PMV is the abbreviated term for Paramyxovirosis (or Paramyxovirus). The virus is formally termed Avian Paramyxovirus type 1 – pigeon variant, hence the abbreviation!
PIGEON PARAMYXOVIRUS is a viral disease that does not affect man or animals, but a human that handles a pigeon with PMV or the live vaccine can develop conjunctivitis if sensible precautions are not taken (eg, do not touch your eyes immediately after handling a pigeon with PMV or the live vaccine). Incubation period can vary from a few days to several weeks. It is most often of moderate virulence with 5% to 10% mortality, but rarely highly virulent strains can cause 90% mortality. Mortality rates are significantly higher if supportive care is not given (eg. when the virus is injected experimentally in a laboratory). Water deprivation and stress increase mortality. Spontaneous recovery within 6 – 12 weeks is common, but recovery can take longer. Nervous symptoms can persist for life or return in times of stress. Some pigeons will suffer from persistent diarrhoea after recovery.
The watery droppings (see below) are often the first symptom, but feral pigeons will not often come to the attention of a rescuer until the nervous signs appear. Not all symptoms will be present at the same time. All symptoms are aggravated by excitement.
The most common symptoms seen by the rescuer will be:
Thin broken solid droppings in a pool of liquid
Fine tremor of eyes or head
Somersaulting in flight
Difficulty picking up seed, pecking and missing.
Tossing seed backwards
Twisting neck, head upside down (torticollis, star gazing) – see photo.
Paralysis of legs or wings
Spiralling in flight
Turning in circles
During the recovery period keep pigeons with Pigeon PMV in a quiet, warm (not hot) cage with soft flooring away from any intense light source. Towelling is ideal for flooring as they can damage their feathering if they have fits. Provide a brick for perching.
FEEDING AND WATERING:
Place seed in a deep dish so that if they stab at random they can pick seed up. Because Pigeon PMV can cause fits pigeons are at risk of drowning but they need free access to water. Provide water (with added electrolytes if possible) in a deep narrow container to minimise the risk of accidental drowning. Watch the pigeon to ensure it is drinking. Hand feeding may be necessary. If feeding by gavage tube is not an option the pigeon’s mouth has to be opened and the food pushed to the back of throat. Suitable foods that can be fed this way include pellets of egg food paste dipped in water, small soaked pieces of dog biscuit, frozen peas and sweetcorn thawed in hot water for about 20 – 30 minutes (not tinned). Weigh the pigeon daily and carry out a poop count to ensure that he is getting enough food. As a guideline: a healthy pigeon will pass between 20 and 30 raisin sized poops a day.
Supportive care is usually sufficient.
Resistance to other diseases such as coccidiosis, trichomoniasis and aspergillosis is reduced. Avoid conditions that could aggravate these conditions (stress, damp etc), watch out for symptoms and provide prompt treatment if symptoms appear.
The disease runs its course in about 6 weeks, by that time the pigeon has stopped shedding the virus and won’t infect other pigeons but nervous symptoms and gastro-intestinal may persist longer.
Vitamins should be given to boost the immune system.
Probiotics can be used to crowd out any bad gut bacteria.
Electrolytes can be given to replace the electrolytes lost through polyuria.
I have found that providing a calcium supplement on arrival (Gem Calcium Syrup with Vitamin D3) has helped. The dose I gave was two drops a day for 3 days.
Do not use antibiotics without consulting a vet. They can intensify the lesions and aggravate the course of the disease.
SOME USEFUL HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES
I have had some success treating the paralysis/stroke symptoms of Pigeon PMV using the homeopathic remedy Conium Maculatum (common hemlock) dosing with a single tablet of the 30 potency three times a day for up to 10 days.
Birds that tremble and fall over when they try to move because their balance is impaired may benefit from Argenitum Nit 30 potency, one tablet given 3 or 4times a day for up to 2 days.
Belladonna can be used for birds that are restless with convulsive movement and jerking limbs. 2 pilules twice a day.
**Remember not to touch homeopathic pilules with your hands, this can contaminate them and reduce effectiveness, give them on a clean mouth (no food or additions to the drinking water 20 minutes before or 20 minutes after) and stop the remedy as soon as an improvement shows**
Pigeon PMV is highly infectious to other pigeons , victims should be kept isolated from other birds for at least 6 weeks.
Maintain scrupulous hygiene , regularly disinfecting food and water containers with bleach.
Always see to a pigeon with Pigeon PMV after you have treated your other birds. That reduces the risk of carrying the infection to other birds in your care.
Wash hands after contact and take care not to track fecal waste or carry fecal dust to areas where other birds are.
Some rescuers keep a clean overall and shoes just inside the isolation area, to put on while caring for Pigeon PMV sufferers and remove when leaving the area.
Dispose of droppings wisely, they can be a source of infection to feral pigeons.
PREVENTION AND CONTROL
In a loft situation it is important to vaccinate pigeons against Pigeon PMV. Remember that it is the pigeon that is not showing any symptoms of Pigeon PMV but is shedding the virus that is the greatest danger to other pigeons. By the time the obvious symptoms appear the virus could have infected other pigeons in your care. Always isolate new pigeons. They can be vaccinated if they show no signs of the disease after 10 days in quarantine.
This video shows a pigeon with PMV symptoms