Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow

The horses gathered by the Bureau of Land Management from the Calico Complex in Nevada are currently held at the privately contracted facility named the Broken Arrow in Fallon Nevada. Observers have been allowed to monitor the horses through a two-hour window each Sunday. No observers will be allowed in this weekend due to the holiday.

Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow this past Sunday (photo Craig Downer)

The presence of Pigeon Fever among the population was observed nearly two weeks ago.

Processing and sorting of horses has continued “business as usual,” with no change in protocol despite the highly contagious disease.

John Neill, currently the manager at the Broken Arrow for the BLM said, “Yes, there is pigeon fever but only a handful of cases.”

When asked if the cases were confined to the horses gathered from a specific area and isolated in the pens sorted by area gathered he replied, “No, we’ve been moving horses around.”

Many of you have sent me questions that seem to confuse Pigeon Fever with strangles. This is not a strangles outbreak.

*** I also need to add that Pigeon Fever does not come from pigeons. It is not a disease associated with “cities.” (Sometimes I don’t know where this stuff comes from.) It is called Pigeon Fever because the most common form causes abscesses that develop on the chest that give a resemblance to that of a pigeon.

What is Pigeon Fever?

From a COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY VETERINARIANS REPORT

Clinical signs: Early signs can include lameness, fever, lethargy, depression and weight loss.

Infections can range from mild, small, localized abscesses to a severe disease with multiple massive abscesses containing liters of liquid, tan-colored pus.

External, deep abscesses, swelling and multiple sores develop along the chest, midline and groin area, and, occasionally, on the back.

Incubation period: Horses may become infected but not develop abscesses for weeks.Animals affected:The disease usually manifests in younger horses, but can occur in any age, sex, and breed.

A different biotype of the organism is responsible for a chronic contagious disease of sheep and goats, Caseous lymphadenitis, or CL. Either biotype can occur in cattle.

Disease forms: Generally 3 types: external abscesses, internal abscesses or limb infection (ulcerative lymphangitis).

The ulcerative lymphangitis is the most common form worldwide and rarely involves more than one leg at a time. Usually, multiple small, draining sores develop above the fetlock.

The most common form of the disease in the United States is external abscessation, which often form deep in the muscles and can be very large. Usually they appear in the pectoral region, the ventral abdomen and the groin area. After spontaneous rupture, or lancing, the wound will exude liquid, light tan-colored, malodorous pus.

Internal abscesses can occur and are very difficult to treat

Note: There is a low incidence in foals.It has also been diagnosed in cattle, and a similar disease affects sheep and goats. The disease is not transmissible to humans, although humans can carry the infectious agent on shoes, clothing, hands or barn tools and transfer it to another animal. Although the disease is considered seasonal, with most cases occurring in early fall, a number of cases have been confirmed during winter months and other times of the year as well..

Treatment: Hot packs or poultices should be applied to abscesses to encourage opening. Open abscesses should be drained and regularly flushed with saline.

Surgical or deep lancing may be required, depending on the depth of the abscess or the thickness of the capsule, and should be done by your veterinarian.

Ultrasound can aid in locating deep abscesses so that drainage can be accomplished.

External abscesses can be cleaned with a 0.1 percent povidone-iodine solution

Antiseptic soaked gauze may be packed into the open wound

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as phenylbutazone can be used to control swelling and pain

Antibiotics are controversial. Their use in these cases has sometimes been associated with chronic abscessation and, if inadequately used, may contribute to abscesses, according to one study.

The most commonly used antibiotic for the treatment of this condition is procaine penicillin G, administered intramuscularly, or trimethoprim-sulfa.

In the case of internal abscesses, prolonged penicillin therapy is necessary

Care required: Buckets or other containers should be used to collect pus from draining abscesses and this infectious material should be disposed of properly.

Consistent and careful disposal of infected bedding, hay, straw or other material used in the stall is vitally important.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect stalls, paddocks, all utensils and tack.

Pest control for insects is also very important.

Recovery time: Usually anywhere from two weeks to 77 days.


The BLM is moving forward with preparation toward an adoption event of Calico horses currently scheduled for May 15th and 16th at the Palomino Valley Center in Nevada.

Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow (photo Craig Downer)

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34 thoughts on “Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow

  1. Barb S says:

    Barb S

    Here is what I found about Pigeon Fever by Utah vets
    http://www.emeryanimal.net/PigeonFeverFactSheet2.pdf
    seems hornfly is the vector and they lay their eggs in fresh cow manure(surprise)
    Never heard of this disease before here in the east–how much more do these poor animals have to endure?

    Reply

    • Laura Leigh says:

      If you read all the literature on Pigeon Fever the vector is questioned by some studies. But ALL advise pest control and quarantine.

      What is so troubling is that this speaks to the basic operation logic.
      Instead of looking at the long-term outcome the “full steam ahead” protocol compounds an issue.

      What the Pigeon Fever speaks to is…
      If horses from a specific area began to show signs (that in the beginning can be mistaken for strangles) processing and sorting should have been halted.
      Horses can contract this disease and not show signs for weeks.
      If the idea was that to postpone the adoption event would create an expense… what they have now done is create an issue where an animal leaving the facility even as late as mid-May, (7 weeks) may have been exposed.
      Now logic would dictate that the adoption event be postponed a minimum of 90 days after the last horse breaks out with symptoms or a minimum of 120 days from the first outbreak if it contains itself and does not turn epidemic.

      Keep in mind the bacteria can also effect cattle.

      Now do we think logic will actually prevail?

  2. sandra longley says:

    I have called the APHIS/USDA vet Gary brickler in sacramento calif. left message informing him of the outbreak of pigeon fever and asking for an immediate investigation and quarrenting of those 1900 horses, and the halting of all roundups of wild horses in Nevada due to the contagious nature of this outbreak and the inability to seperate and doctor 1900 horses.. I asked that no horses be allowed to travel across state lines into or out of the state.There should be no adoptions, movements or unnecessary handling of the horses there..and any all precations should be taken to stop the spred of this infection

  3. sandra longley says:

    DR. Bricklers # is 916-8543950-start calling

    • Laura Leigh says:

      And while you have the phone in your hand
      Call the Whitehouse Hotline … The number is: 202-456-1111

      This is just another example of shortsighted protocol.

      Thank you, Sandra!
      I don’t know Bricklers… but sounds like a good idea.

      note: Sandra just posted on another blog that she spoke to Brickler and Dr. Kane at the BLM is the guy who would be able to quarantine.

      **** RT’s blog Sandra wrote:

      Got a call back from Dr. Brickler..he is not in charge of the WH&B end..It is Dr.Albert Kane 970-494-7234, Ft Collins Colo. then posssibly a call to the Nevada Dept of Agriculture to close the state to movement of horses out of state.

  4. sandra longley says:

    Pigeon fever is also called dryland strangles and is very simular in presentation to strangles-like bastard strangles the abcess can form internally-you really do not want to treat with antibiotics..most cases just run their course..but you do not want to be sending potential cases across country to expose all domestic horses in their path..It could take all year to run its course through 1900 horses.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      Amen!
      And the idea that when this first presented (because it does originally present like strangles) processing DID NOT HALT is very alarming.

      It really does speak to not only short-sighted policy but the regard given to the animals referred to as “inventory.”

    • I’ve also heard it called dryland distemper, and I believe it’s endemic in the soil in some areas – not sure about that – but in any case, it IS highly contagious. And when the abscesses break the exudate contaminates everything it touches.

      I don’t see how the BLM could even consider “business as usual.” Is the BLM above the law in abuse and neglect too?

  5. Dennis says:

    […] Pigeon Fever at Broken Arrow « Art and Horses (Laura Leigh's Blog) […]

  6. Anne says:

    wow just when I thought it was safe to get out of the water;

    very bad news; thanks for the information; have not researched this yet; but I will;

    a. when the Hay is strewn on the floor of the pens;

    this mixes with sand and manure;

    so the Mustangs could contracting the disease thusly;

    over crowding; sand mixed with hay; it’s outrageous ! anne

  7. Anne says:

    Merck Veterinary Manuel:

    http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/10802.htm

    key line: The bacteria probably enter via skin wounds including IM injections; (sandford’s vaccinations; etc.? )

    The bacteria probably enter via skin wounds including IM injections, arthropod vectors such as Habronema spp larva and stable flies, and contact with fomites such as contaminated tack and grooming equipment. Unhygienic and wet conditions predispose animals to infection, particularly of the lower legs and ventral region. However, the disease also occurs under excellent management conditions.

    Diagnosis:
    Isolation of C pseudotuberculosis from lesions is necessary for confirmation. In all forms of lymphangitis in horses, samples for culture include aspirates of abscesses, swabs of purulent exudate beneath crusts associated with folliculitis, and punch biopsies. Differential diagnoses include pyoderma, abscesses, lymphangitis from other bacteria (eg, Staphylococcus aureus , Rhodococcus equi , Streptococcus spp , or Dermatophilus spp ), dermatophytosis, sporotrichosis, equine cryptococcosis, North American blastomycosis, and onchocerciasis.

    ps there are cures and preventative cures for this; such as

    Fortified feed w “Niacin Vitamin B3; and Rice Bran oil; etc.
    I will send the info to the BLM; this is from “overcrowding…

    the whole pen @ Fallon “stinks of damp dirt dust and dung!

    no wonder 77 mustangs couldn’t take the “dankness; Anne
    the foals standing on wet sand straw and manure; No good

  8. Anne says:

    Unhygienic and wet conditions predispose animals to infection, particularly of the lower legs and ventral region;

    Merck Vet. Manuel…

    ques. (does “Sandpit Sandford Transmit Pigeon Fever by not correctly adminstering IM Vaccinations?:

    comment: “unhygienic and wet conditions are the number one cause of diseases worldwide of people and animals;

    that and “a bad diet; Mustangs @ Fallon have both conditions

    ps to Laura I have pix of empty hay feeders @ other corrals

  9. Savewildhorses says:

    The vet claims that the horses came in off the range with this. If this is the case, why did they not separate out these horses immediately upon arrival at Fallon to contain the spread? This is a dereliction of duty and negligence on the part of the vet.

    Does anyone know who the best person to contact re: the health of horses at Fallon is in the BLM? What is their email address? I have written several an no answer back from any of them.
    Who is in charge at Fallon?

    • Laura Leigh says:

      There are several you could write. If you get a response or not…
      Start at the top and call Obama: 202-456-1111

      With the appropriations committee currently reviewing Salazar’s budget requests you could google the list of committee members and call them.

      At the BLM I’d write:
      Don Glenn
      Tom Gorey
      John Neill (acting manager at Broken Arrow in Fallon)
      Bob Abbey
      I believe all of their e-mails are on the BLM site.

      A bit “careless” don’t ya’ think?
      But absolutely indicative of the way all policy that concerns our horses is created… top to bottom.

      • Savewildhorses says:

        I;ve written John Neill several times–no response to the outbreak inquiry
        I’ve written Don Glenn, Ed Roberson, Bob Abbey. Deafening silence. No one will respond.

        Here is Dr. ALbert Kane’s cell phone number: 970-219-2409.

        If Dr. Kane knowingly put infected horses in with the general population and pregnant and nursing mares, he could have his license revoked — that is if he has one.

        These horses need to be released. The BLM has demonstrated that they do not have their best interests in mind. And not halting processing is just plain willful negligence and knowingly spreading the disease further. Perhaps this is their plan so they can euthanize them all.

        • Laura Leigh says:

          I don’t know if I would go as far as to say “The Plan” is to euthanize because of Pigeon Fever… because I don’t think they were going to do anything about it at all.

          But I do sincerely believe it further demonstrates the disregard for what Congressional Legislation labels these beings: “INTEGRAL.”

          I think it speaks to management strategies that subvert legislative intent, based on historical regional prejudice against these animals… for profit.

          Move ’em through as fast as possible without regard… for a buck.

          • Anne says:

            Do you have any idea at all how many:

            Pregnant Mares; non pregnant mares; Stallions and esp. Little newly born foals;

            have been shot ? either by chemical or other

            since the day the roundups began ?

            I am guessing close to 300 or so ! INSANITY

  10. Anne says:

    I surmise John Neill and Co. have been

    “shooting foals with chemicals left and right ?

    hey; who is watching ?

    Is John Neill authorized to “give Lil One Day the chemical shot

    I am sorry but this whole thing is out of control; so I have decided to go right to the top…

    I am quitting the blogs and getting down to brass tacks;

    this means I am contacting my elected officals; possibly even the authorities; am definitley making an animals abuse complaint; Fallon is nothing but A concentration camp for mustangs all the makings are there

    a. lack of Hay b. moldy hay c. wet straw
    pigeon fever; pnemonia; fever blisters
    Malnutrition (big time…not enough hay

    wrong type of hay; wrong type of feed; starving horses; etc.

  11. Anne says:

    there is a pix on Terri Farley’s website of 2 Musangs playing

    if you enlarge the photo you will see what Fallon truly is;

    A Death Camp for Wild Mustangs and Burros;

    if you look closely in the background you will see

    One downed Mare eating Sand (like the other downed mares

    you will see one standing Mare and if you look very very closely;

    right in front OF THE STANDING MARE IN THE FALLON PENS

    IS A LITTLE TINY FOAL; LAYING FLAT OUT ON THE SAND

    OBVIOUSLY SUFFERING FROM MALNUTRITON AND THE ELEMENTS

    AND THE LIL FOAL IS LEFT THERE TO DIE !

    THE BLM DOES NOT EVEN KNOW THE FOAL IS THERE

    NEVER MIND HELP THE FOAL TO STAND UP AND NURSE !

    and furthermore

    WHY DIDN’T JOHN NEILL SCOOP LIL ONE DAY UP AND BRING HER TO A PEN WHERE THE MOTHER WOULD FOLLOW

    SO THE MOTHER COULD NURSE LIL ONE DAY

    WHY DID JOHN NEILL SHOOT THE ONE DAY FOAL WITH A SHOT OF CHEMICALS

    INSTEAD OF PUTTING A BOTTLE OF MILK REPLACER ?

    I KNOW WHY

    BECAUSE THE BLM ‘S INTENT IS TO DESTROY AS MANY MUSTANGS AS POSSIBLE

    AND THAT IS AGAINST THE LAW AND ILLEGAL !

    TO BLM YOUR SINK HAS SUNK BUT YOU DON’T KNOW IT !

    To the BLM LIL ONE DAY AND HOPE HAVE SUNK YOUR FOUL MUSTANG DESTROYING SHIP

    AND EVEN THOUGH LIL ONE DAY AND HOPE ETERANAL

    WENT DOWN WITH THE SHIP

    THE MUSTANG BATTLE SHIP (THE BLM IS

    GOING…GOING….let me know when the BLM is gone ! PLZ.!

    How many Mustangs can a BLM Vet. shoot ?
    if a bLM VEt could shoot Mustangs…
    A BLM Vet would shoot as many Mustangs as a BLM Vet could shoot

    probably about 200 Mustangs; about 50 less than 3 strikes!
    final summary:

    BLM FALLON IS NOTHIN’ BUT A MINI THREE STRIKES RANCH; where they purposely starve living mustangs…

    esp. MUSTANG MARES; (oh how Sanford loves to starve em!

  12. Anne says:

    to BLM Nevada;

    how many mustangs would a blm vet shoot
    if a blm vet could shoot mustangs?
    a blm vet would shoot as many mustangs as a BLM Vet could shoot;
    if a BLM vet could shoot mustangs ! the mad mustang shooter

  13. Anne says:

    ONE TREATMENT FOR PIGEON FEVER IS:

    Treatment: Hot packs or poultices should be applied to abscesses to encourage opening;

    my comment: I DO NOT SEE ANY POULTICES ON MUSTANGS PIGEON FEVER BLISTERS…

    WHY DO SANFORD NOT FOLLOW WRITTEN MEDICINE PROTOCOLS

    DOES HE THINK HE IS ABOVE MEDICINE ?

    To make a simple POULTICE…

    TAKE HERBS ALMOST ANY TYPE MINT CLOVER GREEN TEA

    CRUSH THE HERBS UNTIL A FINE POWDER

    MELT VASLEINE ON LOW HEAT

    MIX CRUSHED HERBS INTO VASELINE

    POUR INTO CONTAINERS; LET COOL; SEAL…KEEP IN SHADE
    APPLY THE THICK POULTICE ONTO BLISTERS; LET DRY…
    THE BLM DOES NOT EVEN try THIS SIMPLE POULTICE…Anne

    PS if you add a bit of pure clean filtered mud; works better!

    I WISH THE BLM WOULD HIRE AN EQUINE NUTRITIONIST !

  14. Anne says:

    ONE TREATMENT FOR PIGEON FEVER IS:

    Treatment: Hot packs or poultices should be applied to abscesses to encourage opening;

    my comment: I DO NOT SEE ANY POULTICES ON MUSTANGS PIGEON FEVER BLISTERS…

    WHY DOes SANFORD NOT FOLLOW WRITTEN MEDICINE PROTOCOLS

    DOES HE THINK HE IS ABOVE MEDICINE ?

    To make a simple POULTICE…

    TAKE HERBS ALMOST ANY TYPE MINT CLOVER GREEN TEA

    CRUSH THE HERBS UNTIL A FINE POWDER

    MELT VASLEINE ON LOW HEAT

    MIX CRUSHED HERBS INTO VASELINE

    POUR INTO CONTAINERS; LET COOL; SEAL…KEEP IN SHADE
    APPLY THE THICK POULTICE ONTO BLISTERS; LET DRY…
    THE BLM DOES NOT EVEN try THIS SIMPLE POULTICE…Anne

    PS if you add a bit of pure clean filtered mud; works better!

    I WISH THE BLM WOULD HIRE AN EQUINE NUTRITIONIST !

  15. Anne says:

    If a mustang is standing on wet straw; any number of diseases can hit; so this is what causes Pigeon Fever too;

    the constant dampness of the corrals and wet straw type sand

    this is because bacteria and fungus thrive on moisture and heat; when heat hits the wet straw; a wicked fungus enschews

    plain pure sand would be better than that wet fungus straw

    skin infections also represent a deficiency of Niacin Vit. B3;
    anne usa

  16. Jan Eaker says:

    Sand is not an ideal surface for horses. SAnd colic is a threat when horses injest too much sand. Plus it’s abrasive and will get very hot in the summer time. I’m not seeing pictures of horses standing on straw, could you direct me to the photos you are looking at? the large pens are sand, and the hospital pens show piles of hay strewn around, but no straw that I can see.

    • Laura Leigh says:

      I know they would strew hay across the pens of the yearlings in the beginning.
      Some of the hay looks like straw.

      I remember someone else referring to straw as bedding but I can’t remember who and I have no specific knowledge.

      • Anna says:

        I was the one who said: the BLM throws Straw on the Sand for “bedding for the Mustnags; one problem

        when it rains; the straw turns to mulch and bacteria!

        no wonder they get sick; its like a “3rd world corral !

        they put the Hay ONLY on the outside of the corrals !

  17. Puller Lanigan says:

    If you look at the photo of the horse with the abcess on his chest, you will see he is standing on NOTHING BUT dried manure. That place is FILTHY. No wonder they have abcesses.

    • Anna says:

      right ! the blm webiste itself says they put straw in corrals;
      they do not know wet straw is hazardous to mustangs?
      or any wet moldy straw ? Moldfungus is created by water and a host such as wet straw the mold feeds from; not nice

  18. Puller Lanigan says:

    Were these horses dispersed as BLM threatened???

  19. […] Art and Horses (Laura Leigh’s Blog) combines life with horses and photos of ranch life, including round ups and the problems that arise every day with wild horses. She includes informative posts for horse lovers as well, like her article on Pigeon Fever. […]

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