Pigeon Fever

Pigeon Fever, also called dryland distemper or false strangles, is not the most serious disease that can affect a horse. It is a bacterial infection that creates purulent abscesses. Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis thrives in soil contaminated with manure, especially in hot, droughty conditions. When horses roll or lie down in paddocks or churn up clouds of bacteria-laden dust, the organisms may enter wounds, insect bites or breaks in the skin. House flies, stable flies and horn flies have all been found to be carriers and may transmit the infection from horse to horse. Composting manure or removing it from your property also helps keep fly populations down.

  • Isolate infected horses. The pus that drains from a pigeon fever abscess is loaded with bacteria that can easily persist in that soil and infect other horses.
  • Quarantine new horses. Horses may carry pigeon fever for three to four weeks before showing signs and the shipment of carriers around the country may be contributing to the spread of the infection beyond its former boundaries. When bringing new horses onto your property, keep them isolated from resident horses long enough to be sure they are not incubating any infections. House newcomers in a separate barn or pen as far as possible from other horses for at least three weeks.

The disease takes three forms:

  • External abscesses form under the skin or in the musculature.
  • Internal abscesses form within the internal organs, usually the lungs, liver, spleen or kidneys.
  • Ulcerative lymphangitis affects the lower legs.

Protect your pet!

Fleas and ticks– if you have wildlife or stray animals around your home then your pets should be protected.

Heartworm disease– standing water around your home is a breeding ground for those pesky mosquitoes, which can cause heartworms

Canine topical flea prevention

  • Vectra 3D-Provides a 6-way protection: repels and kills fleas, ticks mosquitoes, biting lice, sand flies and mites.

Canine oral flea/ tick prevention

  • Simparica- prevents fleas/ticks for 30 days
  • Bravecto – prevents fleas/ ticks for 12 weeks

Canine oral flea/heartworm disease/ intestinal parasite prevention

  • Trifexis- Kills and prevents fleas, prevents heartworms and controls intestinal parasites (hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms).

Feline topical prevention

  • Revolution- Controls and prevents flea infestations, prevents heartworm disease, controls ear mites and intestinal parasites for 30 days.
  • Catego- prevents flea/ ticks for 30 days.

Pets should be protected year round for complete effectiveness.
All oral preventions are given monthly and by prescription only.
Revolution is a feline monthly topical prevention that is by prescription only.

Office: 936-564-4341         E-mail: info@wardanimalhospital.com
3825 NW Stallings, Nacogdoches, Texas 75964
Monday- Friday 8AM-6PM
Saturday 8:30AM- 12:30PM

Rabies and Your Horse

The reality of rabies

With fewer than 100 cases of rabies reported in horses, donkeys and burros every year, it’s easy to disregard the disease.But while the incidence of rabies in the United States is low, the fatality rate is high – 100 percent.

Furthermore, there is always the significant and serious potential for human exposure with any case of rabies.That’s why the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has made rabies a core vaccine, meaning rabies vaccination is recommended for every horse, every year, regardless of geography or lifestyle.

Over the past 20 years, the number of rabies cases in both wildlife and domestic animals has increased. Typically, more than 9,000 total cases of rabies are reported in the United States every year. The rise of rabies is due, in large part, to the increased urbanization of areas where the disease is endemic in wildlife populations.


Just because your horse doesn’t live in the woods doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. Horses in barns, as well as horses in pastures, are likely to be exposed to rabid animals. Rabid animals can easily find their way into closed barns, climb up rafters and even enter stalls.

Horses contract rabies through the bite of an infected (rabid) animal, such as a raccoon, fox, skunk or bat. These bites typically occur on the horse’s face and muzzle or lower limbs it’s easy to mistake a rabies bite as simply a scratch, or not notice it at all.

Once bitten, the virus migrates via the horse’s peripheral nerves to the brain where it initiates rapidly progressive, invariably fatal encephalitis. The incubation period — the time between the virus’ entry into the body and the onset of clinical signs — averages two to nine weeks but may be as long as 15 months.

Clinical signs

Equine rabies can take on many different clinical signs — signs that can be nonspecific and confusing. For this reason, the disease is frequently misdiagnosed at first. Veterinarians often state that rabies “can look like anything.”

The most commonly reported clinical signs include:

  • Colic
  • Lameness
  • Ataxia (incoordination)
  • Paralysis
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Muscle tremors
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness
  • Convulsions
  • Hyperesthesia
  • Abnormal vocalization (increased sensitivity)

Because of the extreme variability in clinical signs, it’s difficult to make generalizations. However, most rabid horses exhibit some degree of hyperesthesia, fever and neurological signs (ataxia and/or paralysis) at some point during the course of the disease.

While some horses exhibit intermittent or continuous signs of aggression, most infected horses are depressed or stuporous. Some may become anorexic and refuse to drink, while others will continue to eat and drink until shortly before death. Occasionally, horses exhibit signs of bruxism (grinding of the teeth). Obscure lameness and posterior ataxia (incoordination) are relatively common early signs.

In most horses, the progression of the disease is rapid with death in three to five days following the onset of clinical signs. Prior to death, most horses will become recumbent with convulsions and/or a comatose state and violent thrashing. Rabies infection in the unvaccinated horse is always fatal.


There is no definitive test to diagnose rabies in a live animal. The highly variable, non-specific clinical signs — along with the lack of accurate diagnostic tests — make the diagnosis of rabies in the live horse very difficult. That’s why a rabies diagnosis is most often made only after death during post-mortem examination of the brain.

The only way to rule out rabies is to wait and see. Rabies generally progresses rapidly, so if undiagnosed neurological signs have not rapidly progressed within the first five days, rabies is most likely not the cause. Because of the serious threat for human exposure when handling a horse with rabies, any suspected case of equine rabies should be handled as if it were positive until proven otherwise.


Currently, no treatment for horses exists. The disease is invariably fatal once clinical signs appear.


Without a cure, rabies prevention becomes crucial. Vaccination of companion animals, including horses, against rabies cannot be overemphasized. All horses are potentially at risk and should be vaccinated.

Consider these points in regards to vaccination:

  • The incidence of rabies in both wild and domestic animals is on the rise
  • It’s not uncommon for pastured or stalled horses to be unknowingly exposed to wildlife
  • Most exposures aren’t noticed, and most bite wounds aren’t found
  • There’s significant and serious potential for human exposure from an infected animal
  • Equine rabies cases are invariably fatal
  • Vaccination of horses against rabies is generally safe and highly protective

Summer Tips

Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe during the long hot dog days of summer

Avoiding heatstroke
Limiting and supervising time outdoors during the hottest hours of the day is also important for your pets because when it’s hot for you, it’s probably even hotter for them. Dogs aren’t as efficient at cooling down as we are, since they release most of their body heat only through the pads of their feet and by panting.

Have it in multiple locations for your pet. Water bowls can turn over easily, get dirt in them or grow bacteria and your pet can be left without cool, fresh, clean water. When you travel (or hike), take water with you for your pet.

Parasite prevention
Mosquitoes (heartworm), ticks, and other bugs and parasites are out in full force in the summer, and they can infect your dog or cat and cause potentially serious medical issues. Your pet might also carry these bugs and parasites into your home, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about a preventative like Bravecto, Simparica and Trifexis.

– Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and shih tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

– Good grooming can stave off summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. Shaving the hair to a one-inch length never down to the skin, please, which robs Rover of protection from the sun helps prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed often.


The Importance of Puppy Vaccinations

Just like children, puppies require a series of vaccinations to provide immunity against common, life-threatening diseases.  You may have heard about parvo or distemper previously.  These viruses are common in East Texas, but preventable with proper vaccination.  Parvovirus causes lethargy, severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration, low white blood counts, and is often fatal.  Distemper is a virus that may start with pneumonia and thickened foot pads, and can eventually lead to neurologic disease and death.  Parvovirus can be treated in the hospital, and early treatment is successful 80-85% of the time at our hospital.  Puppies with parvo may be hospitalized for 3 to 7 days or more, at a cost of $600-1000 on average.  There is no cure for distemper virus.

Puppies should begin their vaccinations at the age of 6 to 8 weeks.  Prior to 6 weeks of age, they have ample immunity from their mother.  After 6 weeks of age, the mother’s immunity begins to wane, and puppies become much more susceptible to infections.  The first vaccination given is a DAPPv.  This vaccinates for canine Distemper, Adenovirus (a hepatitis virus), Parvovirus and Parainfluenza (a flu virus).  The first vaccination does NOT provide full immunity.  It is very important for puppies to receive a booster DAPPv vaccine 3 to 4 weeks after the first one.

After the 2nd DAPPv vaccine, 2 more vaccinations are necessary in order for the puppy to be fully protected.  Three to 4 weeks after the 2nd DAPPv vaccine, a DALPP vaccine is given.  This vaccine contains Leptospirosis in addition.  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread through the urine of infected wildlife.  Puppies and adult dogs may contract the infection through drinking contaminated water.  Infections are especially common after heavy rains.  This disease causes acute kidney failure, liver failure, and death if untreated.  It is also contagious to humans through infected urine.

After the third vaccination, a final DALPP should be administered in 3-4 weeks.  In addition, after 12 weeks of age, puppies must be vaccinated for Rabies according to state law.

We realize some clients prefer to purchase puppy vaccines from a feed store to administer themselves.  These vaccines are often available at a lower price at the feed stores.  However, when your puppy is vaccinated at Ward Animal Hospital, he/she receives a full physical examination from one of our doctors, so that we can ensure his or her health status prior to vaccination.  In addition, our vaccines carry a guarantee from the company that manufactures them, and we can ensure to our clients and patients that our vaccines are handled appropriately from the time they are shipped, to the time they are received and placed in our refrigerator at the clinic.  At the feed store, a shipment of vaccines may be overlooked and become warm, rendering them useless.

So here is a brief overview of vaccines we recommend for puppies:

  1. 6 to 8 weeks of age – DAPPv
  2. 9 to 11 weeks of age – DAPPv
  3. 12 to 14 weeks of age – DALPP
  4. 15 to 17 weeks of age – DALPP

Remember that each of our puppy vaccine visits includes a complementary physical examination by one of our doctors, allowing us an opportunity to find and address any problems early, as well as to discuss other aspects of proper well care for your pet.

The Science of Winter Feeding

As you prepare for cold weather to roll in, it’s important to keep your horse healthy and warm. Horses are kept warm not only by their winter coat and body fat, but also by an internal heating system: the digestive system of the horse.

Digestion creates microbial fermentation which, in turn, produces heat – keeping your horse warm. What does a horse need to best stoke this internal furnace? Fiber, or more precisely, hay!

While some may think that increasing the amount of grain we feed our horses in the winter will increase our horses’ energy, grain is not the best choice when it comes to keeping horses warm and healthy.

Why is hay a better choice than grain? Hay has a higher fiber content than grain, which means that it is digested more slowly. This allows the horse’s body to sustain his internal heat for a longer period of time.

However, there are some benefits to gradually increasing grain intake for your horse, especially for that hard keeper. Grain will help your horse stay warm by increasing fat calorie intake, causing the horse to gain weight and body fat. Corn, Beet pulp, high-fat grains, and vegetable oil, along with an increase in hay, are great ways to help that hard keeper maintain his weight through the winter months.

Unfortunately, while graining your horse may have longterm benefits, the result is not immediate. When there is a winter storm around the corner, the best solution for keeping a horse warm and healthy can be as simple as feeding him an extra flake of hay.

This article appeared in America’s Horse and you can also find this on americashorsedaily.com

Top 5 Holiday Dangers for Pets

Preventive Measures Can Save Pets

The holidays are a festive time for us and our pets. However, due to ongoing activities and constant distractions, we can easily overlook potential dangers to our four-legged family members.

Take preventive measures to protect your pets this holiday season. Being aware of these top five dangers could save you a trip to the veterinary emergency room.

1. Holiday Tinsel and Ornaments

Tinsel, while not toxic, is very attractive to pets, particularly cats. The shiny, dangling decoration reflects light and can move in the slightest draft — appearing to come alive to watchful critters.

The problem with tinsel is that once it’s consumed, it can cause serious injury to your pet. If not caught in time, this foreign body ingestion could actually be fatal as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines. Immediate veterinary care is required.

In addition, bright and colorful tree ornaments can attract your pet’s curiosity. Place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments higher up on the tree. Pets can chew and swallow these fragile objects and not only can broken pieces form sharp edges that may lacerate your pet’s mouth, throat, and intestines, they could also create a choking hazard.

2. Holiday Lighting and Candles

Twinkling, shiny and dangling holiday lights — such as the icicle, netting, garland, curtain, rope and candle varietal — may be another source of danger to your curious pets.

Got a pet that likes to chew? Electrical shock may occur when a pet chomps down on an electrical cord, causing tongue lacerations and possible death. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.

3. Gift Wrap Ribbon

You may be tempted to fashion your pet with a decorative ribbon “collar” but beware that this could become a choking hazard.

Also, it’s best to quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so that your curious companions won’t be enticed to chew or swallow them. Ingested ribbon can cause a choking hazard and ultimately twist throughout the intestines, leading to emergency surgery and even death.

4. Food Hazards

Festive events often mean edible treats — and lots of them. Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday goodies, such as chocolate, bones and nuts, can be extremely toxic or fatal to pets.

  • Different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine and the substances methylxanthines. In general, the darker and richer the chocolate (i.e., baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, dogs might experience vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
  • Fat trimmings and bones are dangerous for dogs. Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, may cause pancreatitis. And, although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, a dog can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system.
  • Abundant in many cookies and candies, certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, non-moldy walnuts, and pistachios can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog’s throat and/or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting, and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion.

Keep your pet on her regular diet and caution visitors against giving your pet special treats or table scraps.

5. Toxic Holiday Plants

They may be pretty, but some holiday plants are poisonous—even deadly. As little as a single leaf from any lily variety is lethal to cats. Others to avoid:

  • Christmas tree pine needles can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and posterior weakness.
  • Holly, commonly found during the Christmas season, can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
  • Mistletoe, another Christmas plant, can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations, and death when ingested.
  • Poinsettias can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting.

Taking precautions with pets during these festive times can help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy — and healthy — holiday season!

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) spread rapidly after its introduction in 1999; vaccination is recommended.


West Nile virus (WNV) causes a potentially fatal encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord) in a variety of mammals such as birds, horses, and humans. While long recognized in Africa, Eastern Europe, West Asia, and elsewhere, WNV was first diagnosed in North America in 1999. Since then the disease has spread rapidly throughout the continent.

West Nile virus is maintained in the wild bird population and is spread between birds by mosquitoes. Humans and horses become infected after being bitten by mosquitoes infected with WNV that have fed on infected birds. The virus enters the horse’s bloodstream and spreads to the spinal cord and brain causing a wide-spread inflammation. Clinical signs of disease typically present within three to 15 days of exposure.

Horses and humans are considered dead-end hosts of the virus and do not contribute to the transmission cycle. The virus is not directly contagious from horse to horse or horse to human. Indirect transmission via mosquitoes from infected horses is highly unlikely because horses have negligible amounts of virus circulation in their blood. Mechanical transmission of the virus, such as through a blood transfusion, is possible.

Clinical signs

Classic clinical signs of horses infected with the WNV include fever, ataxia (incoordination), stumbling, hind limb weakness, depression, anorexia, recumbency with the inability to rise, muscle tremors, teeth grinding, dysphagia (inability to swallow), head pressing, signs of colic, a flaccid (limp) paralysis of the lower lip, aimless wandering, excessive sweating, behavior changes, and convulsions or even coma.


If your horse exhibits abnormal behavior or any neurological signs (such as ataxia), call your veterinarian immediately. It is very important to rule out other neurological diseases such as rabies, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), the viral encephalitides (e.g., Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis), the neurologic form of equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), botulism, or wobbler syndrome (cervical vertebral myelopathy), among others.

There are several tests available to help diagnose WNV in horses exhibiting clinical signs of disease. Theses include identifying the virus, viral antigens, viral genetic material, or antibodies produced by the horse in response to WNV infection. Examples include virus isolation, hemagglutination inhibition, complement fixation, immunohistochemistry, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). One of the most useful tests at present is the IgM-capture ELISA, which measures IgM antibodies produced by the horse in response to the virus. The WNV-IgM antibodies are elevated for approximately four to six weeks post-infection.

When interpreting test results, it is important to consider the vaccination status of the horse as some tests are incapable of distinguishing between infected and vaccinated horses. Good recordkeeping regarding vaccine history is recommended.


There is no specific treatment or cure for infected horses. Veterinary care includes administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and intravenous fluids (if necessary). Supportive care is exceedingly important for infected horses to ensure adequate food and water intake, protect the safety of the horse (to prevent injuries in ataxic horses), and to prevent pressure sores in recumbent horses. Some veterinarians have attempted treating horses with antiviral drugs such as interferon and passive antibody products for WNV, but published clinical trials demonstrating efficacy or safety of this approach are lacking at present.


The mortality rate for infected horses is estimated to be approximately 35%. That means almost two-thirds of infected horses recover. Horses that are recumbent are at higher rish of dying than infected horses that remain standing during the course of disease. Older horses have been reported to have a higher fatality rate. Many infected horses will recover completely; however, some horses (approximately 40%) might experience residual clinical signs. Caution must be used around horses that continue to exhibit neurological deficits after recovering from West Nile virus.


Since there is no cure for WNV, prevention is key to minimizing the chances of horses becoming infected with the virus. Current preventative measures include vaccination, management strategies, and ensuring your horse is in optimal health.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends vaccinating all horses against WNV. Unvaccinated adult horses would be vaccinated twice, four to six weeks apart. Thereafter, horses can be re-vaccinated based on the risk of exposure, up to once every four months. In the north, it is recommended to vaccinate horses in the spring prior to peak mosquito levels. In the south, where mosquito populations are present year-round, horses can be vaccinated biannually or more. Horses less than 5 years of age appear to be more susceptible than adult horses that have likely been vaccinated and/or had subclinical exposure. Horses greater than 15 years of age have a higher susceptibility to West Nile virus. Therefore, the AAEP recommends more frequent vaccination of these classes of horses. (Complete recommendations can be found on AAEP.org)

In addition to vaccination, it is important to minimize mosquito populations near your horses by eliminating breeding and resting areas and keeping mosquitoes away from horses. For example, reduce or eliminate sources of stagnant or standing water, remove much from areas near the horses, stable your horses during peak mosquito periods (i.e., dawn and dusk), use equine-approved mosquito repellants, place fans inside the barns or stalls to maintain air movement (mosquitoes don’t fly well in wind), and avoid using incandescent bulbs inside stables at night. Instead, place incandescent bulbs away from stables. This will attract the mosquitoes to areas outside the stables.

Finally, discourage wild birds from roosting near your stables. Report any dead birds—particularly crows, blue jays, owls and hawks—to your local Department of Health as they might want to test the birds for West Nile virus.

Winter hazards for equine

As the days turn colder, the way we care for our horses must change.  Read through these tips on how to care for your horse in frozen mud, ice, snow, and other conditions.

Frozen Mud

Autumn rains often turn pastures into mud bogs. Add the churning hooves of several horses and you have a big mess. Sticky mud can pull shoes off, and long winter hair coats can become encrusted with mud if you don’t groom regularly. Of course, there is a risk of a horse slipping in mud and injuring itself. But things get really hazardous when that mud freezes into treacherous lumps and divots. Horses have difficulty walking over the hoof-print pocked terrain and there’s always a potential for injury.

You may be able to build up low spots to avoid mud bogs, but if a whole pasture or paddock this might not be possible. You may have to keep your horses off of the area until it dries or hardens up. Avoid slimy mud build-up in front of stable doors by putting all floor sweepings of manure, chaff, and dirt into the manure pile, rather than whisking it out the door. A length of rain gutter over the stable door can divert rain, and snow melts away, keeping the immediate area drier.


Mud puddles can turn into ice rinks as the weather turns colder. As horses walk on snowy paths, the footing can get quite icy and slippery. While ice melting products may solve the problems on roadways and sidewalks, these substances may not be good for your horse’s hooves. Instead, spread manure, shavings or sand on slippery areas.

Ice over ponds or other bodies of water can be a hazard if horses wander out on them and fall through.  Block access to slippery banks or frozen water with a line of electric fencing if you can’t keep the horses out of the pasture altogether.

Frozen Water

A horse cannot eat enough snow to provide themselves with adequate water in the winter. Fresh water is especially important in the winter time, when horses may be eating more dry hay. Lack of water can lead to impaction colic, as well as poor overall health. Heated water bowls, heated buckets, and trough water heaters are just a few of the ways you can keep your horse’s water from freezing.

Stuffy Barns

A snug barn may feel cozy to you. But the horse shouldn’t have to constantly adjust between a warm barn and the cold outdoors. If your barn is warm and air-tight, there may be air quality issues as well. Ammonia from manure can build up quickly. Bedding and hay can be dusty and moldy. Molds can build up on window frames and walls too. All this may cause respiratory problems, or aggravate conditions like COPD.

Unsuitable Grazing

As the weather cools and becomes rainy, your pasture may suddenly take on new life after a parched summer. Lush grass can be a hazard for horses who’ve been eating drier grass or hay all summer. Allowing horses to chew down pastures in the fall or winter may not be good for the grass either. Some research suggests that frozen grass is higher in sugars and may be a problem for equines with laminitis or EMS.

Falling tree leaves can also be a problem. Some, like the red oak, are toxic to horses. A very bored or hungry horse might munch on dead leaves, but those who have better tasting options like grass or good hay probably won’t touch the leaves. Nevertheless, know what species of toxic trees and plants are in your pastures and be prepared to remove the horses or the leaves (or the trees themselves) if your horses are likely to eat them.

Thrush, Rain Rot and Lice

When the weather gets colder, problems like rain scald, thrush, and lice crop up. Lice like to live snuggled under thick winter rugs and are actually more of a problem in winter than summer. Damp, cool conditions bring on thrush and rain rot.


As soon as the nights get cooler, the mice and other rodents start moving in. Rodents eat food, damage feed bags, chew through wooden and plastic bins, chew electrical wires, and can spread diseases like rabies, salmonella and leptospirosis as well as consume and soil costly feed.

I don’t like the idea of poison baits, especially if you have other pets. Live traps are an option, as are mousers like a Jack Russell Terrier or spayed cat. Make sure your grain is in rodent-proof containers and all spilled feed is cleaned up. Keep your barn tidy to reduce possible nesting sites. Make sure your barn wiring is not appealing. Some wire coatings are tastier to mice than others.