virus and correct
perfect sense that if pigeons are never exposed to any of the viruses
causing YBD that it will be impossible for them to contract the disease.
Due to the nature of our sport it is however impossible to keep our
pigeons in strict quarantine for the rest of their lives. It is thus not
possible to keep the virus away from them forever. We know however,
those youngsters will be at their most susceptible during and shortly
after weaning due to the stress of weaning. It is imperative that
youngsters be weaned into a separate weaning loft where they will not be
exposed to other adult pigeons that may act as carriers of the disease.
The youngster loft should preferably be separated from the other lofts
or should have a solid wall between it and the other lofts. It is
prudent to have a foot bath with good antiseptic in front of the young
bird loft and to wear a protective clean coat only intended for this
loft. Under no circumstances should pigeons from any other fancier (even
if he is well regarded) be allowed directly into the youngster loft.
Such pigeons should be housed in a separate isolation loft or
basket for 4 weeks, and during this time should be systematically
treated and vaccinated with the Medpet young bird program to cleanse
them from other diseases.
youngster loft where youngsters are weaned into, should be very well
protected against the possibility of feral pigeons entering or even
leaving droppings in the loft. These feral pigeons often carry a
multitude of diseases. Youngsters weaned into the young bird loft should
be treated for Coccidiosis with a Coximed tablet on the day of weaning
and should receive a Mediworm tablet against worms on the second day.
The full Medpet young bird program (available at www.medpet.co.za)
should be followed on these babies.
It is also extremely important to vaccinate the youngsters with
Nobivac Paramyxo virus vaccine on the day of weaning and not to wait
until all the pigeons have first reached the age of 2 Ė 3 months. If
the Nobivac Paramyxo vaccine is kept in the fridge and a clean needle is
used for each pigeon it may be used again and again and does not have to
be discarded after opening the bottle. It is also very important to give
a booster vaccination with a chicken strain Paramyxovirus vaccine such
as Paravacc two weeks after the initial vaccination.
Preventing stress and stimulating the immune systems
that is stressed will excrete cortizol and will become much more
susceptible to disease. Youngsters
are particularly vulnerable to the immunosuppressive effects of stress.
The youngster loft should never be overcrowded. Enough water and feeding
troughs must be supplied that the less strong youngsters may also be
able to eat and drink at their leisure. Adequate ventilation and
ensuring that the loft is always clean and dry is very important to
reduce stress and prevent infectious diseases from multiplying.
system of young pigeons is extremely vulnerable and therefore it is
imperative that an adequate program be designed to stimulate and support
the immune system of youngsters. There are many products on the market
that claims to be immune stimulants. Unfortunately very few of these are
scientifically proven or even mildly effective. Medimune is one of the
few products made specifically for pigeons that has a sound scientific
base and has been proven over the years to be extremely effective in
improving the immune function of pigeons. By providing pigeons with the
pigeon strain of beneficial intestinal bacteria (probiotics) in the form
of Entero-Plus, the pigeonís immune system is supported in another
scientifically proven way. Viroban is another of the excellent immune
stimulants developed by Medpet and may be combined with Medimune and
Entero-Plus. It is advised that Medimune and Entero-Plus be used twice a
week on different days and that Viroban be included in the program once
added Medimune and Lewerstim tablets to its range of products. Both
these tablets are improvements to the formulation and have extra
ingredients to enhance its effectiveness. These tablets may be used very
effectively in treating youngsters separately for the first 10 days
after weaning to ensure an adequate intake of the active ingredients.
Lewerstim tablets is an excellent adjunct to the above mentioned
products as it contains actives that will stimulate the appetite and
support the most important organ namely the liver of youngsters. It is
recommended that the two tablets be dosed separately in the morning and
evening for the first 10 days after weaning. Always remember that a
healthy youngster may one day become a champion adult so it is worth
doing everything possible at this early and fragile age to achieve this.
Isolation of potentially ill pigeons and
inspection of youngsters to ensure that they are at the peak of their
health is important. The sooner an ill pigeon can be identified and
removed from the rest of the flock, the better. By identifying ill
pigeons before they start to infect other susceptible babies, an
outbreak of YBD may be prevented. Such ill pigeons must be removed from
the loft and kept separate in an isolation loft or basket. Treating such
ill babies with Medimune and Lewerstim tablets for 10 days or until they
have recovered is advised. Safe and effective disinfection of the young
bird loft should be done twice a day as soon as any ill pigeon has been
How to handle an outbreak of YBD
In spite of
all the preventative measures discussed above it may still happen that
YBD breaks out amongst your pigeons. If this should happen a quick and
effective measures are needed to try and minimize the outbreak.
Isolation of ill pigeons and effective disinfection of the loft, water
and food bowls are the most important first steps to be taken.
Any youngster that looks remotely ill must be taken to the
vaccination of all youngsters not already fully vaccinated must be done
with Nobivac Paramyxo vaccine. A
booster vaccine should be given two weeks later with Paravacc.
has started it should be stopped immediately and pigeons must be
strictly rested for 7 to 10 days. Pigeons that have not been treated for
Coccidiosis and worms should be treated with Coximed and Mediworm
tablets on two separate days. Medimune and Entero-Plus must be added to
the food for 10 days continuously. If pigeons are suffering from severe
diarrhea, Medilyte should be added to the drinking water to prevent
dehydration. Mediprim is an excellent antibiotic to use during an
outbreak of YBD as it is very effective against most secondary bacterial
infections seen with YBD.
the maximum immune response it is recommended that all the valuable
youngsters and all the ill youngsters be dosed with a Medimune tablet in
the morning and a Lewerstim tablet in the evening for at least 10 days.
understanding YBD, the practical and most effective way of preventing
and treating the disease can be accomplished by the pigeon fancier.
Using well established and sound principles of disease prevention, and
using effective scientifically proven medication will ensure that this
dreaded disease syndrome does the least damage and is best prevented or
contained when an outbreak occurs.