Diseases and conditions


Salmonella is a bacterium that affects many animals. Birds become infected by ingesting the bacteria.

Salmonella mainly causes sickness in birds if they are already weakened, if the normal intestinal bacteria are not present or if the intestinal flora is disrupted.

Chicks that are still inside the egg can already be infected. If heavily infected, most chicks will die before hatching. Chicks that aren't severely infected will survive inside the egg and hatch normally. However, they act as carriers and, as Salmonella lives in the intestines, can transmit the bacteria to other birds via the droppings. They usually aren't sick themselves. In periods of reduced resistance though, these birds will also show signs of sickness if the Salmonella gets the upper hand.



There are many different Salmonella types, and some are more capable of causing sickness than others. A virulent Salmonella is a strain which is more likely cause disease. These bacteria often are capable of penetrating the intestinal wall and infect the rest of the body. This then causes sepsis/ blood poisening. Birds infected with virulent bacteria often display acute sickness. They are lethargic, stop eating, drink a lot and have diarrhoea. Healthy birds with a good functioning immune system can survive, but many will perish when infected.

Less virulent Salmonella bacteria can only spread to other parts of the body if the mucous membrane in the intestines is already damaged. For instance after an infection with another pathogen. Otherwise healthy birds can become infected by this type of Salmonella without showing any obvious signs. If the less virulent Salmonella manages to penetrate the intestinal wall, it will cause similar symptoms to those of the virulent Salmonella.


If a bird doesn't die from the blood poisoning, it can develop a more chronic illness. This can involve various symptoms, such as an affected nervous system, arthritis, shortness of breath and conjunctivitis.



In birds that are ill, but still alive, the Salmonella can be detected in the faeces. A stool culture is used to diagnose infection. This method also enables the veterinary surgeon to determine which antibiotics have the greatest effect in combating that specific Salmonella.

If the bird has already died, a necropsy can be performed. The organs are thoroughly examined and abnormalities in affected organs can be cultured. After a few days it becomes clear whether Salmonella was present inside the organs.



Birds are treated with antibiotics.

Treatment is also recommended for birds that show no visible signs of sickness, but are infected. The reason for this is that the bacteria can still cause problems in periods of reduced resistance, but also due to the fact that carriers can still infect other birds by spreading the bacteria through their droppings. What's more, it's quite possible for children and people with a weakened immune system to become infected with Salmonella.

It is often very difficult to eradicate the bacterium in birds that have been infected prior to hatching and birds with a long-term chronic infection. It is therefore wise to check the effects of the antibiotics at the end of the treatment. This can be done by once again perform a stool culture.



Proper hygiene in the bird enclosure is of the utmost importance. In case of repeated problems, it could be very useful to find out if there are any other birds in the enclosure that carry the Salmonella bacterium inside them. These birds continuously excrete the bacterium and can continue to infect otherwise healthy birds.

Birds that are in good health should have enough resistance to prevent the Salmonella from causing sickness. The normal intestinal bacteria play an extremely important role in prevention. If they are in good shape, there is simply 'no room' for the Salmonella bacteria. Infection doesn't lead to these birds falling ill as they can pass the bacteria out again. Providing the bird with a probiotic supplement can offer significant help.


A vaccination is available for pigeons and chickens against Salmonella. For other birds, vaccination is not yet widely used.