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Medical Index
First Posted: Dec 9, 2009
Updated: Aug 6, 2013Aug 6, 2013

Horse Pigeon Fever

External Abscess

Once thought to be only in the California area or dry areas in the west, Pigeon Fever is now being seen in other areas of the country including Kentucky. Pigeon Fever is an intercellular bacterial disease, Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. It is soil borne and is able to live in the soil for up to 8 months. Pigeon fever is transmitted to horses by flies. Severity of symptoms can be different for each horse depending on various factors such as age, immune system, health and nutrition. The healthier the horse the more the immune system will suppress or minimize the symptoms.


  • Fever
  • Loss of weight
  • Lameness
  • Change in demeanor
  • Sweats, stiffness and sensitivity around abscesses
  • External abscesses (chest, sheath, abdomen lower body)
  • Internal abscesses


  • Ultrasound
  • Culture
  • Titer blood test


The use of anti microbian treatments and draining pus is used to treat pigeon fever. The prognosis depends on the severity of the disease. Sometimes the disease will just run its course much like a common cold. The horse will build up antibodies. Heat packs are also used to draw out pus from the abscesses. Drawing salves such as Ichthammol can also be used. Presently there is no vaccine for pigeon fever. It is important to have good sanitation, fly control, proper manure disposal and wound care. Do not feed horses on the ground as the bacteria lives in the soil. An anti-inflammatory such as bute can be used to control pain and swelling.

For More Information:

Equine Emerging Diseases Reviewed
Pigeon Fever: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Medical Index