Texas horses suffer 'pigeon fever'

Published On: May 31 2012 02:58:02 AM CDT
horse-with-pigeon-fever
SAN ANTONIO -

Drought, flies and dust are turning out to be a recipe for a horse infection that is tearing it's way though Texas for the first time.

It's called pigeon fever and even though it's been frightening horse owners in the western United States for years, it has never shown up in Texas until now.

Dr. Mike Martin with Retama Equine Hospital in Selma says it's one of the nastiest infections around and a mystery as to why it's now here.

"A lot of the experts think that the drought had something to do with it and of course that's when we saw all the cases of it. We had the drought, then the heavy rains," said Martin.

Experts say pigeon fever is not caused by pigeons. It got the name because in many horses, it causes the chest to swell up very large like a pigeon's. In other horses, the edema can happen anywhere like on the stomach.

"Some of these horses can have basketball sized abscesses and take weeks to run its course," Martin said.

The infection comes from a bacteria, but the source of the bacteria is unknown. The carrier may be flies, which are found in every stable.

"The flies pick up the bacteria somewhere, and it gets on the horse and enters the body somehow on the horse," Martin said.

There is no known vaccine for pigeon fever so vets in Texas are getting ready to see more cases.