Respiratory Disease Checklist

Respiratory Disease Checklist

The Common Signs of Respiratory Disease in Racing Pigeons are:

  • Panting after flying.
  • Sneezing
  • Loft flying decreases
  • Race losses
  • Eye and nostril discharge
  • Swollen cere and sinus
  • Stretching of neck and swallowing
  • Yawning

The top race performance requires perfect health and fitness.
Performance relates directly to the efficiency of the respiratory and circulation systems to provide the dramatic increase in energy requirements for flight. For example, during normal loft flying the pigeon increases its oxygen consumption fifteen fold and when flying into a head wind the oxygen consumption increases by up to 30 times. These massive energy burdens can only be supported by good health and fitness.

A Check List For Respiratory Disease

Examine the nostril
Any discharge appearing at the nostril (be it watery, tacky or snotty) when applying sideways pressure to the wattle reflects a health problem of the nasal cavity.

Check inside the mouth
The nasal cavity connects with the mouth in an area we refer to as the choanal slit. Many fanciers look at this area during the racing season. A narrowing of the “slit” when there is infection of the nasal cavity accurately reflects the inflammation present throughout the upper airways. Obviously, inflammation in this area will affect the heat and water conservation functions of the nasal cavity and lower competitive performance. The converse is also true and I agree with the fanciers, who believe that a fully open “slit” is a sign of a bird in top form.

Panting after exercise
When a respiratory infection inflames the nasal cavity and upper airways the pigeon is less able to control the considerable heat production generated during flight. With certain respiratory infections the first sign noticed is panting after or during exercise. Panting is a mechanism which sheds excess heat rapidly. A fluttering motion in the neck (a form of panting) may also be seen in the overheated pigeon (this is called gular fluttering). Unfortunately both water and heat are lost with panting.

I often see panting when training birds land after a short toss. These birds are healthy but not yet in top condition or are in the moult and have short flights. Because panting is a mechanism to alleviate overheating, we see it in exercising birds on hot days. When panting is noticed within the loft on very hot days efforts to cool the loft must be taken. Special attention to temperature control within the transporters is essential for the health of the race birds.

We also see panting in unfit birds exercising early in the morning, late evenings or tightly around the loft. It is important for the fancier to differentiate between panting in the healthy pigeon and that caused by respiratory infections.

Respiratory disease involving both the lungs and airsac systems seriously impairs flying performance not only because of the failure of the oxygen delivery system but because the energy systems (liver, muscle etc) are also affected. Disease of the airsac system alone reduces performance because both the delivery of oxygen and the removal of waste products are impaired. The resultant cramping muscles make it impossible for the pigeon to fly.

Also see Panting in Racing Pigeons

Respiratory Disease Checklist by Dr. Rob Marshall

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  1. #1 by Ferenc Marocik on March 17, 2011 - 2:17 pm

    Maybe the folks from Florida can give us their input on panting after flying. I talked with a top pigeon flyer in GHC and its not always respiratory its the humidity like here in NYC. If You fly them or want to train in summer check the humidity level not to be over 75%. Best time for pigeons in summer is early at sun rise and good ventillation. I try to stay inside the loft with the youngsters obout one hour or so avery day watching and observing. After that time My breathing is normal the air flow is good. If one can’t breathe in the loft all the antibiotics used will be useless as the respiratory and other problems will return.

  2. #3 by Supriyo Ghosh on January 11, 2011 - 10:21 am

    I have received a terrible blow just before winter in Calcutta, India. In the end of October 2010, just before the Racing season in this part of the world starts. The Pigeons suffered a acute respiratory problem during night. Normally OK pigeons are dying during nights due to acute respiratory disorder…While examining the dead birds I found they were gasping for air before death.

    I don’t have any clue to this infection….If anyone can suggest a remedy I shall be grateful….Moreover this will save lot of pigeons life.

  3. #4 by Terry on January 5, 2011 - 3:25 pm

    respiratory concerns:- apple Cider Vinagar – garlic – raw onion in water let stand 2 ta 3 days.
    all the best when your racing season starts.

    • #5 by Supriyo Ghosh on January 11, 2011 - 10:23 am

      Please tell us how this will be fed i.e. in boiling water Or Colt water

      • #6 by AROCK 7DS on January 11, 2011 - 4:42 pm

        in cold water

  4. #7 by Lee Fessenden on December 27, 2010 - 5:11 am

    I do not see over panting in my birds during or shortly after training flights but I do lose a bird in the loft that seemed to be healthy and was in good shape the night before and the next morning are lying dead in the loft. Can anyone give me some insight on this problem I feel that it is a respatory ailment that I am missing sonehow.
    God Bless, Lee

  5. #8 by Alister murray on December 21, 2010 - 2:52 am

    Personally I dont believe in birds just having respiratory disease.I think respiratory disease is secondary,bought on by a primary infection such as canker.The primary infection weakens the birds immune system and causes the on set of such secondary infections.If your getting respiratory infections in your loft regularly you won’t cure it with anti-biotics.This points to a management issue that needs to be corrected if you want to get rid of respiratory infections in the longer term.

  6. #9 by Ricardo on October 15, 2010 - 5:53 am

    I am very gratefull for all the guys input on the email comments, you pick up a lot of very helpfull tips

  7. #10 by paul pashley on October 14, 2010 - 2:00 pm

    resporitry is the biggest prblem of loss of birds in race conditions and highlighting this can only be good for the sport thanks paul

  8. #11 by Jerry on August 31, 2010 - 5:08 am

    Nice Article, Surly there must be some meds made in America we can use, rather than ordering high dollar stuff imported from overseas…I would like to see an article on good home grown products, Thanks….Jer

  9. #12 by mike spiegelberg on August 30, 2010 - 5:09 pm

    Like Always , Great Information and this will be helpful to myself and others … Much appreciated , Thank You !

  10. #13 by ron on August 18, 2010 - 9:14 am

    hi i just have a question around your respiratery section you mentioned about checking the slit if not open fully cam be a problem explain were this slit is i am looking for please

  11. #14 by dinesh on August 10, 2010 - 10:30 am

    usefull guide. thankyou…………………

  12. #15 by uriel on June 3, 2010 - 6:54 pm

    Tnx for this bird health great information

  13. #16 by RAY BROWER on April 21, 2010 - 9:31 am


  14. #17 by ali on April 9, 2010 - 7:06 am

    thanks for this note

  15. #18 by Nick Demas on March 31, 2010 - 8:22 am

    Hello Chris,

    A very good article which most should look into more carefully. I believe most respiratory problems start in the loft due to poor venilation and high humidity. Also birds that spend alot of time in training crates with strange birds which might be infected. I have seen what poor ventilation can do especially when it rains for two or three days straight. Poor ventilation can destroy form almost overnight. If ventilation is off your birds are OFF. Thanks for reading.

    Nick Demas

  16. #19 by Mick on March 14, 2010 - 9:40 am

    A very good article really interesting,I find your articles are an excerlent read with great information keep up the good work,it really is a good read.


  17. #20 by Clifton on March 1, 2010 - 2:17 pm

    hi what is the problem when i am feeding my pigeons they cant swallow the food well. and when i feed and mix with oil they swallow easy

  18. #21 by terry on February 17, 2010 - 6:44 pm

    Very good topic Chris,another thing to consider is the number of birds in your loft.folks we need to keep quality birds not qunatity.The fewer good birds we have the better your loft as a whole will perform, and you will enjoy it more.It seems we have gotten out of that habbit, with over stocking the flying loft.


  19. #22 by rod felipe sr. on February 8, 2010 - 11:11 am


    • #23 by Lee Fessenden on December 27, 2010 - 5:21 am

      I use a product called Red Cell that is a vitamin made for horses. It is used widely in racing pigeon Health here in the USA. I start the birds that are going to be training on it on a once a week program and try to give it to them when they come back from a long toss. It can be used both in the water or in the feed, but I prefere the water. I use a capfull (apx 1tablespoon full) in a gallon of water and change out the waterer the next morning. You can overdose the birds on vitamins though so do not over use the product. Hope this helps you out.
      God Bless, Lee

  20. #24 by Hugh on January 20, 2010 - 12:31 pm

    Steps to take when this has been discovered would be a big improvement on this most informative article.

  21. #25 by david on January 12, 2010 - 5:31 pm

    I appreciate the article on the signs of respiratory illness. But what would be even more helpful is continuing the article by explaining how to prevent such problems and how to treat them once you find them in your loft.

  22. #26 by Faraaz on December 27, 2009 - 11:11 pm

    This is just awsome…who ever started this hatsoff for d effort.


  23. #27 by Bob Schaefer on December 23, 2009 - 8:28 pm

    The Devil you say. yes i would. E-Mail me at so Rafferty, in Dublin’s fair city are the Girls really Prity? My dear old mother god bless her soul came from County Cork and a finer, kinder woman i never knew! now my wife on the other hand may not be the Devil himself but she is a dame close realation!

  24. #28 by Liam Rafferty on December 23, 2009 - 1:39 pm

    Hi there
    I have an bit of an write up done on a newly formed club here in Dublin (Ireland).
    If I were to forward it and some photos of the night to you would you be interested in putting them on your site.
    Yours in sport
    Liam Rafferty

  25. #29 by Bob Schaefer on December 22, 2009 - 7:40 pm

    One needs to keep the loft clean. Pigion Crap when lift to build up houses bacteria in it that not only effects the birds respertori systems but us humans also and particually when you a senior citizen who are more prone to get illfrom breathing it in. if your a smoker your not only a NET-Wit but your really wide open to suffering from inhailing Pigion Cap Duct and if your smoking in the loft your hurting the Birds! My brother who races his birds uses sand on the floor like one would use in a cat litter box and he places morth balls in old womans stocking and hangs them on the inside of his loft to keep Ticks away. for mice he uses liguied Mint on gotten balls beleive it or not it repels Nice and rodents and he places that in and around is loft. he uses a cap of clorox in thier water and he mixes norwegian cod liver oil in with thier feed. he trrets his birds very good but he does so in a proven and practicle manor.

    • #30 by Lee Fessenden on December 27, 2010 - 5:30 am

      I agree with everything with one exception. You must have missed the last artical on bleech in the water and what it does to the birds over a period of time especially if it is being used as a preventive. He is slowely killing his birds by poisioning them with the chlorox, and not only that but it kills off all the good and bad baceria in the guteral of the birds. If he must use a preventive then tell him to use a good Apple Cider Vinagar in the water as it will still kill off the bad bacteria but will not kill off the good bacteria in the guretal of the birds and will not poision them over a period of time.
      God Bless, Lee

  26. #31 by PigeonRacingFan on December 20, 2009 - 10:10 pm

    Thanks Becky for explaining, ANG you can also check out the article titled “Panting in Racing Pigeons”

  27. #32 by ANG on December 19, 2009 - 8:04 am


    • #33 by Becky on December 19, 2009 - 11:50 am

      Panting pigeons will look much like a dog when they are too hot. They’ll breath with their beak open, and you can usually see the throat moving with every breath. Doesn’t necessarily mean a sick bird, it can just mean a bird is out of shape and hasn’t had enough exercise prior to that day. And of course, if it is very hot outside. But if the rest of the flock looks fine and you have one or two panters, you should definitely check them out.

  1. Dr. Rob Marshall « Pigeon Racing Pigeons

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