how to cure canker in birds

Identifying Canker and its Common Symptoms

Canker can be easily confused with other conditions that cause similar in-mouth sores, such as:

  • sour crop (fungal)
  • wet pox (viral)
  • mycotoxicosis (ingestion of toxic grains)
  • capillary worms
  • salivary stones

Given the multitude of conditions that can mimic canker, a definitive diagnosis can only be obtained by consulting a veterinarian or performing microscopic examination of a sample.

  • difficulty swallowing
  • vomiting
  • yellow or whitish cheesy/crusty growths in their mouth and throat
  • weight loss
  • difficulty breathing
  • puffed feathers
  • high mortality, especially in young birds/chicks
  • accumulated mucus in the throat

how to cure canker in birds

above: a homing pigeon with a canker in its mouth

how to cure canker in birds

Above: Animated illustration of a chicken’s oral canker growth credit: PoultryDVM.

How is Canker Transmitted and which Birds are more Susceptible?

Canker organisms cannot survive for very long in an external environment because they depend on their close relationship with their host. Since it reproduces in crop milk and saliva, contaminated food and water are the main ways that it spreads, along with parents feeding their young children. This, combined with the fact that upwards of 80% of pigeons are already naturally occurring canker carriers, makes it incredibly difficult to stop and regulate the transmission.

Although pigeons are the most vulnerable, chickens and cage birds are also frequently affected, with similar symptoms observed in both species. Since chicks and young birds in the nest have the weakest immune systems and are fed crop milk, it makes sense that enthusiasts and fanciers mostly see canker in flocks of birds in this age range. Because they are still developing, they also have a higher death rate. Additionally, because pigeons are frequently exposed to their surroundings, open water sources, and other wild birds, canker is also a common condition during the young and old bird race seasons. Since free-range chickens are exposed to the outdoors and other wild birds, they also have a higher incidence of canker.

What is Canker, Anyway?

Trichomonas columbae, or canker, is the scientific name for a microscopic protozoan parasite that affects the digestive tract of birds, affecting the crop, throat, and other internal areas. Upper digestive tract ulceration and inflammation are frequently caused by infections, and they typically manifest as the yellow, cheesy-looking lesions that are frequently seen in the mouth and throat.

how to cure canker in birds

Above: a close-up view of the trichononad, a type of canker organism. They can move swiftly and spread contamination because of their axial rod-powered tail, which provides them with rapid motility.

Despite the beliefs of some enthusiasts and fans, canker is not a virus or bacteria, so treating it with an antibiotic or antiviral suppressant will only help with secondary infections (if any are bacterial or viral).


Can birds recover from canker?

Some very sick birds may need intensive care treatment and hospitalisation for fluids and nutritional support. Most birds will recover however infection may prove fatal to severely debilitated birds where there is severe damage to the gastrointestinal and/or respiratory systems.

Is canker in birds contagious to humans?

The infection is transmitted by direct contact with an infected bird or indirectly via contaminated food or water. The disease is not a danger to humans, dogs or cats.

How do you treat canker in pigeons naturally?

Apple Cider Vinegar for Canker – Natural Home Remedy Use apple cider vinegar in the dose of 5 ml / 1 liter of fresh water especially when you can’t remove the water for many hours after feeding. The parasite can’t survive in acidic water and apple cider vinegar drops the water PH to about 4-5 at the dosage above.