Pigeon Fever - anyone else dealt with it?

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Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2002
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San Angelo, Texas
My sweet Cowboy is headed back to the vet this afternoon. I took him a week ago Monday because I felt a lump under his jaw bone. ( near his throatlatch area) They took a biopsey (sp) and it came back today as Pigeon Fever. I had brought him home on Sat and was told to use a warm compress on the lump and give him his anti-biotic once a day and take his temp twice a day. He has not run a fever since mid last week. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Thanks, Trish and Cowboy

Cowboys abcess.jpg
Dry land distemper I think it's called... Contagious. Good luck!
Pigeon Fever is a disease that seems to be unique to California and Texas. This disease causes abscesses to form. The bacteria involved is called Corynebacteria Pseudo tuberculosis. There are two reasons that it goes by the name Pigeon Fever. The first reason is that only five people in the United States can pronounce Corynebacteria Pseudo tuberculosis. The second reason stems from the behavior of the disease. Pigeon Fever tends to cause abscesses in the chest area of the horse. As the abscess develops the chest swells much like the prominent chest of a pigeon. Thus the name.

However, the chest is not the only place abscesses can form. Recent cases I have seen where abscesses form not in the chest but between the jaw bones and on one horse's sheath. It can also affect the mammary area in a mare. The disease starts with a firm diffuse swelling over the affected region. The hard swelling enlarges and then softens like a water balloon as the abscess comes to a head. At this point the abscess either pops by itself or is lanced by your veterinarian. It is not uncommon for affected horses to have a mild temperature of 102 to 103 degrees.

Veterinary treatment usually consist of hot packing the swelling until an abscess has formed at is ready to lance. Once the abscess is lanced the open wound is cleaned daily and your horse is put on antibiotics for an extended period of time. The problem with Pigeon fever is that it can cause multiple abscesses in a given horse. About one in five cases will have another abscess once the antibiotics are stopped. In very very rare cases a horse can even get an internal abscess which can result in peritonitis when it breaks open. At the first signs of swelling it is tempting to put your horse on antibiotics right away. However, doing so may increase the risk of internal abscesses forming. It is for this reason that most cases require waiting until the abscess has formed and been lanced before instituting antibiotic treatment.

There is no vaccination for Pigeon Fever. The bacteria is present throughout California and is spread by flies. It does follow a pattern of having one or two years when many horses in an area will get the disease. Then several years will follow without any cases being seen. This implies that horses in an area will develop a resistance on there own which gradually diminishes with time. Because it is spread by flies, on a given ranch if one horse becomes affected, it is likely that a small number of additional cases will be seen. However, unlike strangles, it is not likely that you will see more than a small percentage of horses on any one farm come down with the disease." by Dr Novick
Wow Surprised to see someone else is dealing with this!

Trish I am in NE Houston and have a horse with it. My neighbor has one, and I have a friend that has 1 her friend has 2. We do not have pastures touching but we all live with in 10 miles of each other.

My horse that has it, as well as my neighbors is in the front armpit area. We havent had our abcess and burst yet, thankfully. We are giving bute for pain, and UniPrim as the antibiotic per vet.

Just curious as to what youve been told to do. I have my horse stalled, and kept from most contact from the others. My neighbor is keeping hers with the herd. They had a case of it last year, it also never burst.... But we just cant figure out how we got it!

Hope Cowboy feels better soon!
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I have never, but a friend up north has- and yes, it's in Arizona too. All of her horses that had it recovered. I can find out more info from her if you want?
Good morning forum family.

Cowboy got to come home yesterday. The vet lanced the abscess on Tues evening, they flushed it out several times yesterday. The vet called me yesterday afternoon and said Cowboy could come home. They sent with us a spray bottle with vetadine to be used two times a day spray into the opening. Continue till it heals up. Also continue the anti-biotic till it is finished. They did say to make sure to keep both horses covered with fly spray. I cleaned out all the bedding from Cowboy's stall and put a fresh bag of shavings. We will continue to empty and bleach all water tubs and feed tubs.

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

PS the young couple who's dogs attacked Cowboy and Pearl, moved out and we are looking at filing suit at the Municipal Court. You try to be a good Christian in dealing with the situation and sometimes you have to go a step further when the other party doesn't hold to the agreement. Please keep us in your prayers.

Thanks, Trish and Cowboy
O my! You have certainly had your share of horse troubles! Hope this goes away completely and quickly. The only good thing I can say about this, is all the handling makes a good bond with your horse.

Good luck with the neighbors.

I've heard many people say the flies are bad this year.
I had an older mare with Piegon Fever (chest abscess) eary this spring. Vet came out and treated it and said to let in run it's course. She was seeing quite a few cases here in central OK. Did not have anyone else develop it.
I have delt with this back home in California. I found the lump on her chest , it was as bug as a small apple. Warm compress as someone suggested . Once the skin is thin enough to lance it easily , you may do so , make a small opening near the bottom area to allow drainage , not to small that it wont continue draining and you cant get a syringe in to clean it , but not too big that its a huge hole ... Once its drained she will feel a lot better . We rinced it with distilled wated then betodine that can be used inside wounds with a syringe , lots or syringing with Betodine, there is a red labled one and a blue labled one , one is for inside and one for outside the wound , and it was diluted with warm water . I dont remember bandaging it up , maybe because of the position... I do remember having to re open it every day as it would stick together and not continue draining . It was 10 years ago so I dont remember shots , but possibly meds in pill form, I just did the washing 3 times a day . All horses ran together in a free herd , no one else got it , and I learned that it is a bacteria living in soil... Everything was over with in a few weeks , and horsey was good as new ... Dont worry , everything will be fine , its just a small set back and a bit of extra work and TLC : ) sorry that your going through this though , its never fun to watch your loved one go through an illness.
Pigeon fever has been rampant here since last summer. We had a filly with it last year who never abscessed - she ran a high fever, was lethargic and had swelling on her chest but even with ultrasound the vet never located anything to lance. Hers went away on its own. Next was a stallion, last fall - his came to a head and burst while I was at Nationals, so I just isolated him when I came home and flushed it.. also healed with no problem. I have a gelding now whose sheath has been swollen for at least a month/6 weeks. Not an area the vet wants to go indiscriminately poking around, and they said just hydro and watch it. I don't know what to do with him at this point - he feels good, eats, plays, and the swelling has gone down quite a bit but one side of his sheath is still hard and enlarged. He has been on Karbo Combo since we first noticed it, am hoping that's helping his body resolve it.

It has been nearly epidemic in our area - besides my own, I know of at least half a dozen or more just in our immediate area and some with age/compromised immune systems have had multiple abscesses. I guess it's not the worst thing to deal with, it's just ugly lol.

Wild oak....This sounds a lot like the type we are dealing with in our area. Swelling but no abcess.

The first day the horses limp, second day swelling, fever. Third day no fever but hard "mass" in the armpit area. With edema around it. The vet here has seen several cases. The swelling in my horses armpit is decreased, however there is still a hard area. Its been 3 weeks.

Wild oak, are you located NE Houston by chance?
Nope, I'm northeast of Austin. Vets here say they used to see a few cases a year, now they are seeing multiple cases every week. Hope it will run its course and let us alone for awhile.

Good evening forum family,

Cowboy is acting like his old self again. I'm flushing the opening twice a day and giving him the anti-biotic (powder) in his feed at evening meal. Make sure I spray him down good with fly spray and then spray down Duke. The lump has decreased in size.

Thanks, Trish and Cowboy
Glad to hear Cowboy is much better!

I sure hope this is about done in our area also....

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