Pigeon Fever in Horses

What Is Pigeon Fever?

Pigeon Fever is also called Colorado strangles or dryland distemper. It is a very contagious condition. Through an insect bite or break in the horse’s skin, Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis enters the horse’s body. Once the bacteria have entered your horse’s skin, there may be external abscesses, internal abscesses, or ulcerative lymphangitis.

  • The vast majority of horses develop external abscesses, which can form anywhere along the body or limbs, but are most commonly seen on the midline of the belly and in the pectoral (chest) region.
  • Some horses develop a fever, but not all.
  • Internal abscesses are more difficult to diagnose. They can develop when bacteria are carried into the horse's body and infect internal organs.The horse may not show external signs of an abscess but they may develop one or more of these symptoms: lethargy, coughing, weight loss and decreased appetite.
  • Ulcerative lymphangitis accounts for less than 1% of Pigeon Fever cases. This form causes swelling and ulcerations on the horse's lower legs, and is extremely painful.
Pigeon Fever in horses

Pigeon Fever in Horses Treatment

banixx for horsesMost veterinarians agree that lancing the abscess and collecting the pus, instead of having the wound drain and further contaminate the soil, is preferred. Flies collecting on pus or infected soil could spread the disease. If the horse does not have an external abscess, but the hallmark symptoms are there such as: lethargy, coughing, weight loss and decreased appetite, then bloodwork will reveal the diagnosis. Once lanced and pus is carefully collected (so as not to attract more disease via fly dispersion), the application of a quality anti-bacterial solution such as Banixx Horse & Pet Care is recommended.  Banixx is a unique low pH solution. Most bacteria simply cannot survive in a low pH environment, so apply Banixx, and goodbye infection.  Studies have shown that The Big Three Bacteria; Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and two major fungi; Aspergillus and Candida disappear when Banixx is applied. Banixx also has a ‘kill’ rate of better than 99% after one minute.

Pretty impressive, right? But wait – Banixx’s effectiveness is shown to keep climbing to what veterinarians call a ‘7 log reduction’, which is equal to 99.99999%.  Another great reason to keep Banixx on hand is that it can be used for a myriad of ailments, and has a 4-year shelf life that isn’t affected by freezing or extreme heat. The pH doesn’t change, and so it remains tissue-friendly, with no clinical odor or sting to traumatize your horse, dog, or other pets.

Why is it called Pigeon Fever?

The name probably came from the large external abscesses that form on the chest, giving the horse a pigeon-like silhouette. The first reported cases of Pigeon Fever were in 1915, around the San Francisco Bay area of California, which leads to another misconception, that Pigeon Fever is a California, or a west coast problem. Pigeon Fever has spread to 25 states, Mexico and western Canada.

Cases have been diagnosed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Scientists aren’t sure why the disease is spreading. Climate change may be responsible. Pigeon Fever used to be considered a problem mainly in summer and fall, but is now diagnosed year-round. The C. pseudotuberculosis bacteria can persist in soil for long periods of time, especially in dry weather. Serious droughts in the past few years may have contributed to the migration.

How do horses contract the disease? Horses may be infected by flies which are contaminated with the bacteria from the soil, or the discharge from an infected horse.

What to do if you suspect your horse may have Pigeon Fever. First, consult with your veterinarian. There are many reasons a horse could develop an abscess. Proper diagnosis is key, and your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and/or pain management drugs.

Do I have to quarantine a horse with Pigeon Fever? There is rarely more than one horse at a time infected with Pigeon Fever; it isn’t spread like influenza. Keeping the infected horse quarantined is not normally necessary. However, not letting draining pus infect soil or bedding is important, as is diligent attention to fly control. Clean stalls religiously. Apply fly repellant and fly sheets. Good biosecurity is important, and if new horses are brought onto the premises, bear in mind that a horse with Pigeon Fever can take three to four weeks before showing signs.

How worried should I be?  Pigeon Fever isn’t as deadly as many other diseases, but it is serious. With an external abscess, the disease can take weeks to run its course. With an internal abscess, horses have a guarded prognosis, calling a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis is best. Also, having pus samples sent in for culturing and antibiotic sensitivity testing will help veterinarians who are researching the disease. Buy Banixx or buy online.

Click here to read about Pigeon Fever Myths

Customer Testimonial:
"I just wanted to tell you about how happy I am with the Banixx wound care spray. My horse came down with Pigeon Fever about a month ago. This was my first experience with this awful disease and the wound that he ended up with after the abscess burst was awful. It was about 5 inches across and deep. During my research on treating Pigeon Fever, an ad popped up for Banixx and I ordered some immediately. I am so amazed with the results! My gelding's wound is almost completely healed and it seemed like I could see the improvement daily. His hair has grown back in around the area and I doubt there will by any indication that he ever had such an awful wound. It helped to clean the area and my horse never-minded the application of the spray. I am a totally happy new customer and I will never be without it in my medicine cabinet or my horse trailer. Thanks for the great product, and my horse thanks you too!."Judy Miller, via Facebook