Infectious diseases

Salmonellosis in Pigeons - Symptoms and Treatment

Cristina Pascual
By Cristina Pascual, Veterinaria. Updated: July 17, 2024
Salmonellosis in Pigeons - Symptoms and Treatment

Salmonellosis in pigeons, also known as paratyphosis, is an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. This particular disease primarily affects pigeons that are immunocompromised, often leading to a variable clinical presentation depending on the affected organ. It is important to note that pigeons who recover from salmonellosis can become asymptomatic carriers, intermittently shedding the bacteria and potentially becoming a source of infection for the rest of the loft.

The following AnimalWised article explores the symptoms of salmonellosis in pigeons and its treatment options, as well as a detailed overview of the most significant aspects related to this disease.

  1. Is salmonella the same as salmonellosis?
  2. Symptoms of salmonellosis in pigeons
  3. Contagion of salmonellosis in pigeons
  4. Diagnosis of salmonellosis in pigeons
  5. Treatment of salmonellosis in pigeons
  6. Prevention of salmonellosis in pigeons

Is salmonella the same as salmonellosis?

No, salmonella and salmonellosis are not the same thing, although they are related.

Salmonella refers to a group of bacteria known as Salmonella. These bacteria can cause illness in humans and animals. There are many different strains of Salmonella, and they are commonly found in the intestines of animals, including poultry, cattle, and reptiles. Contaminated food, particularly raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, meat, and unpasteurized milk, can be a common source of Salmonella infection.

Salmonellosis, on the other hand, is the illness caused by the Salmonella bacteria. It is an infection that affects the intestinal tract.

Symptoms of salmonellosis in pigeons

Salmonella in pigeons enters the body through the oral route, specifically infecting the epithelial cells or enterocytes in the intestine. However, the presence of a healthy microbial flora often acts as a barrier, preventing the colonization of Salmonella. Once inside the enterocytes, the bacteria multiply and can enter the bloodstream, causing bacteremia and spreading to other organs.

Adult pigeons with a strong immune system develop a certain level of immunity against Salmonella. As a result, the disease tends to manifest chronically in these individuals, who become reservoirs or asymptomatic carriers of the infection.

On the other hand, immunocompromised chicks or adults with an ineffective immune response may experience an acute form of the disease. The clinical signs vary depending on the affected organ, leading to four distinct forms of salmonellosis in pigeons:

  • Digestive: common in nestlings, characterized by enteritis with symptoms such as diarrhea, anorexia, weight loss, and, in severe cases, potential mortality.

  • Articular: this form presents as purulent arthritis, with affected joints exhibiting warmth, swelling, pain, resulting in lameness and reduced flying ability. In chronic cases, joint degeneration or osteoarthritis may occur.

  • Nervous: birds display neurological symptoms such as tremors, paralysis, and torticollis (twisted neck).

  • Septicemic: considered the most severe presentation, with manifestations depending on the affected organ (such as lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, or sexual organs). Sudden episodes of death are common in chicks with this form of the disease.

Pigeons that recover spontaneously from salmonellosis can become asymptomatic carriers, intermittently shedding the bacteria in their excrement. This shedding poses a risk of infection for the rest of the loft.

Please note that seeking professional veterinary advice and referencing reliable sources is essential for accurate and up-to-date information on pigeon diseases, including salmonellosis.

Be sure not to miss this other article, where we provide a complete guide on keeping pigeons as pets.

Contagion of salmonellosis in pigeons

Salmonella enters the avian body through the oral route and is subsequently eliminated through feces. Consequently, the primary source of Salmonella infection in birds is the feces of infected individuals. Outbreaks are commonly associated with asymptomatic carrier pigeons, which serve as a reservoir of infection within the loft. Let's now delve into a more detailed examination of vertical and horizontal transmission.

Vertical transmission of salmonellosis occurs from mothers to chicks and can transpire in two ways:

  • Prior to hatching: salmonella is capable of penetrating the eggshell, leading to the demise of the embryo either before birth or a few days after hatching.
  • After hatching: chicks can acquire the infection by consuming the crop exudate (porridge) from infected parents.

On the other hand, horizontal transmission can manifest in two ways:

  • Direct transmission: this occurs through direct contact with infected birds.

  • Indirect transmission: this can transpire through the ingestion of water or food contaminated with feces from infected birds or through exposure to dust in inadequately ventilated lofts. In some cases, the caretakers themselves may unknowingly contribute to the spread of infection within the loft by handling sick birds without implementing appropriate biosecurity measures.

You might be interested in this other article on the zombie pigeon disease.

Diagnosis of salmonellosis in pigeons

Clinical diagnosis of salmonellosis in birds is often inconsequential, as a significant proportion of infected individuals remain asymptomatic. Therefore, laboratory analysis is typically relied upon for diagnosis, with the goal of identifying carrier birds and isolating them from the group to prevent them from serving as a continuous source of infection.

The laboratory diagnosis of salmonellosis encompasses the following procedures:

  • Isolation through microbial culture: the preferred samples for culture are feces. However, it is important to note that Salmonella is a poor competitor, meaning that if a direct culture of the fecal sample is performed, the presence of other bacteria in the sample may inhibit the growth of Salmonella. To overcome this, enrichment media should be used prior to inoculation, as it enhances the growth of Salmonella and improves its competitive ability against other bacteria in the culture.

  • Identification: once isolated, the bacteria are subjected to a biochemical profiling process to determine the genus, species, and specific serotype of the Salmonella strain. This identification process provides valuable information about the specific characteristics of the Salmonella strain involved in the infection.

Be sure to check this other article, where we explain what to feed a baby pigeon.

Treatment of salmonellosis in pigeons

Treating Salmonella infection in pigeons poses a significant challenge due to the bacterium's ability to develop multidrug resistance. Inappropriate use of antibiotics can contribute to the selection of multidrug-resistant strains, further complicating the eradication of the infection in the loft.

To prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance, it is crucial to select antibiotics based on the results of an antibiogram, which determines the sensitivity of the isolated Salmonella strain to different antibiotics.

During antibiotic treatment, infected pigeons must be kept isolated from the rest of the birds in the loft. Only after one month of treatment and repeating the analyses to confirm the absence of Salmonella can the treated pigeons be reintegrated into the loft.

In addition to antibiotic therapy, it is recommended to administer vitamin complexes and immunostimulants to expedite the recovery of the birds and enhance their immune response. These complementary measures support the overall health and well-being of the infected pigeons during the treatment process.

Do not miss this other article, where we list the different types of pigeons.

Prevention of salmonellosis in pigeons

Preventing salmonellosis in pigeons involves implementing the following measures:

  • Vaccination: the use of an inactivated vaccine is recommended primarily for lofts experiencing recurrent outbreaks of salmonellosis. However, vaccination should be approached with caution as adverse reactions, such as nodules at the injection site, reduced athletic or productive performance, and even bird mortality within 24 hours of inoculation, can occur. Vaccination should be administered to healthy adult pigeons, preferably before or after molting and outside the breeding period.

  • Loft cleaning and disinfection: maintaining a high level of hygiene is crucial in preventing salmonellosis. Regular cleaning practices should be implemented, and comprehensive DDD programs (disinfection, disinsection, and deratization) should be carried out. Well-ventilated and sunlit facilities that are isolated from other potential reservoirs of the disease are essential in keeping the loft free from salmonellosis.

  • Control of water and feed: regular analysis of both incoming and outgoing water from the loft is advisable to ensure a Salmonella-free water supply for the flock. Bacteriological assessments of the feed should also be conducted to confirm its absence of contamination. Additionally, the use of additives like propionic or formic acid can be beneficial as they help prevent the colonization of feed by Salmonella.

By implementing these preventive measures, pigeon owners can significantly reduce the risk of salmonellosis and maintain a healthier loft environment.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Salmonellosis in Pigeons - Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Infectious diseases category.


Davis, JW (1977). Infectious and parasitic disease of wild birds . Iowa State University Press

Thomas, NJ, Hunter, DB, Atkinson, CT (2007). Infectious diseases of wild birds. Blackwell Science.

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Salmonellosis in Pigeons - Symptoms and Treatment