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Pigeon Fever (2)


Editor’s Note: Dr. Kim Garner at Big Creek Animal Hospital in Millington, TN posts regular updates on equine diseases, issues, etc. on the Big Creek Animal Hospital Facebook page. Dr. Garner sent the Mid-South Horse Review her recent post about Pigeon Fever.
By Kim Garner, DVM

We have seen two cases, and there are two more possible cases.  It has been historically a disease of hot dry areas, but for some reason the bacterium has started to appear in cooler, damper environments.  We had an outbreak early winter (January and February) and saw 4 or 5 cases then.  Evidently it is seen most often in the fall, and most often in young horses.  It is very common in goats in this area, but they carry the other strain (Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis ovis).

Treatment consists of monitoring, with lancing of draining abscesses when they are mature. 

There are three types of presentation.  The typical abscesses; ulcerative lymphangiti, where the bacterium invades the lymphatic system and causes multiple small abscesses along a lymph vein. These are usually removed surgically if possible.  The worst case scenario involves internal abscesses that are hard to diagnose and treat.  Long term antibiotic therapy is usually needed.  Historically, about 80% of all horses eventually do well and recover.  I haven't seen any of the internal cases yet.  

If the abscesses do not mature and drain, monitoring of the abscesses with ultrasound to determine the depth of the capsule formed by the body to isolate the infection is performed so that they can be drained when the capsule is only a half inch thick or so.

I have been giving all the affected horses a tetanus shot, since they have wounds.  

Antibiotic therapy is usually not recommended, nor is use of anti-inflammatories, such as bute, as long as the horse is comfortable enough to move around and eat.  
Additional Resources:
“Pigeon Fever,” American Association of Equine Practitioners:
“What is Pigeon Fever in Horses,” Quarter Horse News:
“Pigeon Fever in Horse Spreading,” Holistic Horse:
“Protect Your Horse From Pigeon Fever,” Western Horseman:

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