Pigeon Fever Detected in Florida Horses

More than 60 suspected cases of pigeon fever in horses have occurred in Florida this year, according to a July 3 news release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Animal Industry Division. The majority of the cases have been identified in Okaloosa, Walton, and Marion counties, the release said.

"Historically, the disease has primarily been seen in dry, hot areas of the country such as California and Texas," the release read. "However, in recent years pigeon fever has spread further east, with recent outbreaks in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and now Florida."

Pigeon fever, also known as drought distemper, is an infection caused in horses by the Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis bacterium. The condition produces mild fever and pectoral abscesses that give an appearance similar to a pigeon's protruding breast. The abscesses can also appear along the horse's belly, on lower neck region, on limbs, or on the face. Less commonly, the condition can produce deep abscesses in a horse's lungs, kidneys, or liver.

Pigeon fever is spread via insects and horse-to-horse contact, and horses can also contract the disease when bacteria from contaminated soil enters their bodies through cuts, scrapes or mucous membranes. There is no vaccination to protect horses against pigeon fever.

"Horse owners with a horse showing signs of pigeon fever should have the horse examined by a veterinarian," the release said. "The only definitive method of determining if a horse has pigeon fever is by culture of the bacteria."

Owners in affected areas should closely monitor their horses for signs of pigeon fever. Owners whose horses exhibit signs of pigeon fever should contact a veterinarian for treatment options. In confirmed cases, infected horses should be isolated from other equids, and owners should implement good biosecurity practices.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, News Editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado, and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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