Equine Lyme/Equine Pigeon Fever

Equine Lyme/Horse Lyme

Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever

Equine Lyme/Horse Lyme

1. Cause

• Only one cause – Ticks, which transmit bacteria to your horse.
It takes 24-36 hours of continual attachment to pass on bacterial load to your horse, so it’s important to get them off quickly.
tickonhair• Horses have long hair and ticks are small – Ticks often will hide in places YOU CANNOT SEE no matter how well you go over your horse. This is why you must barrier your horse from bites or treat the skin to get ticks off before the 24-36 hour time frame.


2. Prevention of Equine Lyme/Horse Lyme – two ways

A. Barrier before they can get on your horse.

1. Apply RK Topical spray to repel and kill them quickly. bluestarClick here to go to FAQ RK Topical Horse Fly Spray on how to apply. Don’t let them get on your horse. A horse with RK Topical Horse Fly on the skin is not a place a tick will go to (repel) and if it touches it will die later. Spray twice a day with the special sprayer – 2 bottles last 1 month – less than $40.00 a month.  bluestarClick here to see the Compare RK Topical Spray to all tack shop bottles. RedStar RK Topical Spray beats them all.

RK Topical Spraybox-ticksonhorse

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2. Blankets/Sheets – but need to look under them to see if hiding there. If you use them, need to spray before you blanket and after you blanket to help repel ticks.
3. Keep out of tall grass where ticks jump on horses. Cut grass to 4 inches.
mouse4. Keep rodents away from barn as best as you can. Huge source of ticks getting into the barn – jump off the mouse, into straw bedding, and onto your horse. The mouse is the #1 mammal that tick larvae attach to. Dr. Anderson, US Journ Entom., 1980.
5. Treat your dogs and cats with tick repelling products – their ticks can jump onto your horse. Your horse’s ticks can jump onto your dogs and cats.


bluestarClick here to see the Compare RK Topical Spray to all tack shop bottles. RedStar RK Topical Spray beats them all.  Please Note: RK Topical Horse Fly Spray is only for horses – not dogs or cats.


 6. Do not encourage deer to hang out around your horses or barn.deer



B. Remove ticks after they attached onto your horse.

1. Apply RK Topical Horse Fly Spray – ticks will get off.
tickremover2. Use special tweezers to physically remove – do not squeeze ticks, use matches, or try to yank off. This will have tick inject more bacteria in. But you will not see them all which means you will miss ones with Lyme bacteria waiting to put it in your horse. RK Topical Horse Fly Spray covers the entire horse easily, safely.  Pictured: Cabela’s Tick Remover – 800-237-4444

3. Tick Facts

 ticka. Female ticks lay 1000-3000 tick eggs after they detach from the host. Dr. Piesmann, J. Clin Micro, 1987.
b. There are different types of ticks that carry Lyme – not just one species. East Coast has the  black-legged tick called Ixodes Scapularis (deer ticks) as the primary carrier but the Western black-legged tick called Ixodes Pacificas is #1 on the West Coast.
c. Deer ticks effect most people because infection rate is so high in this species of tick. Dr. Magnarelli, J. of Wildlife, 1986. Some tick species have a low number of them with Lyme bacteria due to the mammals/reptiles they bite being unsuitable for Lyme bacteria to live in.
d. Ticks of the Ixodes family carry Lyme bacteria and transmit disease.  Other families of ticks may carry Lyme but do not transmit disease or do not carry Lyme bacteria at all.  For example, common Brown Dog Tick seen all over the USA is not going to give you/your dog/your horse Lyme disease.
e.  To see the life cycle of Ixodes Scapularis, bluestar Click here for the Minnesota Department of Health Article.
f.  To see pictures of various types of ticks and where they are in the USA, bluestar Click here for the Federal CDC tick site.



d. Forest clearing means more interaction with deer, so more tick exposure to people and horses. Dr. Duffy, J. of Med Entom., 1994.
cardinale. Lyme ticks are all over the place due to birds. Ticks get on birds which then go to distant places and when land, ticks jump off and are waiting to jump on your horse.
f. Many ticks with Lyme bacteria also carry Anaplasma bacteria so horse can get two diseases at once.
g.  Ticks are spreading into new areas where they were not before.  “Lyme disease is turning up in new areas as the vectors – deer ticks increase their geographic distribution.  We have ticks where we had none 6-7 years ago.” Dr. Hoenig, Main State Veterinarian, 2013.
h.  Study at Cornell by Dr. Thomas Divers in 2003:  50% of horses in the northeastern USA are positive to exposure to Lyme bacteria.  That means, 50% of the horses have been bitten by a tick.
i.  Urine from a horse with Lyme is not an infectious source.  Your horse eating an infected tick will not transmit disease.

 4. Diagnosis

1. Clinical Signs

a. Back Pain that medicine, injections, and acupuncture are not helping.
b. Aggressive/nasty all of a sudden – sweetheart horses having behavior changes.
c. Joint “ring around the rosy” – multiple joints at different times on a continual basis having issues.
d. Neurological Disease – Meningitis, Encephalitis confirmed due to Lyme. Dr. Parker, Cornell Vet Mag, 1992. Dr. James, JAVMA, 2010. Dr. Imai, Vet Pathology, 2011.
horse-eyee. Eye problems – Uveitis (known as “Moon Blindness”) confirmed just last year. Dr. Priest, Vet Optho, 2012.


2. Blood Tests


telephoneDiagnostic Lab:  607-253-3900

3. Treating for Lyme disease with antibiotics to see if gets better. Expensive way but often the only way to really see if infected with Lyme.


5. Treatments

 a. Expensive – rounds of tests, retests, antibiotics, injections that were tried and did not work so moved on to Lyme testing.



b. Labor intensive – weeks and weeks of medicines
c. Limitations of tests to clearly show progress – do they ever “clear” on titers? Do they every really clear bacteria out of the blood?

6. Goal

Stop yearly pills/powdered antibiotics by applying RK Topical Horse Fly Spray twice a day which is only 2 bottles a month – less than $40.00 a month.


bluestarClick here to see why RK Topical Horse Fly Spray wins in the fight against Horse Lyme.

Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever

 A. Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever Cause and Distribution

1. Caused by a bacteria that is commonly found in dirt. Horses get the bacteria into their body several ways but, by far, the most common is via insects acting as vectors:

 a. “Insects such as the horn fly, house fly, and stable fly act as mechanical vectors for transmission of this disease to horses.” Dr. Spier, AAEP 2010. They land on infected soil, infected abscesses, objects that pus from infected abscess dripped on (stall, ground, bedding) and bacteria is now all over their legs/wings/body. Next, they carry bacteria to the horse and it is seeded onto pre-existing horse wounds, cuts, abrasions, surgical sites, and bacteria then multiplies and creates huge abscess issues.
b. Horse to another horse – pus out of abscess of infected Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever horse smeared onto another horse’s wounds/cuts/abrasions and bacteria multiply.

bluestarClick here to read the article “Pigeon Fever in a Horse” from Holistic Horse (2010) on why Pigeon Fever is highly contagious

c. Horse to object to another horse – Pus out of abscess of infected Equine Pigeon Fever horse lands on bedding, soil, fence posts….and another horse wanders by and smears it into pre-existing wound, cut, or abrasions. When treated infected horses (flushing, wiping out wounds), it is important to handle 4x4s, gloves, catheters correctly and throw them away quickly so people do not be the “object” to transfer to other horses.
d. Dirt to horse – roll in contaminated soil and seed pre-existing wounds with bacteria of Equine Pigeon Fever.


2. Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever is worldwide. In the USA, was mostly a West Coast issue but now in 2012, has moved south (Florida, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana), all southwestern states (Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho), mid-west (confirmed cases in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri) and as far east as Connecticut and Kentucky. Ease of trailering makes Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever a problem all over the USA. Due to the fact that bacteria grow in the soil, once in a state, there is no way to get rid of it – the soil cannot be treated to lower or eliminate bacteria. “No practical way to eliminate bacteria from soil.” AAEP.

3. Long periods of dry/hot weather can increase cases. #1 reason is due to insect populations increasing, so transmission increases. Another jump in cases is rain following a long/dry spell. This can further increase insect populations.

4. Other types of animals can get Pigeon Fever – humans can contract Equine Pigeon Fever.


a. Sheep, goats, cows can get Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever, but the horse form can only be transmitted to cows and people. Cows with Equine Pigeon Fever can also transmit it back to other horses, due to cows and horses have the same strain.
b. People can get Equine Pigeon Fever.

• People can contract pneumonia (internal) form by inhaling bacteria in contaminated area. AAEP 2013.
• Vet Student in California.
• Horse Veterinarian infected in Oregon while treating a horse. Oregon State Veterinary Assoc., 2008.


 bluestarClick here to see #1 rated horse fly spray to stop Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever.

5. Bacteria of Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever stays around a long time which makes it tough to clean up. The best way to avoid Equine Pigeon Fever is to use RK Topical Horse Fly Spray twice a day. That is less than $40.00 a month.

a. It takes 10-28 days of treatment/flushing to clear up abscess sites; but some can take 2-4 months if large.
b. Organism can live in soil for more than 8 months. Dr. Spier, AAEP, 2013.
c. Organism can live in hay, straw, and bedding up to 2 months. Dr. Spier, AAEP, 2013.
d. Distance of transmission usually in a case is 2 ½ – 3 ½ miles. Dr. Spier, AAEP, 2013.

bluestarClick here for AAEP pigeon fever guidelines by Dr. Spier

This large distance strongly points to flying insects as the main culprit.

A case of Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever 1 mile from your farm is likely to have that bacteria get to your farm. You need to protect your horses with RK Topical Horse Fly Spray and not wait around for abscess problems to occur.

Review - RK

B. Signs of Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever

1. First of all, the Pigeon is not the culprit in this problem. Large pockets of pus in the majority of cases accumulate in the chest of the horse. The horse’s chest puffs up like the chest of a Pigeon and that is where the disease’s name came from. Other places the horse may abscess (rarer) are the groin and legs.

bluestarClick here to read the article “Pigeon Fever: Myths and Misconceptions” by Dr. Minamiji in The Horse (2014) on why mass killing of birds is of no value to stop pigeon fever.


2. Most horses will eat/drink normally.

3. Abscess form seen in over 90% of the cases with insect transmission being the #1 route of transmission. AAEP, 2013.pigeonfever1_0

4. Other forms are rarer – Lymphangitis in legs, internal abscess, and Pneumonia.

5. 25% will break with a fever. Dr. House, University of Florida Veterinary School.

bluestarClick here to see an article by Dr. House about information on signs of Pigeon Fever

6. A neighbor within 2-3 miles has an outbreak, you horse visited a farm with Equine Pigeon Fever, a horse in the barn has Equine Pigeon Fever.

7. A positive culture of bacteria type is diagnostic

bluestarClick here to see an article on culturing pus in Equus (April 2017)

 C. Treatment of Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever

1. The most important part is not allowing more bacteria to be spread around while treating – this can be done several ways.

a. Gloves, throwing away medical waste quick, boots/clothes left at site.
b. Insect control – if they are landing on draining abscess sites and going to another horse, that is not helpful.

Horses should be sprayed two times a day with a powerful horse fly spray. bluestarClick here to see the Compare RK Topical Spray to all tack shop bottles. RedStar RK Topical Spray beats them all..

2. Abscess areas drained/flushed/topicals applied. Antibiotics will be given only when abscess sites draining or may not be needed if horse recovers well.

3. Your vet can run cultures of the bacteria from the wounds to see if it is Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever’s bacteria called Corynebacterium Pseudo Tuberculosis. PCR Testing at University of California Veterinary School Lab at 530-752-7991.

bluestarClick here to be brought to the lab used to test for Pigeon Fever


There are blood tests to see titers but more difficult to confirm due to:
a. Early infections may have negative titer
b. May be only exposure or recovery from a case and not active case.

4. There is no vaccine against Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever. The best prevention is insect control.

 D. Insect Control in Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever

The #1 way to prevent in normal horses.
The #1 way to stop transmission in infected horses.

1. “To reduce the spread of disease, control flies.” Dr. McCall, Alabama Extension Program

2. “Use fly sprays on both affected and unaffected horses.” Dr. McCall, Alabama Extension Program. Infected horses allow flies to dip into pus and take it to another horse.

bluestarClick here to see Dr. McCall’s article with information on Pigeon Fever outbreaks

3. “Fly control to prevent further infection of the wound and transmission of organism to other horses.” Dr. Hall, Brazos Equine. A good point – flies carry other bacteria to wounds making abscess clean up even tougher.

 4. Dr. Spier, University of California:

“Farms having Equine Pigeon Fever outbreaks with infected horses on premises, we could easily find bacteria in three different species of flies.” She found stable flies, horn flies, and common house flies with bacteria.

“20% of house flies carry bacteria which means 1 in 5 house flies that lands on your horse could transmit disease.”

“We went to farms with no cases of Equine Pigeon Fever and found fly populations were negative.”

This university study confirms insects as a huge problem.

5. Cases are seen 2 ½ – 3 ½ miles away once get outbreaks – this is due to flies being able to travel miles. You can’t stop your neighbor’s fly population – you must protect your horses topically every day. bluestarClick here for RK Topical Horse Fly Spray

fresh green grass with bright blue sky and sunburst background

6. Control and Treatment Measures via AAEP:

“Protecting horses from insect exposure by regular application of insect repellants to the horse including the ventral midline (prevention of ventral midline dermatitis).”

AAEP advocates this important step.

AAEP draws attention to Horse Sweet Itch/Equine Summer Eczema (midline dermatitis).

RK Topical Horse Fly Spray has, for over 5 years, been the #1 horse spray for Horse Sweet Itch/Equine Summer Eczema. bluestarClick here to see Equine Summer Eczema/Horse Sweet Itch information.

AAEP Further goes on via treatment: “Meticulous wound care includes topical fly repellants.”

7. “Flies are a major vector and can spread the bacteria (Equine Pigeon Fever), so spray affected and unaffected horses, especially ones with open wounds with fly repellant.” Dr. McConnico, LSU Dept. of Ag., 2011.

8.  bluestar 2013 AQHA article by Dr. Tom Lenz:

“Spread to horses primarily by flies or through open wounds.”
“Fly control is important as flies are the main vector of Pigeon Fever, so apply insect repellents daily.”

9. Remember that any wound can allow entrance of Equine Pigeon Fever bacteria into the body, including tick, flea bites, and the usual flies that bite. bluestar Click here for September 2013 Pigeon Fever Outbreak Article.

a. Usual biting flies create wound that allow entrance to horse Pigeon Fever bacterial. They are not only carrying bacteria around, they are creating new paths with new bit wounds.
b. Biting gnats that create skin allergic reactions leading to Horse Sweet Itch/Equine Summer Eczema. The bites create wounds to enter and so itchy they damage the skin from rubs which also is a path.
c. Ticks role in Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever. If your horse has ticks creating wounds, these can help Equine Pigeon Fever move in. If your dog or cat has ticks and brings them into the barn, these ticks can transfer to your horse. Ticks are not species specific – they bite anything. It is important our pets are being treated for ticks to help in avoiding not only Lyme Disease or Anaplasma, but also Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever.
d. Fleas role in Equine Pigeon Fever/Horse Pigeon Fever. Again, like ticks, fleas are not species specific – they will jump off your dog or cat onto your horse and create small wounds with their bites. These wounds allow Equine Pigeon Fever bacteria to move in. Have your dogs and cats treated regularly for ticks and fleas.



Treat their ticks and fleas to help prevent Equine Pigeon Fever.

E. Vaccines in Stopping Pigeon Fever

March 2015, Beohringer was granted a license to do a vaccine. But within 1 month it was pulled due to colic problems. There is no vaccine for pigeon fever as of December 2017.

bluestarClick here to read more about the vaccine being pulled for pigeon fever from Horsetalk (2015)

NOTE: RK Topical Horse Fly Spray is just for horses and not for dogs/cats. Refer to your Small Animal Veterinarian for control of ticks/fleas.

 RK Topical Horse Fly  Spray is to help maintain horse health and is part of a comprehensive program. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.