Vaccination of Resident Birds

Paramyxovirus, Paratyphoid, and Pigeon Pox Vaccination

Last Review Date: June 5, 2018


The purpose of this Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is to outline the Paramyxovirus (PMV), Paratyphoid (PT) and Pigeon Pox (PP) vaccination protocol for the resident pigeons and doves housed within the outdoor aviaries at the Field Research Station at Fort Missoula.


It is LAR policy to meet or exceed all federal, state, and local regulations and guidelines and to comply with all institutional policies and procedures as they apply to the use of animals in research.  Personnel must attend any applicable training in animal care and use, occupational health and safety, equipment operation, and SOPs prior to performing activities outlined in this SOP or work under the direct supervision of trained aviary personnel

Outdoor Aviary Vaccination Plan

The PMV virus is labile and dies quickly in the environment. The virus is spread via fecal-oral transmission (horizontal). Once a bird is infected, it will shed the virus in the droppings and other secretions for up to three weeks. The time between exposure and clinical signs can vary from a few days to several weeks. An entire aviary can be exposed before a problem is detected.

Clinical signs of PMV are incoordination, twisted necks, and paralyzed limbs. Less specific symptoms include decreased feed intake, increased water consumption, loss of weight, and watery droppings. In the most advanced stages, the birds may be found lying on their sides with complete paralysis.

The symptoms are related to two organ systems affected. This virus causes an inflammation of the kidney called interstitial nephritis. When this occurs, the white portion of the droppings changes to a clear, watery consistency with normal fecal matter. This is not a true diarrhea since the fecal material from the intestine is normal. These watery droppings can persist for 2 to 3 months after infection in a flock of pigeons. The second organ system involved is the nervous system in which the symptoms presented are twisted neck and paralysis.

Treatment for PMV is only symptomatic and requires effective quarantine for 3-5 weeks if the bird is of a critical nature to a study. Most pigeons that develop the neurological symptoms will recover if they can eat and drink or intensive nursing care is provided to feed and water them by hand until they are normal.

Vaccination for this disease is critical since there are only two types of unvaccinated pigeons, those that have the disease and those that are going to get it.

Paratyphoid Bacterium (PT)

Paratyphoid is a bacterial disease that pigeons are more susceptible to during the molt. Pigeons may carry the bacteria in a subclinical or latent form. Infection is via fecal-oral transmission (horizontal). The bacteria produce inflammation in the large bowel, but if the immune system is incompetent, it can spread via the lymph nodes to any organ system and even cause sepsis. If the bacteria spread to the brain the symptoms will mimic PMV. Although the symptomology appears similar, the bird with PMV will remain alert and active while the bird with PT will appear inactive, inattentive and generally ill.

Pigeons with clinical disease can be treated with antibiotics but will become latent carriers for years and thus the symptomatic bird should be euthanized to prevent infection of the other resident birds within the aviary. Diagnosis is difficult due to the varied symptomology, based on the organ system affected, and the common false negative results achieved during diagnostics.

Pigeon Pox (PP) – Avipoxvirus

The most common transmission results from mosquito bites. The resultant lesions appear on the featherless areas of the body e.g. the eyelids, around the beak and legs. The lesions begin as papules which progress to a wart-like, thick, dark scab. Eventually, the scabs fall off and heal within a four-week period. This form of pox is seldom life-threatening.

The second form of pigeon pox is due to aerosol infection and results in lesions that affect the mucous membranes of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and trachea. These lesions appear soft and cheesy in nature. Affected pigeons appear very ill, stop eating and have difficulty breathing. Death usually results from asphyxiation due to blockage of the respiratory tract by necrotic material or by secondary bacterial infections. There is no effective treatment.

Application and Care of the PMV/PT and PP Vaccines

The PMV/PT vaccine should be stored in the refrigerator – do not freeze. It should not be injected when cold. Remove the vaccine from the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature before use. Shake well before using. The remaining vaccine may be stored in the refrigerator until it expires. 

The PP vaccine arrives in two vials – a dry and a liquid. Inject the liquid into the dry material vial and shake to mix. Discard after treatment of all birds. Do not store reconstituted vaccine

Vaccine Dose

Inject 0.5 ml subcutaneously (20 ga. needle) in the lower neck. For smaller breeds inject only 0.25 ml.

Injection Instructions

With the pigeon held by the assistant or restrained in the crook of the arm, expose the skin at the nape of the neck and wipe with 70% alcohol. Grasp the skin at the nape of the neck and pinch it between the thumb and forefinger, and lift it upward to form a “pocket” beneath the skin. A full crop may increase the difficulty of grasping a good fold of skin. Carefully insert the needle through the skin in the middle of the neck. The vaccine must be injected under the skin and not into the skin or into the muscles of the neck. 

Documentation of Vaccination

Document the vaccination of the bird on the appropriate form and place into Health Report Binder located in Heather Labbe’s office:

  • Date vaccine administered
  • Identification of the aviary where the bird resides
  • Identification of the bird by colored leg bands or coloration
  • Date when the second dose is scheduled (if required)