There has been a surge in reported cases of pigeon fever in Texas during the past year. With summer and fly season in full swing, now is the perfect time for horse owners to become aware and educated about pigeon fever.

There is no vaccine for the disease, so prevention and recognition of its symptoms are of the upmost importance. The disease is named after the symptomatic intramuscular abscesses and swelling of the chest and pectoral regions of infected horses, causing a "pigeon-like" appearance. The infection is confirmed with a bacterial culture in reported cases.

Pigeon fever, also known as dryland distemper, is common in drier regions like the western United States. The bacterium that causes pigeon fever, Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, lives and multiplies in dry soil and manure. While pigeon fever is not new to Texas, the past year has seen a rapid increase in reported cases, most likely as a result of the severe drought.

Keith Chaffin. DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, commented on the disease and the increase in incidence: "We now see about three or four cases a day in the clinic. And many more veterinarians are reporting cases across the state."

Horses contract the disease through an open wound or fly bite, with bacteria entering through these abrasions or wounds. Chaffin recommends a good fly control program for your horses (sprays, sheets, and repellents), a basic biosecurity program, and recognizing the symptoms quickly to ensure prompt treatment. While most of the cases present with external swelling, some c