Ask The Vet: theme questions (paramyxo - disease)

Every four weeks on a Saturday, we will select some very interesting questions and answers concerning a certain topic (disease, medicine, etc.) and publish them on our homepage. Today's topic is paramyxo. This part, the first, is on the disease itself. The second part will be about vaccination.

A pigeon was found a few days ago after heavy rain, thunder and lightning sitting under a tree. It walks with a tottering gait, goes round and round, head retracted and dropping to one side unsteady and shivering. loss of appetite / thirst. Does not eat on its own. When it sleeps the head almost touches the ground. doesn't want to be fed forcibly. Excreta watery with large amount of white portions, small amount of greenish. Chest region seems swollen. seems to be very active when we want to catch it seem to be very quick, but when escapes from hands and lands on the ground loses balance. Now the excreta contains a little greenish( slightly to the darker side) matter and water. No outer injury is visible.

Dear Madam/Sir, This is most probably a pigeon with pigeon paramyxovirus. This virus attacks kidneys and the nervous system. If the pigeon doesn't eat or isn't able to eat, it will probably die. The disease is in a lot of countries controlled by law, which means sick birds have to be euthanised or be kept in quarantine for a period of time. (Ruben Lanckriet)

Kind doctors, I have some pigeons with paramixovirus with nervous symptomatology that does not disappear not even after two months, I would like to know if is it true that in the event in which the nervous symptoms will not disappear these pigeons will remain always contagious for the other pigeons, if this is not true as I hope, how much time will have to pass before that the sick pigeons will be no longer contagious for the others.

If the birds show these signs already during two months, the virus will probably be completely gone. The nervous signs, however, can remain for a long period (months). Nevertheless it is possible that the signs still will disappear. Even if they don't the pigeon is most likely not infected anymore with paramyxovirus. The reason for the long period of the time untill disappearing of the nervous signs, lays in the healing of the nerves, which can take very long. If the cell with nucleus in the central nervous tissue is unharmed, the nerve can grow back, but this goes very slowly.
(Ruben Lanckriet)

I have an old bird who this morning has a twisting head, he was jabbed for PMV and treated with baytril in nov 09 for 14 days. I have 4 ybs from him with no problems, he is isolated at the moment what is the problem and is there a cure or should I dispose of him?

Paramyxovirus is the most common cause for nervous problems and although the bird was vaccinated, there is still a real possibility it is paramyxovirus. It seems that vaccination isn't always 100% effective, especially for the new paramyxovirus strains which are more adapted to pigeons (and less to other birds). This also depends on the kind of vaccine. Vaccines developed from pigeon specific paramyxovirus strains seem to be more protective. It is possible that the bird heals from the paramyxo, but it takes a long time (weeks - months) untill the nervous symptoms disappear (if the nerves grow back, this goes very slowly). An extra vaccination can be of help. Sometimes paratyphoid can give nervous problems and in exceptional cases other septicaemic infections can give these symptoms. In that case antibiotics are the right treatment. There is a small possibility the bird has had a trauma.
(Ruben Lanckriet)

A pigeon which is infected with paramyxovirus has entered my loft and after about 15 days my pigeons started showing symptoms. So when I tested the pigeon I got to know that all of the pigeons have been infected with the disease so I removed them from my loft and after few days I brought in some new pigeons but I saw that the new pigeons were also infected, later I learned that my loft is still full with bacteria and the disease of paramyxovirus. Now what shall I do to my loft? What kind of action should I take in my loft? Because the loft is full with the disease.

First of all when have you vaccinated your pigeons against PMV?
When a pigeon is infected with PMV the only thing you can do is give supportive care. The PMV infects the kidneys and the nervous system wich causes watery droppings because of the drinking of lots of water and nervous symptoms. Resistance to other diseases such as coccidiosis and tricho is reduced.
The disease can last for 6 or more weeks. When you have pigeons with heavy symptoms it is best to eliminate these pigeons. After 6 weeks the shedding of the virus has stopped but nervous symptoms and the symptom of watery droppings may persist longer.
Supportive care: electrolytes, probiotics, vitamins for boosting the immunity.
Consult your vet if antibiotics are necessary. After a secondary bacterial infection has been diagnosed you can consider giving an antibiotic.
Keep in mind that there is also a notification obligation when your pigeons are infected with paramyxovirus.
(Dr. Johan Van der Cruyssen)
The PMV virus is indeed very resistent in its environment and stays virulent for months between 8° and 20° Celcius (but also lower temperatures) and it resists acid and alcalic solutions. You can desinfect the loft by using a propane gas burner (very effective but be prudent in using), other desinfectants can be formol, fenol or butylhydroxytolueen. Most other desinfectants are not effective enough.
(Ruben Lanckriet)

We write to you from England with a question about the Paramyxo virus, shortly after the youngbird season we noticed that a couple of our youngbirds that had returned from the last National race started to show watery droppings, after about two weeks this then spread through the whole youngbird team of about 80 pigeons they were half way through the moult at this time then they stopped moulting and the droppings became so bad that at one point the floor was like a swimming pool! We have to burn the floor and disinfect twice daily we have been giving probiotics and vitamins we feel the virus has past its peak as the birds are drinking less water but still far from normal. I would guess this has now been present for four weeks during this period they ceased to moult althought the last few days they are starting to moult again although I fear maybe this outbreak will have severe effects on the quality of feathering they grow. What we wish to know is it possible for birds who have in their lives contracted the Paramyxo virus to then go on to have successful racing careers? or are we wasting our time trying to race these birds in the future? This has troubled us greatly worrying about the future of our birds and we would really appreciate your opinion please.

The paramyxovirus attacks mainly the kidneys of a pigeon. It is this kidney damage that determines whether the bird will be able to have a successfull racing career. Allthough I doubt all birds that have had the virus will be ever able to compete at the level they should, I also think a number of birds will be able to reach their normal racing capabilities. If the birds have had severe kidney damage it could take long before the birds have good droppings, even with the virus long gone. So the aspect of the droppings can give you an idea of the later preformance capability of the bird. It could help to vaccinate the birds an extra time for the disease.
(Ruben Lanckriet)

Recently my young birds are having the following symptoms; 1- Do not want to train. 2- Look dull. 3- their crop seems full of water which is yellow and smells very bad. 4- 1 or 2 days then dead. 5- Clear watery droppings. 6- Some of them which haven't died have tilted heads but I beleive it is not paramyxo virus but I am not sure. In my place we do not have any facilitis to check pigeon droppings (no vets to diagnose pigeon problems). I had to kill 20 of my 23 young birds to eleminate the problem. Please advise what we should do if we face this disease knowing we cannot check the droppings and what is the disease ??

The symptoms clearly are indicative for paramyxovirus. Possibly other diseases like canker are complexing the problem. So I would advise you to certainly vaccinate the birds for paramyxo and in your case vaccinate them twice with 3 or 4 weeks in between. It is good to vaccinate your young birds as early as possible. At the same time preventive measures can be taken for canker, worms and paratyphus if you are not able to let your pigeons be checked.
(Ruben Lanckriet)


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An answer should never replace a consultation. A diagnosis is impossible without a medical examination by a veterinarian. The answers serve merely as general medical information.