Pigeon Fever

Pigeon Fever

Fall is prime Pigeon Fever season and we have seen quite a few cases already. Pigeon Fever is a bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. It derived it's name from the swelling that occurs in the pectoral muscles on a horse, which resembles a pigeon's breast.

While this is a contagious disease, the horse is only contagious if draining pus from the abscess. The bacteria is present in the soil and is transmitted by flies landing on open wounds (not pigeons!).

Pigeon Fever has three forms in equines: ulcerative lymphangitis (limb infection), external abscess(es), and internal infection. External abscess formation is the most common. It can be seen anywhere on the body, but is most common on the pectoral region and along the ventral midline of the abdomen, with single or multiple abscesses. These external abscesses can usually be treated by lancing and draining the abscess when mature, and often do not require antibiotics. The fatality rate is low at around 0.8% (AAEP).

Internal infection cases are less common, but have a higher mortality rate at 30-40% (AAEP). This form can require more advanced diagnostics and often needs long-term antibiotics treatment. Organs that could be affected include the liver, kidney, spleen and lungs.

Finally, we have the least common form seen in North America, ulcerative lymphangitis. It usually affects one or both hind limbs. These horses can develop severe lethargy, fever, draining tracts, lameness, and weight loss. Aggressive therapy is necessary to recover.

Please contact your veterinarian if you believe your horse has Pigeon Fever The sooner your horse is diagnosed, the quicker he/she can be started on the appropriate treatment.

You can contact our office 24/7 at (209) 524-9191.



Photo from: https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/phag/2013/05/17/be-on-the-lookout-for-prevent-pigeon-fever/

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