An Introduction to Gordon Chalmers:
I trained in veterinary medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Toronto, from which I graduated in 1961. I entered private veterinary practice as an assistant to practitioner for about a year, after which I joined the Alberta gov't (Dep't of Agriculture) in its veterinary diagnostic service, conducting post mortem examinations on domestic poultry and other livestock, wildlife, fish and zoo animals.
Later on, I took specialty training in diagnostic pathology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan in western Canada. I returned to the Alberta Dep't of Agriculture, but several years later, I also took another year of training in diagnostic pathology at the Western College. During my career, I have authored or co-authored about 40 scientific papers on domestic animals, poultry, aviary birds, wildlife, and yes, even racing pigeons! I have been involved with racing pigeons for much of my life. I have been without them for only brief periods of time (veterinary education, illness and death of parents) so they have been pretty much a part of my life for all my years up to the present time. Like many other fanciers, I have had seasons ranging, in my own terms, from outstanding to mediocre and even very poor.
My most satisfying accomplishments with racing pigeons followed my purchase in 1973 of one outstanding Sion-Stassart-Bastin stock hen, whose offspring flew extremely well to 560 miles. To date, I have never owned a better pigeon. That stroke of luck, together with the purchase of the most important book I have ever read to the present time on the natural system, Major Neilson Hutton's "Pigeon Racing. Win With Olympic", were the keys to the racing successes of my birds for the next 15 or more years. At present, I fly a team of Janssen, van Loon and Irish Putman crosses.
I race in a small club of 10-12 members, on the north road. Because of the distances between cities, fed or combine racing just isn't practical or most often, even possible. My present team of birds includes mainly Janssens of several lines, the older lines of Van Loons, and a few crosses of Irish Putmans - the latter are grand at the distance. I have presented a number of seminars in the USA and Canada to interested fanciers, on the topics of racing, muscle and fuel requirements, along with publications on the same topics, plus several on disease updates, in current British, American and Australian racing pigeon magazines, and the yearbook of the Canadian RP Union.
I am presently retired, but continue to do some consultation work with fish for the Alberta Dep't of Agriculture and private industry, search out disease information on racing pigeons, along with my current major interest, studies on muscle and fuel for racing. Finally, I try to share this information with fellow fanciers by writing my findings in articles for racing pigeon magazines and the yearbook of the Canadian RP Union.
Coccidiosis is mainly an important infection of youngsters after weaning, likely because their immune system is not yet as fully developed as it will be later. Like worm eggs, the coccidial form (called an oöcyst) that is passed in droppings isn't yet at an infective stage, and requires, cool, damp conditions for development to the infective stage. Depending on the species of coccidia, microscopically, an oöcyst looks very much like a boiled egg cut in half or lengthwise. Under ideal conditions for the species of coccidia involved, the oöcyst undergoes what is called sporulation, to produce 4 or 8 banana-shaped structures called merozoites.
If a pigeon picks up a sporulated oöcyst and swallows it, within the intestines, these 4 or 8 structures break out and each one enters a cell where it divides to produce more merozoites, that in turn, break out of the cell and enter more cells. This process of repeatedly entering and breaking out of cells causes in the intestines, a great deal of damage and irritation that results in diarrhea. At some point, the process just described changes a bit, and the result now is the production of many oöcysts that break out of cells and pass out with the droppings, ready to start the whole cycle again.
In the past, the common treatment of coccidiosis was the use of sulfa drugs, notably Sulmet. One of our modern drugs, also a sulfa-based product is Vetisulid which is useful against coccidia and bacterial infections as well. One of the best modern drugs to use is Amprol (Amprolium). Another very effective drug is Baycox. After using Amprol (not while you are using it), give your birds a day or two of a multi-vitamin mix in the drinking water.
6. E. coli Infections
E. coli (short for Escherichia coli) is a very common bacterial organism in the intestines of humans, birds and animals and can be cultured from droppings almost all the time. For this reason, the isolation of this bacterium from a sample of droppings sent to a laboratory should not be surprising. If a culture of droppings reveals many E. coli, it is possible that these increased numbers may signify a problem. If the sample was fresh and held chilled until it reached the laboratory, high numbers of organisms are likely meaningful, especially if there was a related history of illness in the birds the sample came from. However, a high count may mean little if the sample wasn't refrigerated right after collection and wasn't sent chilled to the laboratory. Under conditions of little or no refrigeration, bacteria begin to multiply in the warmth, and can create a false picture of events happening in the birds. So don't read a lot into culture results that show high numbers of E.coli, unless you can eliminate warm shipping conditions, and can tie these high numbers to an illness that is compatible with E. coli infection.
a post mortem examination and culture of a number of organs from sick
birds reveals a high number of E. coli in these organs, these E. coli
are likely to be significant in terms of the illness occurring in the
birds. Also, if sick birds are vomiting, have mucoid diarrhea that has
an odd odor, such findings are highly suggestive of a significant E. coli
problem. E. coli can complicate other diseases by moving in as secondary
invaders, a common finding in adenoviral and other infections, for example.
Sometimes pathogenic strains can invade the bloodstream and, like the
paratyphoid organism, can result in infections in joints, testes and ovary
(which can produce dead-in-shell embryos -- black eggs), "going light",
sudden death in youngsters or old birds, etc.. Some of the more useful
treatments of E. coli infections include Baytril, amoxicillin, cephalexin,
and trimethoprim/sulfa. Vetisulid seems to be much less useful than it
used to be, likely because of overuse.