Pigeon Fever (Horse)

Posted on Feb 3, 2016 in Main

February 2016


Pigeon fever is a disease of horses that occurs sporadically in Hawaii.   An unusual recent surge in cases on Maui may be related to weather conditions and increased fly population observed in the later part of 2015. Over thirty (30) cases of Pigeon Fever in horses have been diagnosed in Maui horses since last fall.

Pigeon Fever is caused by a bacterium – Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis – that gains entry through a wound or fly bite and causes the formation of abscesses, most commonly on the chest wall and lower abdomen. Pigeon Fever got its name from swelling that resembles a pigeon’s breast. Other forms of the bacterial infection – limb involvement and internal abscesses – occur less frequently.

Examination and treatment by a veterinarian is important. An external abscess may not be obvious; rather the first symptom may be lameness or swelling of the sheath (in males), lower chest, abdomen or hind legs. A blood test may be required to diagnose an internal abscess.  Consult your horse’s veterinarian on the best course of treatment.

There is no commercial vaccine currently available against Pigeon Fever.  Owners can protect their animals and limit the spread of this disease by practicing good biosecurity:

  • Isolate an infected horse from other horses and keep them home until healed;
  • An infected horse should not share tack, feed or water buckets, or stall cleaning equipment with uninfected horses;
  • Protect horses from insect exposure by frequent application of insect repellant; and
  • Prevent contamination of the environment from abscess drainage material.
  • Additional biosecurity information:


For more information on Pigeon Fever, see: