• Pigeon Fever

    Pigeon Fever

    We have seen a lot of cases of Pigeon Fever, sometimes called dry land distemper, in the John Day Valley in the past couple of years. Our area is endemic for the disease, meaning it is here to stay. This infectious disease is caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis in horses. Usually insects transmit the infection to a horse through a bite. The most common places for the bacterial abscesses to occur are places where flies often bite horses: on the chest, like Thunder here is the picture has, near the sheath or udder, or along the bottom of the belly line. The disease has nothing to do with pigeons, and gets its name from the way some infected horses look: a big swollen chest like a pigeon's. The bacteria can be spread from horse to horse through skin abrasions also, so avoid sharing tack, brushes, and feeding troughs between healthy horses and those with abscesses. The bacteria can also infect any other animal or person who handles the abscess and has a skin abrasion. Any person with a compromised immune system should not be handling an infected horse. The disease can cause severe discomfort, so affected horses can be given anti-inflammatories as they heal; many cases heal without the need for antibiotic treatment. Occasionally, horses will get more serious internal abscesses, and these horses usually do need antibiotics. Effective insect repellents are your best defense against getting Pigeon Fever in your horses. There is now a conditionally licensed vaccine against pigeon fever available, which shows promise. Please call us if you have any questions about your horse or this disease.