Shipping fever

Attention! This is a potentially life-threatening condition for your horse. Time is of the essence, contact your veterinarian immediately.Find a Vet

Shipping Fever

Pleuropneumonia, Pleuritis, Pleurisy, Pneumonia, Lung Abscss

Pleuropneumonia, referred to often as shipping fever, is a condition which commonly occurs in performance horses which frequently travel long distance in a horse trailer. The majority of pleuropneumonia cases are caused by a bacterial infection, but can also result from viral agents, mycotic agents, pulmonary hydatidosis, or a complication of septic thrombophlebitis.

Potential complications that have occurred in horses following shipping fever are pneumothorax, pulmonary abscess formation, bronochopleural fistula, cranial mediastinal abscess, restrictive pericarditis, colic, antibiotic-associated colitis, laminitis, and jugular vein thrombosis.


Chronic coughing
Bilateral purulent nasal discharge
Poor performance
Weight loss
Crackles and wheezes
Jugular pulsation
Dark pink to dark red mucus membrane color
Respiratory distress
Reluctance to move
Loss of appetite


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiography



Supportive care
Fibrinolytic therapy


  • Marbofloxacin
  • Close monitoring
  • Maximize ventilation in trailer
  • Soak hay thoroughly if feeding en route
  • Make lengthy and frequent rest stops
  • Allow the horse to be loose in the box if and when possible when traveling
  • Clean the trailer regularly


The survival rate is reported to be as high as 90% by some investigators, with a 60% chance to return to athletic performance.

Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Horses that recently had long distance travel
  • General anesthesia
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Stress
  • Trauma