"Going Light" Information

Information from Helen in England

Going light is just a symptom of starvation. The reasons for the bird not eating can be wide and varied- ranging from an injury resulting in infection, through to a hen bird sitting so closely on eggs she does not take care of herself properly. This is a common problem in poultry but rare in pigeons and doves as the cock bird usually takes over incubation duties during the day.

The most common cause of "going light" is a gut flora problem. The stomach and intestine walls are usually thickly lined with bacteria which is vital for the digestive processes. This lining provides a protective barrier against harmful bacteria, which the bird encounters on an every-day basis. Lets face it - we all know pigeons will pick among their own and other bird's feces while foraging, no matter how hygienic we are at keeping their living quarters clean!

If the barrier weakens then it is less effective and harmful bacteria can gain a hold on the stomach wall. Once the harmful bacteria has entered the system the bird starts to feel unwell and as a result loses its appetite - hence the emaciation.

This type of harmful bacteria is termed anaerobic. This means it does not need oxygen to survive. People usually opt for Baytril as a favorite antibiotic when their bird is unwell, however Baytril is more effective against aerobic bacteria caused by wounds and has much less power when dealing with anaerobic nasties

Treatment in these cases is usually a supha drug. I have found co-trimoxazole to be very effective. Co-trimoxazole is an international name and any qualified vet anywhere in the world will know what you are talking about if this name is mentioned. It is however sold under different brand names in different countries. Here it is called Septrim. In the States it is called Septra and in Israel it is called Zeprim.

With a strength of - 40mg trimethropim and 200 mg sulphamethoxazole per 5mls - which any vet will understand, the dose will be 0.1ml per 100gms bodyweight twice a day for 5 days. If they become really ill you can safely increase this to three times a day. However the drug is so good at hitting the right spot that an improvement is usually seen within 24 hours. It is a good lifesaver!

It must be kept in the fridge and if you use a sterilized syringe each time you measure out a dose, it can safely be kept much longer than the 10 days stated on the bottle. This is usually stated because it is authorized for use in humans- who will use a spoon out of the cutlery drawer, as well as animals in which case a busy veterinary practice may not always use sterile syringes to draw off amounts needed by clients.

If you have no previous history for the afflicted bird, or you suspect there may be an injury involved which you cannot find, it is safe to combine Baytril with Co-trimoxazole. Neither has any contradictory factor against the other. I use this combination often when I admit birds which look ill, because they can up tails and die on you very quickly and you may not have enough time to play about with the different drugs until you find the most effective one.

If the bird is a youngster it is wiser to use an Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid combination-often marketed under the names Clavamox and Augmentin, instead of Baytril which is known to inhibit bone growth.

You MUST complete the course. If you don't, any bacteria still surviving are likely to fight back much stronger than before, and may even become immune to Co-trimoxazole and the last thing we want is for bacteria to be floating around the bird world which is immune to some of the strongest antibiotics we have. That would be disastrous.

On a final note- once we have cleared the infection- including any beneficial bacteria, the stomach and intestine walls are now bare and vulnerable to any nasties, which may choose to set up home on them. Remember - once the bird feels better it will go back to feeding - and foraging among the dirt again! A probiotic is recommended which will replace the beneficial gut bacteria, which was destroyed using the antibiotic. This applies to any antibiotic given to a bird, for whatever reason. Antibiotics are not discerning. Their job is to destroy bacteria and that is what they do. Ok - Baytril given for a wound may not be as effective against anaerobic gut bacteria but it can still weaken that vital lining on the walls!

There is no rule of thumb for dosage of a probiotic, but at least 24 hours should be left after the last dose of antibiotic before starting. Probiotics can be given either orally or in the drinking water. I usually give a dose 24 hours after the last dose of antibiotic, and repeat every 48 hours for a week. Hopefully, by then you have a healthy bird.

TIPS & INFO Going Light 2 Bird Diseases