Common Diseases in Cattle


  • ANAPLASMOSIS
    • An infectious blood disease caused by the rickesttsial parasites Anaplasma marginale and Anaplasma centrale. It occurs primarily in warm tropical climate areas. The disease is not contagious but it can be transmitted most commonly by ticks but also by using contaminated needles, dehorning equipment, castrating knives, tattoo instruments, biting flies and mosquitoes. This parasite destroys red blood cells. It causes anemia, fever, weight loss, breathlessness, uncoordinated movements, abortion and death. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and the examination of blood under microscope for evidence of the parasite.

      Affected cattle either die or begin a recovery within 4 days after the first signs of the disease. The mortality rate increases with the age of the animal. Contact our office regarding tratment. In some cases infected cattle may not be treated unless detected during the early stages of the disease. If in advanced stages, and if the cattle are forced to move or becomes excited, they could die from lack of oxygen. Some antibiotic treatments do little or nothing to affect the outcome of the disease in the advanced stages. Treatment consists of the administration of tetracycline. A vaccine is available that helps to reduce the severity of the infection. Maintaining a good herd management program controlling ticks and following strict sanitation procedures during vaccinations will help stop the spread of the disease to healthy animals. Animals that recover from anaplasmosis are carriers and can spread the disease.

      Chlortetracycline also known as CTC can reduce the risk of anaplasmosis. Chlortetracycline (CTC) consumed at the rate of 0.5 mg / lb. body weight daily during fly and tick season will help to prevent anaplasmosis. A consistent intake of the correct amount of mineral is crucial to a anaplasmosis prevention program. CTC is available in medicated feed, free choice salt-mineral mixes or medicated blocks. Be sure the product is labeled for anaplasmosis control and follow the label instructions exactly.
  • ANTHRAX
    • A highly infectious and fatal disease of mammals and humans. It is caused by a relatively large spore-forming rectangular shaped bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. Most outbreaks occur in areas where animals have previous died of anthrax, as the spores remain viable for decades. The predominant sign in cattle with anthrax is a progression from a normal appearance to dead in a matter of hours. Most animals are simply found dead. Once an outbreak begins in the animals may be observed with signs of weakness, fever, excitement followed by depression, difficulty breathing, uncoordinated movements and convulsions. Bloody discharges from the natural body openings as well as edema in different parts of the body are sometimes observed. After death, the animal's body rapidly decomposes.

      Some animals may be saved if treated very early with penicillin or tetracyclines. Vaccination is very effective in preventing further disease from occurring in animals on a property experiencing an outbreak, however full immunity takes 10 to 14 days to develop. Antibiotics must not be used at the same time as vaccines are given, since they interfere with the development of immunity.

      For animals and humans, anthrax is a reportable disease in the United States. Local and state health departments, federal animal health officials, and the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases should immediately be notified of any suspected cases. Remember, this is a potentially fatal human pathogen, so appropriate measures must be taken to protect all personnel. A physician should be contacted for the best preventative measures for all exposed or potentially exposed humans.
  • BLACKLEG
    • A highly fatal disease of young cattle. The spores in this organism can live in the soil for many years. The bacteria enters the calf by ingestion and gains entrance to the body through small punctures in the mucous membrane of the digestive tract. Cattle that are on a high plane of nutrition, rapidly gaining weight and between 6 months and 2 years of age are most susceptible to the disease.

      The disease is not transmitted directly from sick animals to healthy animals by mere contact. The first sign observed is usually lameness, loss of appetite, rapid breathing and the animal is usually depressed and has a high fever. Swellings develop in the hip, shoulder, chest, back, neck or elsewhere. First the swelling is small, hot and painful. As the disease progresses, the swelling enlarges and becomes spongy and gaseous. If you press the swelling, gas can be felt under the skin. The animal usually dies in 12 to 48 hours. In most cases the animal is found dead without being previously observed sick. The speed with which blackleg kills usually makes individual treatment useless.

      Blackleg is almost entirely preventable by vaccination. The most commonly used clostridial vaccination in cattle is the 7-way type which protects against Clostridium chauveoi (blackleg), Clostridium septicum and Clostridium sordelli (malignant edema), Clostridium novyi (black disease), and three types of Clostridium perfringens otoxemia).
  • BLOAT
    • Pasture Bloat is a form of severe indigestion marked by a collection of gas in the rumen that the animal is unable to expel. Normal digestive processes create gases consisting chiefly of carbon dioxide and methane in the rumen. Most of the gases are eliminated by belching. Gases that are trapped may form a foam or froth in the rumen which further prevents their elimination. Froth formation can be caused by many factors resulting from interactions between the animal, rumen microorganisms, ifferences in plant biochemistry.

      The main causes of bloat are an inherited tendency for bloat, certain proteins in forage (particularly in legumes), the coarseness of the roughage and the type of rumen microbial population. Pasture bloat usually occurs in animals grazing wheat pasture, lush legumes (alfalfa, Ladino, red clover) or fed green-chopped legumes. To prevent pasture bloat in cattle you should plant pastures so that no more than 50 percent of the forage mixture is alfalfa or clover, fill cattle on dry roughage or grass pastures before turning to legume pastures, provide grass hay or graze in a rotation using grass pastures.

      Visual signs of bloated cattle include distension of the left side of the animal, discomfort as indicated by stomping of feet or kicking of belly, labored breathing, frequent urination and defecation, and sudden collapse.
  • BRUCELLOSIS (Bangs)
    • Also known as 'Contagious Abortion', this disease is caused by infection with the bacterium Brucella abortus. Brucellosis infection of cattle causes abortion or premature calving of recently infected animals, most often between the fifth and eight month of pregancy. Although federal and state regulations have helped to control this disease, there is still a threat. Infected cows frequently suffer from retained afterbirth, are difficult to get rebred and sometimes become sterile.

      Brucellosis is spread from the vaginal discharge of an infected cow or from an aborted fetus. The organism has an affinity for the reproductive tract and abortions, retained placenta, weak calves and infertility frequently occur. Breeding bulls which are infected, can transmit the disease to cows at the time of service by infected semen. Milk produced front an infected cow may also harbor the organism. The infected milk creates a public health hazard as this is the organism that causes undulant fever in humans.

      There is no treatment for Brucellosis. Prevention of Brucellosis is accomplished by official calfhood vaccination of heifer calves. Vaccination must be done by an accredited veterinarian at calf ages that vary from two to four months using standard dosage vaccine, or from 4 to 12 months using reduced dosage vaccine. Each calf must be identified as officially vaccinated in compliance with state and federal regulations. Quarantines are imposed on infected herds by state and federal authorities until the herd has been proven free of the disease.
  • BOVINE VIRUS DIARRHEA (BVD)
    • This infection can cause numerous problems, such as damage to the digestive and immune systems, pneumonia, abortions, calf deformities, and others.

      Clinical signs in newborn calves infected with BVD include fever, nasal discharge, diarrhea, and inability to move about normally. Modified live virus vaccines are available but contact our office before using to allow us to assist you in making a decision to weigh the risk of loss vs having the vaccine. We can make a recommendation upon examination.
  • CALF SCOURS
    • This one disease can cause the cattle producer to suffer financially more than any other disease related problem. Calf Scours is not really a disease but a symptom of disease to be determined. Symptoms include a diarrhea-like discharge of more fluid than normal from the bowel and more frequently than normal. The discharge can be white, yellow, grey or blood-stained, and is often foul-smelling. Loss of body fluids due to diarrhea in a calf can cause dehydration rapidly.

      Although infectious agents may be the cause of primary damage to the intestine, death from scours is usually due to loss of electrolytes, changes in body chemistry, dehydration, and change in acid-base balance rather than by invasion of an infectious agent. The infectious agent could be viral or protozoa.

      The younger the calf with these symptoms, and the longer left untreated, the greater the chance for death. Treatment for scours is very similar regardless of the cause. It is first directed toward treating the dehydration, acidosis, and electrolyte loss. Antibiotic treatment can be given simultaneously with the treatment for dehydration. Dehydration can be treated with simple fluids given by mouth early in the course of the disease. If dehydration is allowed to continue, intravenous fluid treatment becomes necessary.
  • COCCIDIOSIS
    • A continuing major disease problem for cattle producers. Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of weight, loss of appetite, rough coat, & emaciation. Coccidiosis occurs more frequently in calves from one to six months of age, but older cattle, especially those from one to two years, are can also be affected. The general weakness may cause the calf to defecate without rising, thus soiling its tail and hindquarters. In more severe cases the manure may contain blood, mucus, and stringy masses of tissue. Severe straining at defecation may be observed in the more advanced stages. Death may occur during the acute period, or later from secondary complications, such as pneumonia.

      Prevention is less costly than treatment. Well nourished cattle are less likely to contract this disease. Good herd management would include avoiding damp, moist pasture grazing. Pastures should be well-drained, watering troughs raised above the ground, and grazing should be kept to a minimum on lush grass along the edges of ponds and streams. In these areas where cattle congregate, overgrazing should be avoided.
  • FOOTROT
    • This bacteria related disease can occur in cattle of all ages though predominately seen in adults with increased incidence during the wet fall and summer months. The bacteria enters the foot through lesions in the lower part of the foot or through the softened tissue from standing too long in wet manure and mud.

      Lameness will appear suddenly and often only in 1 foot. A moderate fever may be present in the animal and some pus may be seen. Necrotic skin may be seen and will have a foul odor. The foot is usually swollen and the animal in acute pain.

      Often the animal will recover on its own but if not treated, the lameness and pain could continue for weeks. Penicillin, tetracyclines, sodium sulfadimidine, sulfabromomethazine, and other antibacterial agents are used for systemic therapy. Daily treatment begun immediately after onset of lameness usually will give excellent recovery in two to four days. Treated animals should be maintained on a dry surface until recovered. Recent research has shown that dietary zinc supplementation is effective in treating and preventing footrot in cattle.
  • IBR (Red Nose)
    • Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (commonly called IBR or red nose) is an acute, contagious virus disease of cattle. Often implicated as an infection which initiates the shipping fever complex. This infection usually occurs in the air passages of the head and the wind pipe. However, in females this virus also causes inflammation of the vulva and vagina and abortion. Abortion occurs about 20 to 45 days after infection.

      Cattle of all ages that have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from the disease are susceptible to IBR. The use of modified live vaccines on non-immune pregnant or on animals in contact with pregnant cows could possibly cause abortion. An intranasal vaccine is available that can be used on pregnant cows, if necessary. It is advisable that heifers be vaccinated or revaccinated 30 to 60 days before breeding.
  • EXTERNAL PARASITES
    Horn flies, face flies, stable flies, ticks, lice and mites are the major external parasites in beef cattle.
    • Horn Flies are about half the size of house flies and are dark gray. They are blood-sucking flies that stay on the shoulders and backs of cattle almost continuously. There are many options to assist in control:
      1. Backrubbers allow cattle to treat themselves while loafing and scratching.
      2. Dust bags are most effective when used where cattle have to pass under them daily to get to water or mineral.
      3. Feed additives target horn fly maggots breeding in fresh animal manure.
      4. High pressure sprays can be used to treat cattle thoroughly and inexpensively on a per head basis.
      5. An insecticide bolus is a large pill-like formulation that is given to the animal with a standard balling gun.
      6. Insecticide-impregnated cattle ear tags release small amounts of an insecticide which are distributed over the animal during grooming or rubbing.
      7. Pour on insecticides

      Face Flies closely resemble house flies. They cluster on the faces of cattle and feed on secretions from the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose, and lips. Face flies do not suck blood. They do irritate the surface of the eyeball and carry and spread bacteria and viruses that contribute to pinkeye problems. They spend only a small portion of their life on cattle which makes them more difficult to control than horn flies.

      Stable flies are sometimes called biting house flies.The look very much like house flies. They feed primarily on legs and lower abdomen of cattle. The blood loss and pain associated with the bite of stable flies results in substantial economic loss.

      Ticks cause blood loss, discomfort, and spread diseases like anaplasmosis described above. Tick control is extremely difficult in areas with high tick populations. Control on cattle through persistent use of approved pesticides is achieved by spraying, dipping, ear tags, pour-ons, dust, and backrubs.

      Lice cause skin irritation and itching. Both biting and sucking lice infest cattle. Infested cattle can experience reduced appetite and appear unhealthy. Sprays and pour-ons are common methods to treat cattle lice.

      Mite infestation is called mange in cattle. A serious form of mange is called scabies. Scabies is caused by sarcoptic and psoroptic mites and must be reported to the disease control authorities. Cattle infested with mites suffer hair loss and a thickening of the skin. Severe infestations can weaken cattle and make them vulnerable to diseases. Mite control works best with Injectable products or pour-on products with systemic activity
  • INTERNAL PARASITES
    • Internal parasites can result in great economic losses for the cattle producer. There are several several anthelmintics approved for use in beef cattle. It is probably a good idea to rotate the wormer you use. Contact our office concerning the type to use and the timing to be the most cost effective for our area.
  • JOHNE'S DISEASE
    • In brief, this is a chronic wasting disease caused by a bacterium related to tuberculosis and causes considerable production losses in adult cattle, sheep, goats, deer, llamas, elk, and bison, and other ruminants. We have a page on this website dedicated to this disease. Go to Cattle & Corral Johne's Disease for more information.
  • LEPTOSPIROSIS
    • A corkscrew-like bacteria, affecting cattle in the United States. The most common species affecting cattle is L. pomona. Multiple abortions in the breeding herd is often the first sign of the disease. The clinical signs in adult cattle are yellow mucous membranes and bloody appearing urine, which are seen only occasionally. The milk of lactating cows may become thick, yellow and blood-tinged. Abortion two to five weeks after infection is common, but most occur about the seventh month of gestation. Diagnosis is confirmed by a blood test or culturing the organism. Vaccines are available for five of the leptospira species that affect cattle. Vaccination should be done annually 30 to 60 days before the breeding season.
  • LUMPY JAW
    • Produces immovable hard swellings on the upper and lower jawbones of cattle. The tumor-like swellings develop slowly and may take several months to reach a noticeable size. Lumpy jaw may be well advanced before external signs are visible. The lumps consist of honeycombed masses of thin bone filled with yellow pus. If neglected the swellings may become very large. In advanced cases openings develop and discharge small amounts of sticky pus containing gritty yellow granules.

      Difficult breathing due to involvement of the nasal bones may be the first sign. As the disease progresses, chewing becomes more difficult and painful, resulting in loss of condition. Occasionally, the soft tissues of the head and alimentary tract can be involved. Lesions in the alimentary tract give vague symptoms of indigestion, with chronic bloat.

      The most common treatments are iodine therapy or tetracyclines. Treatment is often ineffective. If the disease is detected early, it may be better to dispose of the l while it is still in good condition. Only the head should be condemned by meat inspectors, unless the lesions have spread elsewhere in the body.
  • PINKEYE
    • A common infectious disease affecting the eyes of cattle. Although pinkeye is non-fatal, it has a marked economic impact on the cattle industry. It is known to occur at all seasons of the year and in all breeds of cattle. Pinkeye and foot rot are the two most prevalent conditions affecting all breeding beef females.

      2 of the most common signs are excessive weeping of the affected eye and closure due to pain. The course of the infection may run for 4 to 8 weeks, or even longer. An intensive fly control program is essential to limit the spread of pinkeye in a herd of cattle. Cattle with pinkeye can be helped by prompt treatment. Most antibiotics in eye sprays are effective in reducing the infection. Many eye sprays also contain an anesthetic to relieve the intense pain due to infection.
  • RINGWORM
    • A transmissible infectious skin disease occuring in all mammals including humans. It attacks the surface of the skin sith signs of a scaly scab in a circular pattern. Ringworm is most frequent on the head and neck, but it may be found over the entire body in severe cases. Infection spreads from the center outwards and resulting in a circular lesion. Scabs fall from older lesions leaving a ring with a hairless area in the center. Direct contact with infected animals is the most common method of spreading the infection. Ringworm will usually cure itself without treatment. Common treatments include topical application of a 2% solution of iodine, thiabendazole paste or any fungicide used to treat athlete's foot in man.
  • TRICHOMONIASIS
    • A venereal disease of cattle that causes infertility and occasional abortions in cows and heifers. Disease organisms transferred to the cow's vagina from the bull during breeding migrate up to the uterus and cause the infection. Recently infected cows develop a mild white sticky discharge from the vulva which can last for up to two months. Large number of cows, often over 90% of the herd, will be affected in herds that have not been previously infected. Repeat breeding or infertility of individual cows can last up to five months. The reason for repeat breeding appears to be death of the embryo, often within 10 days. Eventually cows begin to cycle again and can carry a fetus to term.

      No vaccines are available for its prevention, but using artificial insemination and virgin bulls aid in control. Bulls are the main carriers of Trichomoniasis and, once infected, remain infected for life but show no signs of disease. Diagnosis of the disease can be confirmed microscopically.
  • VIBRIOSIS
    • An infectious bacterial disease of the genital tract causing infertility and occasional abortions. It is a venereal disease spread by infected bulls in mating. It is considered to be the most important cause of infertility in cattle. Vaccines are available, but it still causes losses simply because the vaccine is not being used. Infection introduced into a non-vaccinated herd will spread rapidly during breeding.

      Signs include repeat breeding activity is generally seen in animals that were assumed to be pregnant. Irregular estrus cycles are common. Absorption or expulsion of a small fetus probably explains the long estrus cycle seen with this disease. Varying degrees of vaginal inflammation and uterine infection are present but may be unrecognized. Abortion rates in infected herds generally run from 5% to 30%. Some females may carry the fetus longer and may abort a sizeable fetus 5 to 6 months into the gestation period. Retained placentas are common.

      Diagnosis is confirmed by a culture from the infected cow or an aborted fetus. Most of the cattle recover within a year. Disease carriers are common, however, and new infection can spread easily. Vibriosis is best controlled by vaccination, which renders animals highly resistant to infection. Vaccination involves two injections, 4-6 weeks apart in the first year, and a single dose of vaccine each year thereafter. Vaccination should be completed 4 weeks before breeding. Vibriosis vaccine is often combined with Leptospirosis in one vaccine. The use of artificial insemination is also valuable in limiting disease spread.
  • WOODEN TONGUE
    • A bacterial infection which live in the mouth entering through any abrasions. Wooden tongue occurs almost entirely in soft tissue with the tongue and lymph nodes of the head most often affected. The disease starts suddenly with the tongue becoming hard, swollen and painful. Affected animals drool saliva and may appear to be chewing gently. The tongue often protrudes between the lips and nodules and ulcers may be observed on the tongue. They are unable to eat or drink and rapidly lose condition. The disease is progressive and often fatal unless treated.

      Early treatment is usually successful, but advanced cases may fail to respond. The most common treatments are iodine therapy or tetracyclines. Advanced cases may require surgical drainage and irrigation with iodine solution for several days. Treated animals should be observed regularly, as relapses can occur.

  • Contact our office for assistance in your herd managment program!

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    P O Box 416
    (Hwy. 84 East)
    Rusk, TX 75785

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    Call 903-683-5315



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