What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Drainage from Chest


Discharge from the chest can result from draining abscesses or wounds. Pus drainage from the chest or around the point of the shoulder is a classic sign of Pigeon Fever (Corynebacterium infection), which is contagious.

Consider the contagious potential of mysterious drainage coming from near the chest. In geographic areas in which Pigeon Fever exists, that should be high on the differential diagnosis list and should prompt you to use care to prevent spread of pus around the premises or direct transmission to other horses.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their rectal temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and general attitude and appetite. Assess movement/lameness at the walk. Is the horse stiff or uncomfortable? Assess the area (wearing gloves) for heat, swelling pain and appearance. Take a photo. Until your vet advises you, keep the horse away from your other horses and in a location that can be cleaned and disinfected when drainage ceases.

your vet's role

Your vet usually recognizes traumatic injury versus primary bacterial infection (Pigeon Fever). If there is a doubt about the nature of the discharge, they may choose to do further diagnostics. The good news is that this area usually drains well and heals rapidly.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is there a wound in the area?
  • Is there swelling in the area?
  • Where, geographically, does the horse live?
  • Is the horse out with others such that it might have been kicked?
  • Does your horse walk and move freely, or have you noticed any lameness?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP