Farming Tips and Advice – Videos and Blogs from Tommy the Vet

Pink Eye in cattle

Pink eye

‘It’s the time of year for it’

How often do we hear that about certain diseases. One such disease is pink eye (infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis) an infectious bacterial disease affecting the eyes particularly of young calves in the summer months.

On a case today I was out to confirm this diagnosis and also to help implement a control program.

Clinical signs?

The group of calves today had the early signs of disease. Squinting, closing eyes, some calves in the group with tears streaming from infected eyes. Calves will often blink in pain and have corneal (surface of the eye) ulceration.
The picture of the calf in the short video shows the small ulcer beginning. As time progresses this will turn into a pannus which often can be red or pink in colour.
It typically affects younger calves in the summer months, but also can affect older cattle as well.

How significant is this?

This is a very painful condition. Remember in cattle pain limits performance and we must limit pain. If left untreated the ulcer can penetrate and rupture the eye. It is also very contagious as it is bacterial infection which spreads rapidly in at risk groups of cattle.

What is the cause and risk factors?

It is caused by a bacteria called Moraxella Bovis. Conditions that favour its spread or that make cattle susceptible are dry and dusty conditions. Also bright sunlight can irritate the condition or make it worse. It is spread animal to animal by contact such as at creep feeders or also spread very commonly by flies. Some authors have also attributed grazing on long grass which can cause ocular irritation.
This is why we typically see it in the early months of the summer in younger cattle. However it can occur at other stages and also in older cattle.

How can it be treated?

Like any bacterial infections antibiotic treatments as advised by your vet is the best treatment. There are several options including regular antibiotic eye cream applications or also by injection of antibiotics into the sub-conjunctiva of the upper eyelid of the affected eye. In some cases where a high % of cattle are affected injectable antibiotics can be used.
This technique should be carried out only after instruction on administration by your vet.

Beware this is a contagious bacteria and at first signs all infected cattle should be treated. If over 15-20% of cattle are affected it can be advised that all cattle should receive treatment. This is a decision to be made between client and their vet.
Fly control being administered topically can also reduce the spread of the disease between animals.
Due to the fact sunlight can irritate affected animals this must be considered in a control plan.
Other causes should be ruled out like ‘silage eye’ to determine best treatment options.

Remembering that it is contagious, animals that are infected could be isolated for a number of days following treatment.

Like most bacterial infections, early intervention and treatment will have the best results. Also where possible reducing and controlling risk factors.

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