Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Dreaded Pigeon Fever

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After a peaceful summer in which Argus led the charmed life of a newly-freed prisoner, fall has presented Argus with challenges. I dearly wish I could somehow protect him from worry and discomfort, but I can't. He's endured enough hard times to fill ten lifetimes.

First, his friend Ridge has lately been confined to what Argus rightfully views as JAIL --- a paddock. Ridge's hind end lameness has progressed to the point where it's become a four-alarm event . We're getting close to figuring out what ails Ridge, but meantime, he's been sentenced to paddock jail with twice daily handwalks.

Argus, meantime, swaps Pigeon Fever stories with Half Pint and Caleb, as all three geldings have contracted this infection so common in California.

It's been weeks now that I've been hot packing and cleaning and draining and cleaning and draining and hot packing chest and belly abscesses. Half Pint was the first to get it. His case has been the most spectacular. Argus followed quietly with a simpler belly abscess requiring minimal intervention. That was so like Argus, to get sick and nearly get better without even letting me know.

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Still, he hasn't felt like his usual, sparkly self for a few weeks, and the on again, off again fever that gives Pigeon Fever its name has taken its toll (the pigeon part comes from the characteristic swollen chest, making the horse look like rather pigeon-like). Argus has lost quite a bit of weight and now, as a second large abscess is developing in his chest, is sore, too.

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His arthritic knee is due for another joint injection as well. His eyes are just a bit less merry than normal as he stalks Half Pint through the pasture. I feel sorry for him, yet, I know he's experiencing life, and all it has to offer. Good and bad.

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Still, Argus makes the most of things. He enjoyed our recent first real rain of the season, rolling in the new mud until we joked that he was dressed up like a bay horse for Halloween. I realized later that this was yet another first for Argus as he closes in on a full year of freedom --- the singular pleasure of rolling in mud that hours before had been dry, powdery dirt.

"It's all normal stuff, buddy," I counsel Argus as he lets me tend to his swollen chest. I wish I could lift his spirits with a deep discussion of the duality of life, and how pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, and health and disease exist side by side. Instead, I do the next best thing and offer him a horse cookie. He accepts it gratefully, chewing it slowly and licking his lips as he half dozes in the warm fall sun.

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Last, but not least, Caleb is still looking for his forever home. He's schooling elementary dressage and recently attended a Pony Club lesson. He is a 19-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, a former stakes winner who won eight major races, most won wire-to-wire. His drive to win is evident in his serious work ethic. Caleb loves to learn and takes our schooling sessions seriously. He is a beautiful mover and is sound, and has a level head on the trail. Caleb is looking for an intermediate adult rider to help write the rest of his rescue story. Please contact Katie at for information on Caleb.

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Holly said...

we don't have pigeon fever problems here in PA but this time of year we begin to battle rain rot.

Dear Argus. What a guy. Such contentment

SOSHorses said...

Oh, Thank goodness we don't have Pigeon fever here.

Hug Ridge and Argus for me. I am sending both healing energy and lots of love.

SOS Horses

Joy said...

Argh! I'm in So Cal and I don't need any pigeon fever!

I wish I could take Caleb. If I had the money to take on another horse, I'd pick him up in a second. He's too freaking cute. Darn, where is that winning lotto ticket??? (or the bag of money I'm sure I'm going to find someday? I've even got hubby on the lookout for it)

buckpony said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about the Pigeon Fever! I recently read about it in Equus magazine, and it was the first time I had ever heard of it. We are currently battling sweet itch...but it doesn't require nearly the amount of work you are having to do. My thoughts and prayers are with you Dear Katie.

Reddunappylitivensfe said...

Pigeon fever is here to stay now in SW Washington :( I have been lucky enough to not have to deal with it yet. We had a bad outbreak in the county. I have been interested in seeing how people are dealing with it, just in case I have to some day. It just looks Y U C K Y...... do you seperate the ones that get it? We have had farms that are miles apart, with horses that never leave the property get it. damn Flies. The rumor mill says someone hauled in a horse from Calif. that came down with it. So the vets say it is here to stay now.

pchoofinit said...

O won't Argus catch a break? Hope they all heal quickly and may God continue to give you the strength to carry on.
Namaste Katie.
hugs to all at Waterview
Patti C.

Shirley said...

The horses passing the disease around likely is because the infectious agent lingers in the dirt, bedding and even fences and stall floors and walls if everything isn't disinfected.

This from Colorado vets:
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.

So sorry. Sad to see the horses suffer, especially since they're getting loving care. A cyber horse cookie on the way from me.

Anonymous said...

Sure hope the guys are doing better! KarenTX

Anonymous said...

Hi Katie------during this week of Thanksgiving, I thank you for your saving Argus and for sharing him with us, and for your strength in putting up with the raging of his former owner.Despite the current illness, pray for his recovery,and healing for all.