IN FO­CUS: PI­GEON FEVER

EQUUS - - Case Report -

 His­tory: Also called dry­land dis­tem­per or Colorado stran­gles, pi­geon fever was first re­ported in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area in 1915. For much of the 20th cen­tury it was al­most ex­clu­sively found in the South­west and Cal­i­for­nia. About 20 years ago, how­ever, pi­geon fever be­gan ap­pear­ing in other re­gions. Out­breaks have since been re­ported in Ken­tucky, Wy­oming, Utah, Ore­gon, Idaho and the pan­han­dle of Florida. The in­crease in hot, dry con­di­tions re­lated to cli­mate change is thought to be con­tribut­ing to the spread of the dis­ease.  Cause: Pi­geon fever de­vel­ops when Co­rynebac­terium pseu­do­tu­ber­cu­lo­sis bac­te­ria en­ter a horse’s body via in­sect bites or breaks in the skin. On farms where the dis­ease has been iden­ti­fied, up to 20 per­cent of flies may carry the bac­te­ria.  Signs: swollen chest and mid­line, due to ab­scesses form­ing in the mus­cles near the sur­face in those ar­eas. This gives the horse the “pi­geon-breasted” look. Af­fected horses may not de­velop a fever. For the small per­cent­age who de­velop in­ter­nal ab­scesses, signs take longer to be­come ap­par­ent and may in­clude cough­ing, lethargy, de­creased ap­petite and/or weight loss.  Di­ag­no­sis: Lab­o­ra­tory test­ing is cru­cial to di­ag­no­sis. Sam­ples can be taken from ab­scesses near the sur­face and cul­tured for C. pseu­do­tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. When ab­scesses are in­ter­nal, blood­work will be done to look for signs of in­flam­ma­tion as well as an­ti­bod­ies to the re­spon­si­ble bac­te­ria. These re­sults, along with ul­tra­sound im­ages and clin­i­cal signs, lead to the di­ag­no­sis.  Treat­ment: When pos­si­ble, ab­scesses are sur­gi­cally opened and drained. The re­sult­ing wounds are kept clean and an­tibi­otics may be pre­scribed. An­tibi­otics are used to treat in­ter­nal ab­scesses, and other med­i­ca­tions may be ad­min­is­tered to con­trol po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to the af­fected lo­ca­tion.  Prog­no­sis: Most horses re­cover fully, but it may take weeks for the dis­ease to run its course. Horses with in­ter­nal ab­scesses have a guarded prog­no­sis.

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