Pigeon Fever

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Pigeon Fever

This is a discussion on Pigeon Fever within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category
  • Best way to deal with pigeon fever at a barn
  • Will my horse feel sick with pigeon fever

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    12-06-2012, 04:41 PM
Pigeon Fever

We had an outbreak of Pigeon Fever at our barn. I had never heard of it before. My horse did not get it. We had about 8 horses get sick. It presented itself with chest and leg abscesses.

None of the horses were seriously ill. I think we are over it now, but its been several months. But we have had no new cases in the past few weeks.
This is something that generally is not in this area. Changing climate I think ,we had a really dry/hot summer.

Anyone else have any experience with Pigeon Fever ?
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    12-06-2012, 07:50 PM
Super Moderator
We are in a 2 year drought with record high temps. We saw our first two cases this year. The horses were both in different big herds and only one from each herd got it. Sometimes it seems contagious but both of these just got it out of the blue and never passed it on. They were never even across a fence from each other and got it 3 or 4 months apart. Both quickly recovered.

You now know everything I know about the stuff.
    12-06-2012, 07:54 PM
Our vet told us this is going to be a really bad year, and there's going to be a significant outbreak in our area, central Texas. I have found just as soon as the abscess busts open, ichthammol squirted in the abscess draws out infection effectively.
    12-06-2012, 10:16 PM
Super Moderator
I did not touch mine. My old Vet said it would take about a month for them to clear up completely if I left them alone and would take about 4 weeks if I doctored them. Soooo - I did nothing -- and sure enough, they broke, drained, dried up and were completely healed in less than a month.
    12-06-2012, 10:26 PM
It was really hit or miss at our barn, which ones got it and others didn't. All abscesses were left alone until they ruptured. Then most just kept them flushed and clean. Some of the vets gave antibiotics , some did not. All the horses are getting better.
    12-07-2012, 10:34 AM
2 years ago my mare breeze got pigeon fever. Had 4 horses and she was the only one to get it. It presented as a swollen area on her chest, and thought initially she just got kicked again but didnt go down, sent pics to my vet and he said looks like pigeon fever. He said there are two kinds, one that is internal and you wont see it they will just be lame or not act normal, and then there is the external abcess that developes, which are the best kind because they are visable. Told me to wait a few days and when the spot looks like it was coming to a head to call him and he would come out and lance it. So it did , he came out, he told me to have a stall ready, also had a bucket with garbage bag on hand to drain the abcess into once he lanced it. Everything worked as planned, kept her up for a few days, was advised to spray scarlet oil in the wound a couple times a day until healed. No antibiotics, they arent even recommended unless dealing with internal pigeon fever, because those eventually get obsorbed by the horses body, so will need antibiotics then. Vet actually said he feels its more of a immunity thing with horses(course my accident prone horse was the one to get it), he said you can have a barn of 100 horses and only 2 get it...so doesnt feel its something that is spread like strangles. Course I made sure I disposed of anything that got drained on after abcess was drained. The positive thing is she can't get it again if drought brings it back. You can't even tell where the abcess was. It was just overwelming because of the unknown factor but now that it was over it just seems like it wasnt that big of deal.
    12-07-2012, 10:09 PM
Super Moderator
The difference between your Vet and my Vet is that mine told me it was a waste of his time and my money to have him come out and treat it. He said it is just a money maker for Vets and horses clear up just the same (like mine did) if you never touch them.

He said to call him back should mine get real sick and go off feed. Neither did. I did not even call him when the second one got it several months later.
    12-10-2012, 10:36 AM
Yes. My horse is getting over it right now. He's the only one who got it. We have never had it in our area (western KY) until this summer, when a lot of cases came up because we had a drought.
We think my horse got it because this summer he had a big open cut and it could have gotten in that way.
Anyway, now here it's super wet, as it has rained for the past four days, and the bacteria doesn't do well in wet climates, so hopefully it'll all be over soon.
I haven't ridden this horse in over a month! Am I going to have some work to do pretty soon!
    12-10-2012, 11:09 AM
Years ago I worked at a guest ranch as a wrangler. Luckily our barn manager was a large animal vet, because about a dozen of the horses got it.
It was awful! We were always draining the puss/blood.
So gross.
If I remember correctly, flies transmit it, so keeping everything contained properly and cleaned up was not easy.
    12-22-2012, 11:32 AM
So...I have heard that horses can die from it, what factors cause the death. On the news this morning, I got a bit of a scare because they said more and more cases are coming up here in Kansas. What can I do to help prevent it besides the basic spraying of flyspray?

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