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Pigeon Fever Cases Confirmed in Northwest Florida

Recently, at least 4 cases of pigeon fever have been confirmed by a local large animal veterinarian.  Pigeon Fever is an infection caused by the bacteria, Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis.  There are 3 forms of this disease:  external abscesses, internal infection, ulcerative lymphangitis (limb infections).  The most common form is external abscesses of the pectoral or ventral abdomen causing swelling in the horse’s chest, resembling that of a pigeon’s breast.  The disease is spread via flies, such as horn flies, stable flies, and houseflies.  It can also be spread by horse-to-horse contact and through contaminated soils.

Pigeon Fever is sometimes called Dryland distemper because it frequently occurs in the western United States.  Drought conditions seem to encourage outbreaks of this disease.  Our area is still experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions making conditions favorable for an outbreak.

Symptoms to look for include external abscesses, fever, excessive lameness, decrease appetite, and lethargy.  Dr. Reese Williamson advises if you have a horse with a fever above 102°F or goes off feed or is excessively lame, call a veterinarian.  Treatment must be individualized for the horse, the form of disease and the locations of the abscesses.

Since no vaccine currently exists, the only prevention is fly control, good sanitation and proper wound care.  Isolate infected horses.  Dispose of contaminated bedding.  Use fly sprays, feed through fly control, fly parasites or adult fly traps to decrease fly populations.  Proper wound care of all horses is important.  An open wound is an easy way for the bacteria to enter and infect the horse.  Clean wounds carefully and use products such as fly repellent ointment on wounds.


Spier, Sharon. “Three Forms of Pigeon Fever.” The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care July (2010). Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=17663>.

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/ag/2012/04/17/pigeon-fever-cases-confirmed-in-northwest-florida/


  1. Becky Buckland

    Where in north Florida were the cases confirmed?

    1. Jennifer Bearden

      Okaloosa and Walton Counties

  2. Brenda Schlegel

    Thanks for the information via Mary Sell on Facebook.

  3. Elisa Wenturine

    Is it safe to travel to these counties with horses for clinics where they will be stabled together?

    1. Jennifer Bearden

      It is safe to travel to these counties. Use plenty of fly repellent while here. Make sure stall and stable areas are clean while here. The mortality rate is fairly low. For external abscesses, it is about 1% and for internal infection, it is about 30%. External abscess infections are the most common form (91% of all cases reported are external).

  4. Christy Ahrens

    I live in Central Texas & my mare contracted Pigeon Fever last week. I took her to my vet last Wednesday morning at 10am & she said that she had already seen 10 horses come through since that Monday…in 2 days!!! It is a growing problem around my area & all we can do is amp up fly prevention…traps, sprays, predators, etc… Just keep a close eye on your horses for anything different or any unusual bumps. Good luck!!! = )

  5. Jennifer Bearden

    Still cases of Pigeon Fever being diagnosed in Okaloosa County. Remember to use fly control!

  6. Crystal

    Does anyone know what cities or towns are infected with Pigeon Fever? I live in Okaloosa county and have horses.

    1. Jennifer Bearden

      North Okaloosa and Walton counties right now. It can be spread by flies so it is hard to contain! Fly repellent is your best defense!

  7. Michele

    What is the total count on cases now? Has here been any cases in other counties or other surrounding areas? Thanks.

    1. Jennifer Bearden

      Last count I had was 35 which was last week. It is still currently in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.

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