The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) recently released an update on "pigeon fever," otherwise known as dry-land distemper
or dry-land strangles, in response to an increase in calls and questions about the disease. "Pigeon fever," which causes abscesses
and swelling in a horse's pectoral region, is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. The disease is most
commonly seen in dry areas of the western United States but can be found in other parts of the country as well if conditions
With Texas experiencing its most expensive drought in history in 2011, the number of "pigeon fever" cases rose substantially
last year, the TAHC says. The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory obtained more than 350 positive cultures for
the disease-causing bacteria in 2011 compared with fewer than 100 cases each year from 2005 to 2010. Additionally, the Veterinary
Medical Teaching Hospital at Texas A&M diagnosed more than four times as many cases in 2011 compared with 2010.
The outbreak of cases last year has been attributed to the fact that C. pseudotuberculosis thrives in dry soil. Flies carry the disease and are crucial to transmission, says the TAHC, so fly control is critical to
disease prevention. The TAHC also states that basic sanitation is of paramount importance in reducing the spread of disease
and recommends that horse owners and veterinarians take measures to isolate affected horses and dispose of abscess drainage
properly. Any visible wounds should be treated promptly, as they can quickly become contaminated with flies and dirt. Because
of the infectious nature of this disease, the TAHC is encouraging horse owners to call their veterinarian immediately at the
first sign of illness.