Sara Story, Denton Reporter
The drought could be the cause of a life-threatening disease, called pigeon fever, in North Texas horses.
The drought could be the cause of a life-threatening disease popping up in horse country.
North Texas veterinarians have seen an unusual rise in the number of cases of pigeon fever, a disease that attacks horses.
Eddie Baggs is no stranger to horses, but it was strange to him when his horse developed a large abscess on his chest.
"It was actually as big as a football on one side of his breast," Baggs said. "I was totally taken by surprise. I had never had any experience with it. I knew of it but was really taken [aback]."
Like many North Texas horse owners, Baggs had heard of pigeon fever but knew it wasn't common where he lives -- until now.
"This year, it has been outrageous," equine veterinarian Matt Lampe. "We probably have about 50 active cases right now."
Lampe said he normally treats only three to four cases a year.
The disease attacks horse muscles and is carried by flies. Lampe said it may have been stirred up by the drought.
"It lives in the soil," Lampe said. "The hot, dry weather brought it up. The horses stood around, pawed the ground. There was no vegetation, so it all came back up to the surface."
Lampe said there is no way to prevent pigeon fever, but there are ways to control it. Horse owners need to take action before the weather gets warmer and the flies come back out.
"Now we are going to have to rethink our fly control and pasture rotation and make sure we don't overgraze our pasture where our horses are," Baggs said.
With a little bit of medical attention, Baggs said it won't be long until his horse is back on the trail.
Horse vets said pigeon fever is rarely fatal, but it needs to be treated properly for horses to fully recover.