Misinterpretations of laboratory results in relation to the diagnosis
As I pointed out and described before on a number of occasions, entirely incorrect assumptions are quite often put forward in the field of pigeon medicine. Pigeon medicine is very complicated, often incomprehensible to laymen, but, amazingly, equally so to many (pigeon) veterinarians and scientific researchers.
This is repeatedly confirmed in practice, and it always appears to be experience that is the key to making a right diagnosis. Making such clinical diagnoses is ‘coincidently’ my forte. You simply need to have seen and followed up innumerous problem cases to make a correct well-founded diagnosis. Certainly, when shocked by alarming reports of new diseases involving numerous dead pigeons.
Some veterinarians are currently very concerned about Rotavirus, which killed up to 50% of the pigeons in Australia in 2016! It started in Victoria and was first described by the pigeon veterinarian Colin Walker, an old acquaintance of mine. The symptoms were similar to those of Adeno-coli syndrome, but when my expertise was called upon in a ‘live’ radio broadcast in Australia, the full account made me immediately think of:
1. Adeno type II because it had been on my mind since
1991 when approximately 10,000 pigeons had died in
West-Brabant within just a few months. In each case,
the illness process took approximately 18 hours. I was
completely speechless as were the scientists (University
of Gent, to which we had sent a number of dead pigeons).
Very specific symptoms: somewhat apathetic, bright yellow
droppings (acute severe liver infection) accompanied by a
kind of septicaemia (blood poisoning), and, in the last stage,
the pigeons had a hacking cough and felt like a ‘sponge’
owing to a complete lack of muscle tension. The average
coop mortality rates were 40%, but there were mysteriously
higher mortality rates in old pigeons than young pigeons.
I am convinced that I am more or less the only veterinarian
who has seen this in these numbers! That’s why I have such
a good idea of how it had looked and of how the process
The disease disappeared just as quickly as it came; we call
this a self-limiting disease. In other words, the die-off is so
quick that the pigeons can no longer infect each other
(over big distances)!!
2. And one always has to think of PMV, which often progresses
with very varied symptoms.
Theory and practice
I have met a lot of pigeon veterinarians from all over the world and I repeatedly noticed that there is an enormous gap between theory and practice. In other words: between little experience and a lot of experience! The difference is staggering and things are not getting any better.
And then I see a pitiful discussion on the aforementioned Rotavirus. Laymen write nonsense on this in journals and on their websites, unhindered by any knowledge on this matter, and this is quite irritating, because the innocent pigeon fanciers start to ‘parrot’ it, and if the attending veterinarian cannot find a cause, they also say “it’s probably Rotavirus”! Quod non.
At least, that is what I have experienced on a number of occasions in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany in recent years. However, what I actually see is nothing different than I saw 35 years ago: no truly new symptoms. Dead young pigeons? Yes, but in almost all the cases, the problem can be properly cured if you don’t wait too long! I do not therefore agree with this Rota hysteria and the conviction that a new disease is making its entry causing high levels of mortality in our young pigeons!!
Note, the Rotavirus problems in Australia hit old and young pigeons. That in itself is very unlike the situation in Europe, but the scientific world doesn’t utter one word about it. For me, this is a crucial difference!
When German researchers also went looking for Rotaviruses in pigeons following the Rotavirus misery in Australia, they did occasionally find a Rotavirus. But investigating the cause of death in these pigeons quickly provided evidence to show ‘Coli’-problems as the cause in young pigeons, and that is normal!! The term Y.P.D.S, which stands for Young Pigeon Disease Syndrome, is now being used in scientific circles globally.
Notably, Dr. P. Lemahieu, an eminent Belgian pigeon veterinarian and yours truly already called this the ‘Adeno-coli’ syndrome (what’s in a name) in the 1980s. However, there are many theories since almost no one understands the causes (aetiology) of the ‘Adeno-coli’ syndrome.
Clinical research is of great importance
No new virus
Regarding the deaths in Germany, a number of pigeon fanciers also consulted us in recent years who had already visited the pigeon clinic in Germany and who had been sent home with a bottle of Baytril! Unfortunately, that didn’t help, but extensive research was immediately initiated by a university. The diagnosis was at that time an unknown virus; the result came 2 months later after a visit to the German pigeon clinic. In the meantime, the pigeon fanciers had contacted us and we routinely treated the pigeons with the result that the problems disappeared within just a few days. So, it wasn’t a new virus after all. And if they had waited for the expected result, most of the young pigeons would have died! That’s why you don’t see me standing there nodding my head in agreement along with the Rotavirus alarmists.
And so, the cat is out of the bag! Because the Adeno-coli problem in young pigeons is so difficult to understand, every virus that is found is linked to it! So that began in the 1980s with the Adeno type I virus (see above). And about 12 years ago when it became apparent that this virus was indeed not so important, the scientists conjured the Circovirus out of the hat! Even then I was convinced (as more or less the only one) that that was not the prime cause. And now that Circovirus has also been dismissed as a problem to our pigeons (almost all the young normally carry it with them for about eight months), the young German scientists now see Rotavirus group A as the prime cause of Y.P.D.S. (Adeno-coli syndrome).
And once more, I am utterly convinced that this is untrue and I say this for several reasons:
1. I have not seen any real change in the clinical picture of
‘Adeno-coli’, rather a general mellowing, with occasional
2. We can usually solve this problem with the right antibiotic.
Albeit in combination with some flanking measures.
3. Rotavirus in Australia infects old and young pigeons.
But only young pigeons are dying here! This is a crucial
difference! I am curious about how things will develop.
4. In our practice near London in the UK, we regularly saw
Rotaviruses in autopsy reports in the last 7 years, but they
were never the cause of the pigeons’ deaths!
A colleague, Nanne Wolff, who always delves deep into medical scientific articles on pigeons, wrote a very interesting article on the Rotavirus situation in journal ‘Het Spoor’, number 14, year 2019; see my article as complementary to that, but more in the context of our international practice!
P.S. the often-significant mortality in young pigeons is usually the result of Adeno-coli or Paramyxo (symptomless) or a combination of both! And in old pigeons, Paramyxo is often the cause, usually without specific symptoms!!
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