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Equine Melanoma: What Options Have We?

By Grant Miller, DVM, October 20, 2014

melanoma3  
 
 
Whether we care to admit it, virtually 100% of grey horses either have, or eventually will have melanoma.  The white hair and black skin which define a grey horse prime it to get this form of cancer by optimizing ultraviolet light penetration into the skin.  Melanoma tumors are encapsulated masses made up of cancerous pigment producing cells.  They can range in size from a small pea to a baseball and are most commonly located:

 

·        In the perianal/ rectal area

·        On or under the tail

·        In the croup area

·        In the throatlatch region just below the ears and extending down the curvature

         of the jaw (mandible)

·        In the commissures of the lips

·        In the sheath

 

Make no mistake about it- if you see a melanoma on the surface of your horse’s skin, there are going to me more internally.  In other words - there is never just one.  Also keep in mind that benign, dormant melanomas that are not disrupting body functions do not necessarily need to be addressed.  You and your veterinarian must make the determination for your horse based on individual circumstances.  In general, if melanomas are disrupting eating, defecation, urination or are inhibiting performance, treatment should be considered. 

 

For decades equine veterinarians had very few options to treat melanomas. But as our horse population continues to survive longer due to advances in veterinary medicine and better horse husbandry by owners, the push to find options for horses stricken for melanoma has led to some promising treatments.  They include:

 

1.   Many veterinarians are setting up routine minor surgeries to remove melanomas by traditional scalpel blade excision.  This can be done with the horse standing under sedation using a local anesthetic.  Often the veterinarian will take between 5 and 10 melanomas out of the lips, tail and perianal area.  As time progresses, veterinarians and owners get a handle on the melanomas and remove them when they are small.  This option is less useful for larger melanomas or for situations in which multiple melanomas have coalesced.

 

2.   Laser removal is also gaining popularity since it cuts and cauterizes in one procedure, leaving the horse with a burn/ scab rather than a row of sutures that are put in place with traditional scalpel excision.  Lasers are precise but require an operator who has training and experience in using them.  They are often utilized for larger melanoma removal or for palliative excision of multiple clusters of tumors.

 

3.   Melanoma vaccines are being developed and tested in several veterinary schools around the world.  The vaccines are generally designed to prime the body to target and attack antigens (in this case a foreign protein) on the melanoma cell surface.  To determine if a vaccine is available through a veterinary teaching hospital in your area, contact the large animal clinic of a school in your area and inquire.

 

4.   Intralesional chemotherapy: Veterinarians now have the ability to inject or implant chemotherapeutic agents directly into the tumors.  Cisplatin beads are one such example.  Some chemotherapeutic agents are easy to obtain while others require veterinarians to obtain special authorization from health authorities.  They do not result in systemic illness that is commonly experience by people taking chemotherapeutics.

 

5.   Intralesional gene therapy: This involves injecting DNA segments that code for interleukins (molecules that promote an inflammatory response) directly into equine melanomas.  While in early stages of development, clinical trials of gene therapy show very promising results in getting tumors to regress.

 

If you own a grey horse, perform routine thorough checks of the entire body by running your hands over it to check for firm nodules or bumps.  If you find a suspicious mass, having your veterinarian take a look and developing a treatment plan early on is best.  If your horse already has multiple melanomas, knowing where and how many there are can be useful in determining how aggressive the malignancy is.  This may influence your decision on treatment(s).

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Coffin Bone Fracture

By Grant Miller, DVM, October 10, 2014

facture1

Radiograph of a coffin bone fracture.

Most of us equate fractures in the horse’s leg  to a grave prognosis, but surprisingly, this isn’t necessarily the case.  One such example is with fractures of the third phalanx bone (PIII.)  This bone is better known as the coffin bone because it is encased completely inside the hoof capsule just as a body is in a coffin.  It serves a vital role in the horse’s physiology.  The lamina that adhere the hoof capsule to the skeleton attach on the dorsal surface of the coffin bone, and the digital extensor and flexor tendons that facilitate limb movement anchor to it.  Without a functional coffin bone, one may conclude that the horse has no chance for survival. However, in the case of coffin bone fracture, horses can have a shot at recovery.   

Coffin bone fractures are classified by type.  Each of the 7 types has a distinct fracture pattern and prognosis.

coffin-bone-fractures2

Type 1

A common fracture involving the “wing” of the coffin bone. There are two wings which are located in the palmar (heel) region of the bone on the inside (medial) aspect, and the outside (lateral) aspect. These fractures are often called “chip” fractures and involve a relatively small piece of the bone. They do not extend up to the coffin joint space. Prognosis for return to soundness and usability is good provided that the horse receives proper treatment.

Type 2

Also a common fracture which involves a larger portion of the coffin bone. The fracture will extend longitudinally up the bone from the distal to the proximal aspect. These fractures extend into the coffin joint space. Because they destabilize the joint space, secondary osteoarthritis as a long term sequelae is common. Approximately 50 to 60% of horses with this type of fracture return to soundness and athletic performance, provided that proper treatment is instituted.

Type 3

A less common fracture which extends longitudinally up the midline of the bone (splitting it right down the middle.) Like Type 2 fractures, this also extends into the coffin joint space. These fractures are more difficult to heal than Type 1s and 2s and less than half of the horses that recover from them are completely sound. Many of these horses are suitable for pasture and light riding, but not always capable of competition due to the secondary osteoarthritis that occurs in the coffin joint space as a result of joint damage from the fracture.

Type 4

This is a fracture of the extensor process- a bony protuberance which sticks up off of the top of the bone on the dorsal midline. It serves as a point of attachment for the long digital extensor tendon and therefore serves an important role in movement of the limb. It also involves the coffin joint, and so like Type 2 and 3 fractures, secondary arthritis can occur after it heals.

Type 5

This is a comminuted fracture which means that the bone has several cracks in it. It can extend all the way up the bone into the coffin joint but doesn’t always. This type of fracture carries a poorer prognosis than the others.

Type 6

Also known as a “solar margin chip fracture” this type involves a horizontal piece of bone chipping off somewhere along the edge of the bone closest to the ground. It does not involve the coffin joint space and so prognosis is generally good and return to athletic work is hopeful.

Type 7

A specific type of solar margin chip fracture that occurs near the wing tip in foals.

 

Fracture management techniques vary tremendously depending on the type of fracture, owner capabilities (including finances, time commitment, and facilities,) and other factors such as the age of the horse and additional physical problems.  In most cases, the veterinarian will institute the following basic fracture management strategies:

 

1.    Characterize the fracture by having your veterinarian take radiographs and make an accurate diagnosis as to the type and severity of the fracture.  Your vet can then outline a treatment program and also talk with your farrier about trimming and shoeing the horse to reduce forces on the fractured bone (see #2).

 

2.    Stabilize the fracture by working with a farrier to apply a bar shoe to the hoof.  This protects the rim of the hoof, can alleviate pain, and will prevent instability by creating a solid support structure which limits expansion of the hoof capsule.

 

3.    Limit mobility of the horse by confining the horse to a stall.

 

4.    Provide deep bedding not only to pad the hoof but also to promote laying down by providing a comfortable environment.

 

5.    Give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications such as bute or Previcox to limit inflammation and subsequently reduce pain.  *Remember- using pain as a way to limit your horses movement is not a good strategy for humane reasons.  In addition, pain itself has been shown to involve chemical mediators which will prohibit healing.  Don’t make your horse stand on a broken bone for months in excruciating pain- curb it with medication!

 

6.    Tincture of time is a cornerstone in coffin fracture management.  Expect resolution to take at least 6 months- assuming that other aspects of fracture management listed above are being effectively implemented.

 

Although not among the more common therapies, the following are also possible options to treat a fractured coffin bone:

 

·        Surgery involving the placement of a permanent screw in the bone can be useful for types 2, 3, 4 and sometimes 5 fractures.  Types 1,6 and 7 fractures can be treated by surgical removal of the chip.  The healing time for any surgery is extensive as the entire hoof capsule needs to regrow after the procedure.  This can take upwards of one year.  Complications such as infection are also possible with surgery.

 

·        The use of bisphosphonate medications such as OsPhos and Tildren for the treatment of coffin bone fractures may be beneficial since these medications enhance calcium resorption in bone.  Bisphosphonates should not be used during the first month of the fracture since they inhibit cells that are actually instrumental in cleaning up the area before new bone can be formed.  Their efficacy to assist in fracture repair in horses has not been proven, so the addition of bisphosphonates to fracture treatment would be purely empirical.

 

Waiting for 6 months can drive horse owners (and the horses for that matter) crazy!  It is a long and difficult haul- but there can be a light at the end of the tunnel!  Don’t give up too soon on coffin bone fractures- they are not necessarily terminal.

 

To learn more about coffin bone fractures, we recommend an excellent guide published by the American Farrier’s Journal called Anatomy and Fractures of the Coffin Bone.

 

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Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy

By Grant Miller, DVM, October 06, 2014

pemf-therapy1_edited-1  







 Dr. Michael Reuben D.C. applies a PEMF therapy session.







 

As I made my rounds to my barns this past weekend, I was reminded of another interesting therapy modality called Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy, also known as PEMF. 

 

PEMF is a dynamic FDA-approved therapy for humans that has more recently begun transitioning into the animal realm.  It is dynamic because the magnetic field that is created by a PEMF machine is a result of a live electrical current that runs through a coiled wire.  Any time you run electricity in a loop, you create a magnetic field in the area inside the loop.  The electrical current can be turned on and off at rates ranging from once per second to thousands of times per second- thus changing the frequency of the magnetic field. 

 

What is the magnetic field doing?  Primarily, it increases circulation by causing vasodilation.  It also increases cellular metabolism by helping cells to utilize oxygen.

 

PEMF therapy in horses has been named Equipulse.  It can be performed on just about any areas of the horse’s body, and horses generally do not need to be sedated in order to receive a treatment.  Treatments to the upper neck and head are unlikely to be tolerated well without sedation since the treatment causes muscle contraction from the induction of nerve firing.  The soft hose coils that generate the magnetic field do not even need to touch the body in order to work, and the average treatment lasts about 10 minutes.  After about 10 to 12 minutes, no further beneficial effect will be gained by PEMF. So in this case, more is not better.

pemf-fetlock1_edited-1  







 PEMF can be applied to virtually any area of the horse's body without sedation.







 
PEMF has gained widespread fame because of its ability to stimulate bone repair and healing of non-union (non-healing) fractures.  But it has also been reported to be beneficial in treating arthritis, muscle injury/ pain, edema/ inflammation, and other musculoskeletal issues such as soft-tissue inuries or range-of-motion limitations.  For more information on what it treats and how, click here.

 

I decided to give it a try myself and I sat for a 6 minute session to receive treatment for a pesky ache coming from beneath my left shoulder blade.  The machine does not make any noise, but when it is on, it feels as if someone is patting you on the back.  The sensation is quite odd - your body rhythmically contracts as if you have the hiccups, and you can feel the pulse of the machine going all the way through your body.  Quite a memorable sensation! 

 

Immediately after I stood up from the treatment, my skin and subcutaneous tissue tingled in the location where the coil was held.  The pain was mildly reduced, but not by much.  However this morning, the pain is nearly gone.  I have lived with this recurrent ailment for many years and have gotten to know it quite well.  Normally, it would not give up so easily at this stage of the flare up, so I feel confident in reporting that the PEMF session did have a beneficial impact on it. 

 

You may be seeing folks begin to offer PEMF therapy in your area.  Always check with your veterinarian and make sure that any therapy session is performed under his or her supervision in order to keep your horse safe and comply with the law. I would encourage you to give this therapy a try for your horse- it is quick, non-invasive, horses seem to tolerate it well, and it may help.

 

See also: Magnetic Therapy and PEMF,

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Microchipping- What's the Issue?

By Grant Miller, DVM, September 29, 2014


LifeChip equine microchip.
 

This past weekend, a client asked me about microchipping one of her client’s horses.  She told me that her client wanted a microchip implanted in her horse, but that another veterinarian advised against it.  She explained that the other veterinarian was down on microchips due to the fact that there are too many different systems on the market and no single, central registry in which an owner can enter contact information, the microchip number and descriptive information about their horse.  

While all of this is true, many still feel that microchips are a relatively easy way to add a layer of protection for their horse in the event that something awful occurs.  In case you need a reminder of what can happen - here are three scenarios:

 

1.       Theft - Although less common now that horse slaughter takes place only outside the United States, it is still possible, especially in states that border Mexico and Canada.  The problem is that horses are not scanned at border crossings or at slaughter houses, so the chip is unlikely to help much here.

2.       Disaster - It seems that disasters are happening with increasing frequency these days.  Natural disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes are constantly battering our country.  Man-made disasters and acts of terror seem to be commonplace.  In these scenarios, animals are often caught in the turmoil, despite efforts to get owners to create and practice a disaster plan to address evacuation and sheltering needs (see February 2013 HJ). It is very likely, however, that displaced horses that end up in emergency shelters during disaster would be scanned for identification chips since most municipal disaster plans and humane sheltering groups have policies to scan animals on intake. A chip may pay off in this scenario.

3.       Loose Horse - What if you are on vacation and your horse gets loose?  It will likely be picked up by animal services. They will scan the horse on intake as a matter of procedure.  Imagine how much easier this mess would be to clean up if they could dial your number after checking a microchip number in a database?

When you think about the three scenarios above, #3 is most likely to happen, with #2 and #1 being a close tie for second place.  Given that a microchip can serve you well in two out of the three scenarios, it starts to make more sense to implant one.  Also, don’t forget that many breed registries including most of the warmblood breeds and the Arabian breed registry require microchips in order to register a horse.

If you decide to implant a chip…

 Microchip implanting is safe, quick and pretty simple.  The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and it is coated with a silicon coating that helps secure it in place underneath the skin midway down on the horse’s left neck in the vicinity of the nuchal ligament. There are chips on the market today such as the LifeChip, Pro-ID Equine chip, Home Again, and AVID Euro Chip that can be read by any type of scanner.  

Although the latter two were originally developed for dogs and cats, they have been used for years in horses.  All of these chips are good because they are ISO 11784 compliant.  What is this, might you ask?  ISO 11784 is an international standard set forth by the International Organization of Standardization that regulates the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchipping of animals.  Some of the standardized specifications of the chips (also known as transponders) include a 15-digit code and FDX-A&B typing (which refers to the ability of the chip to transmit information when scanned at different frequencies).  Anyway, enough geek-speak.  One thing you may want to keep in mind- out of all the chips listed above, only the LifeChip by Destron Fearing is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

 

Once you implant a chip - it is best to register it with as many microchip databases as possible.  Most of these databases offer lifetime enrollment for a single charge ranging from free to about $25.  They all allow unlimited edits to contact information.  Here is a list of the bigger databases:

·         Pettrac by AVID

·         Home Again

·         Found Animals

·         NetPosse Identification Program

·         The Jockey Club

·         Equine Protection Registry

 

This all seems easy, so… why is there controversy?

 

Lots of controversy exists about the standardization of microchip (RFID transponders) because there is not all companies produce chips with a 15-digit code.  Some make 9-digit codes, some make 10-digit codes.  In addition, there are still incompatibilities between certain chips and certain scanners. 

See, when this whole craze began back in the 1990s, the United States developed RFID chips that could be ready by a 125 kHz scanner.  Meanwhile, horses in the rest of the world were being implanted with RFID chips that could only be read by 134.2 kHz scanners.  Scanners are expensive, so the veterinarians and government agencies habitually have held onto their single-frequency scanners over the years, which has consequently allowed horses with incompatible microchips to slip by them.

The newest scanners read both the US Standard (125 kHz) and the International microchips (134.2 kHz) while the old scanners read only the US Standard microchips.  The newer scanners are known as ISO compliant scanners and are made according to specifications set forth in ISO 11785 by the International Organization of Standardization.  Here is more information about ISO chips and scanners.

Bottom Line: Due to problems with chip and scanner standardization, there is still a chance that even if scanned, your horse’s chip would not successfully be read by the scanner. But, my final thought is: There is definitely no chance that your horse will register on a scanner if you never implanted a chip in the first place.

Editor's Note: Are you an FEI-level competitor? You may enjoy John Strassburger's comments about the FEI's microchip rule beginnings. 

See also Dr. Deb Eldredge's article on other methods of equine identification.

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Pigeon Fever- Making its Rounds

By Grant Miller, DVM, September 22, 2014

 classic-chest-abscess-from-pigeon-fever
Classic chest abscess from pigeon fever. 

Two years, ago Horse Journal reminded readers about Pigeon Fever- a disease that traditionally has been linked to dry, arid conditions prevalent in the western and southwestern United States.  Flies carry and transmit the bacteria that causes it, called Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis.  Coryne loves warm, dry conditions and can exist in soil for quite a while.  One would think that these factors would inhibit Pigeon Fever from affecting horses in certain parts of the country, but this year is different- Pigeon Fever is popping up all over the United States.  At the height of the season, I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the common information.

 

1)      What is Pigeon Fever?

 

Pigeon Fever, rather ironically, does not involve pigeons at all, and only occasionally involves a fever.  It earned its name because many horses that contract it have their chest swell up to resemble a “pigeon breast.”  Also called Dryland Distemper (enter the drought conditions!), this disease results from infection with bacteria called Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis.

 

2)      Is Pigeon Fever contagious?

 

The good news is that humans cannot contract this infection from horses.  The bad news is that it is highly transmissible from horse to horse. 

 

3)      How is Pigeon Fever spread?

 

Pigeon fever is spread primarily through fomite transmission.  Fomites are things like flies, human hands, grooming equipment and tack- any object that can carry an infectious pathogen from one animal to another.  Among the fomites, flies are the most common culprit thought to spread Pigeon Fever.  The organism prefers to live and multiply in dry soil or manure.  Flies can pick it up on their mouth-piece and then move to the horse where they can bite and inoculate it into the skin.  If an infection takes off, the horse will begin to shed the bacteria from its body (nasal secretions, feces and pus from abscesses.)  Pus from abscesses is the most potent source of bacteria, and flies that come into contact with the pus present a significant risk to non-infected horses.  The most common fly species to carry and spread Pigeon Fever is the Horn Fly (Haematobia irritans.)  You might recognize them from observing cattle- they are the tiny, black flies that swarm all over cattle.  They bite and feed on blood, and in some circumstances, carry the Pigeon Fever bacteria on their mouthpiece.  Often these fearless little pests sit in blankets on cow’s backs and will quickly resettle right back in the same spot when the animal attempts to swat them away.  In horses, they commonly hang out not only near the withers, but also on the ventral midline under the belly.  Does your horse have flaky, itchy skin on his ventral midline?  Horn flies are likely to blame!

 

1)      What are the signs of Pigeon Fever?

 

Pigeon Fever can manifest itself in one of three ways.  The first, and most common, is an external infection that results in the formation of one or more abscesses.  An abscess is a pus pocket created when the body attempts to wall off and encapsulate a foreign invader (such as bacteria).  The bacteria grow and divide inside the abscess until so much pressure builds up, it bursts.  Just think of a Pigeon Fever abscess as a gigantic zit on the horse!  In the early stages of this form of Pigeon Fever, most horses will be lethargic and have a slight fever (usually between 101 and 102o F.)  The fever usually goes away after a few days, but then owners begin to notice a swelling in their horse’s chest.  Some owners mistake this swelling for a kick wound, but it progresses rapidly and within days, becomes hard.  Some owners will notice edema between the legs, or in some cases, a swollen sheath since this infection can manifest anywhere along the ventrum of the horse.  In rare cases, the infection will take off in the fold of the tail or even on the back! 

 

early-stages-of-abscess-formation

Early stages of abscess formation

ventral-edema
Ventral or "dependent" edema associated with abscess formation. 

 

 

 

 

mature-abscesses-about-to-burst
Mature abscesses about to burst.

fully-open-and-draining-abscesses
Fully open and draining abscesses.

abcesses-in-the-healing-stage
Abscesses in the healing stage.

The abscess grows and matures rapidly and within days to weeks, will burst (or be cut open by the veterinarian).  Horses will very commonly be lame during the maturation phase of the abscesses, since the pressure that builds up can be painful.  After the abscess bursts and drains, it will then heal over a period of weeks. 

 

In the second form of the disease, which is far less common than the first, the horse can develop an internal infection (usually in the form of an internal abcess.)  Internal abscesses commonly occur in the liver and spleen, but have also been reported in the lungs, uterus, and on the kidney.  In this form of the disease, the horse will display generalized lethargy, recurrent fever, loss of appetite and weight loss.  Veterinarians diagnose it by blood testing and also by ultrasounding the abdomen. 

 

In the third, and rarest form of the infection, horses can get a condition in the leg called Ulcerative Lymphangitis.  One leg will become extremely swollen and edematous - sometimes two to three times its regular size!  The swelling can extend all the way up to the stifle.  The edematous leg will usually begin to leak serum directly through the skin or out of multiple ulcerative wounds that extend up and down the leg.  Horses may or may not have a fever with this form of the infection.  Surprisingly, they are not always lame with this ailment.

ulcerative-lymphangitis
Ulcerative Lymphangitis

4)      How will I know for sure if my horse has Pigeon Fever and not just a random abscess?

 

If you have a horse that has a swelling that is growing rapidly and becoming hard, you should be suspicious of an abscess.  However, not all abscesses are Pigeon Fever.  The only way to know for sure is to have your veterinarian do blood testing and/or get a sample of the pus inside the abscess and turn it into the lab for culturing to determine if it is Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis or not.  It is very important, for biosecurity of the property your horse is on, as well as for the safety and health of surrounding horses, that you identify the bacteria in an abscess. 

 

5)      Is there a common time of year that Pigeon Fever pops up?

 

Because the bacteria that causes Pigeon Fever prefers a dry, warm environment and climate, the disease occurs primarily in mid-summer to early fall.  In some cases, Pigeon Fever can last up to a year in a horse- with wave after wave of abscess.

 

6)      Why do some horses get Pigeon Fever and not others?

 

We do not fully understand why Pigeon Fever seems to be problematic for only some horses.  It is thought that inherent factors such as the horse’s immune competence may play a role.  For instance, if a horse was exposed to Pigeon Fever previously in its life and developed antibodies to the bacteria through exposure, that horse will be less likely to come down with an infection because he may have some degree of immunity to the bug.  Also, it is thought that nutrition status of a horse, including trace mineral and vitamin levels (such as selenium, copper, zinc, and others) will influence the strength of the horse’s immune system.  Finally, if a horse is stressed (such as with training, showing or travel), or if the body is affected by a chronic disease which can impair immune function (such as Cushing’s Disease), it may be more likely to contract the disease. 

 

7)      How is Pigeon Fever treated?

 

Surprisingly, only some cases of Pigeon Fever are treated with antibiotics.  It seems counter intuitive since this is a bacterial infection that we are dealing with.  However, in most cases of external abscesses, the infection will be self-limiting.  This means that the infection will run its course and resolve on its own without a need for antibiotics.  In the early stages of the abscess maturation, giving anti-inflammatory medications such as bute can be very helpful not only because they help control fever, but also because they mitigate pain caused by the pressure that builds in the abscess.  Many owners try to accelerate the maturation of an abscess and bring it to a head by applying warm compresses to it several times per day.  The warmth from the compress more or less incubates the bacteria, thus accelerating their maturation in order to get the abscess to burst. 

 

In the rare cases involving internal abscesses or ulcerative lymphangitis, treatment with multiple types of antibiotics will be necessary, as will long term use of anti-inflammatories.  Owners that have horses with either of these two conditions should be prepared for long term, expensive treatments that will often require medications to be given two to three times per day.  Also, prognosis for survival with these two forms of the disease is much lower than the first and most common form described above.

 

In all cases, horses being treated should be provided comforts such as shelter, fly control, bedding to lie down in, feed that is hung at chest level (to make it so that the horse doesn’t have to stretch down and compress a chest abscess to get to it), and clean water.  Protection from the weather will be very helpful for horses that are sick- especially ones with fevers.

 

8)      How can I protect the other horses on the property?

 

Prevention of new infection is definitely key to managing Pigeon Fever.  No barn wants to be labeled as a “Pigeon Fever” barn.  Since it can exist for months in the soil, biosecurity measures are crucial to avoid it spreading through a barn and reinfecting horses year after year. 

 

Tips for Preventing the Spread of Pigeon Fever

 

  • ü  First and foremost cleaning up manure on a routine basis will lower the amount of flies in the environment as well as reduce the opportunity for flies to pick up and spread the bacteria. 
  • ü  Fly control is essential to prevent the spread of Pigeon Fever.  Using copious amounts of fly spray, and apply SWAT or War Paint to the ventral midline of all horses.  Hang fly traps and consider ordering natural fly predators to help cut down on the fly population. 
  • ü  Segregate infected horses from the healthy population.
  • ü  Make sure to limit the number of people that come into contact with the horse and do not bring any horses over to visit during the course of the infection. 
  • ü  Stall cleaners should clean stalls of Pigeon Fever horses last so that other horses cannot sniff the manure cart and come into contact with the bacteria.  Also, stall cleaners can carry the bacteria on their hands and feet, so having them work on the Pigeon Fever stalls last will minimize the spread of the disease. 
  • ü  Do not use manure carts to carry hay for feeding since this can cause all horses on the property to come into contact with the bacteria.
  • ü  Hands should be washed immediately after touching a Pigeon Fever horse or leaving its stall.  Use of latex gloves when handling these horses is recommended as well. 
  • ü  Use a shallow rubber feed bucket as a boot bath outside each stall of a horse that has Pigeon Fever.  Use dilute bleach (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) to dip feet in when leaving the stall.
  • ü  Feces from infected horses should either be removed from the property or buried at least four feet beneath the ground surface.  This will help prevent recurrence of the disease in the future.
  • ü  Pus from the Pigeon Fever abscesses is the most potent and highly virulent source of the bacteria.  All pus, contaminated bedding or soil, articles of clothing, towels, etc. should be placed in a garbage bag and disposed of in a timely fashion. 

 

9)      Is a vaccine available for Pigeon Fever?

 

Horses that become infected with Pigeon Fever usually have immunity to reinfection for a period of 5 to 7 years.  In addition, foals less than six months old do not commonly get the disease (suggesting that maternal immunity from the antibodies in their mother’s colostrum is protecting them).  Both of these findings suggest that horses with an antibody reserve (or titer) will be less likely to become infected with Pigeon Fever.  So… how come there isn’t a vaccine?  Currently, vaccine companies do not see the economic logic in producing a vaccine because they view Pigeon Fever to be a regional problem that does not affect that many horses relative to the overall U.S. horse population.  Traditionally, Pigeon Fever was thought to mainly affect horses in California, and only on a sporadic basis from year to year.  Now, however, it appears to be spreading across the United States (especially now with drought conditions), so perhaps a vaccine will be forthcoming?

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