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Health Status and Stress in Different Categories of Racing Pigeons

BUBA d.o.o.-Veterinary Clinic and Pet Supply Store, Rožna dolina 5, 1290 Grosuplje, Slovenia
Institute for Poultry, Birds, Small Mammals and Reptiles, Veterinary Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Gerbičeva 60, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Department of Animal Hygiene, Behavior and Animal Welfare, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zagreb, Heinzelova 55, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Institute of Preclinical Sciences, Veterinary Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Gerbičeva 60, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Institute of Microbiology and Parasitology, Veterinary Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Gerbičeva 60, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: María-Luz García and María-José Argente
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2686;
Received: 11 August 2021 / Revised: 3 September 2021 / Accepted: 8 September 2021 / Published: 13 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Collection Body Condition and Productivity, Health and Welfare)
Corticosterone is the most important “stress” hormone in birds. Stress response is influenced by different factors, such as phylogeny, feed supply, age, body condition, health status, climate, predators. Pigeon races over long distances, 500 km or more, can lead to the “exploitation” of animals if not strictly regulated and observed, jeopardizing their welfare status. Animals should be in good health and body condition, and health monitoring must be implemented. In stressful situations such as races, the possibility of infection increases. Clinically asymptomatic infections can flare up later in the breeding season and can cause high offspring mortality. For example, infections with circoviruses are particularly important because of their ability to weaken the immune system. The purpose of this work is to identify the critical stress points during the active training season of racing pigeons for the improvement of their condition and the preservation of their welfare during races. The aim of our study was to determine the serum corticosterone levels in different categories of racing pigeons exposed to severe stress factors. At the time of racing, some parameters of stress, including environmental factors, or the presence of infectious diseases or parasites, were recorded. It was found that participation in the race significantly increased serum corticosterone levels and remained high even one month after the race. Therefore, training and races should be properly managed and planned.
The influence of different stress parameters in racing pigeon flocks, such as the presence of diseases and environmental conditions at the time of the races, were described. A total of 96 racing pigeons from 4 pigeon flocks were examined, and health monitoring was carried out. No helminth eggs and coccidia were found. Trichomonas sp. was confirmed in subclinical form. Paramyxoviruses and avian influenza viruses were not confirmed, but circovirus infections were confirmed in all flocks. Chlamydia psittaci was confirmed in one flock. Blood samples were collected, and HI antibody titers against paramyxoviruses before and 25 days after vaccination were determined. To improve the conditions during racing and the welfare of the pigeons, critical points were studied with regard to stress factors during the active training season. Serum corticosterone levels were measured in the blood serum of four different categories of pigeons from each flock. Corticosterone levels were almost twice as high in pigeons from the category that were active throughout the racing season, including medium- and long-distance racing, compared to the other three categories that were not racing actively. Within five hours of the finish of a race, the average serum corticosterone level was 59.4 nmol/L in the most physically active category. The average serum corticosterone level in this category remained at 37.5 nmol/L one month after the last race. View Full-Text
Keywords: Columba livia domestica; infectious diseases; serum corticosterone; welfare Columba livia domestica; infectious diseases; serum corticosterone; welfare
MDPI and ACS Style

Kastelic, M.; Pšeničnik, I.; Gregurić Gračner, G.; Čebulj Kadunc, N.; Lindtner Knific, R.; Slavec, B.; Krapež, U.; Vergles Rataj, A.; Zorman Rojs, O.; Pulko, B.; Rajšp, M.; Mlakar Hrženjak, N.; Dovč, A. Health Status and Stress in Different Categories of Racing Pigeons. Animals 2021, 11, 2686.

AMA Style

Kastelic M, Pšeničnik I, Gregurić Gračner G, Čebulj Kadunc N, Lindtner Knific R, Slavec B, Krapež U, Vergles Rataj A, Zorman Rojs O, Pulko B, Rajšp M, Mlakar Hrženjak N, Dovč A. Health Status and Stress in Different Categories of Racing Pigeons. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2686.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kastelic, Marjan, Igor Pšeničnik, Gordana Gregurić Gračner, Nina Čebulj Kadunc, Renata Lindtner Knific, Brigita Slavec, Uroš Krapež, Aleksandra Vergles Rataj, Olga Zorman Rojs, Barbara Pulko, Maša Rajšp, Nina Mlakar Hrženjak, and Alenka Dovč. 2021. "Health Status and Stress in Different Categories of Racing Pigeons" Animals 11, no. 9: 2686.

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