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Floods Could Trigger Animal Diseases

10 January 2011

AUSTRALIA - With much of Queensland still affected by severe flooding and more rain on the way, producers are warned of increased animal disease risks.

Biosecurity Queensland Principal Veterinary Officer Dr Rick Whittle said it was important producers knew what to look out for.

"Despite the remaining floodwaters, we know that many producers are able to access and manage their stock," he said.

"Those producers that do have access to their animals should keep an eye out for unusual symptoms.

"There are a number of animal diseases that thrive during and following the wet conditions we´re experiencing, some of which can have serious impacts on stock, so it´s really important to be vigilant."

Dr Whittle said biting insects were a leading cause of disease in stock after floods.

"The increase in biting flies and mosquitoes following the floods would be expected to result in some increased transmission of three-day sickness, Akabane and Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA).

"EIA is viral disease of horses that can present as a very mild condition up to an acute disease resulting in death.

"If producers notice unusual symptoms in their animals after floods they should contact a veterinarian or their local Biosecurity Officer."

Common animal diseases to look out for include:

Three-day sickness

Three-day sickness is a cattle virus spread by biting insects with impacts including temporary or permanent infertility in bulls, loss of body condition, decreased calf-growth rates and milk production and abortion. Three-day sickness can be fatal in a small percentage of affected animals. Initial symptoms in affected animals include signs of a fever, lameness, shivering, drooling saliva and possible discharge from the eyes and nostrils.

To treat highly valuable or at risk cattle, producers may consider early treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs, which can reduce the course of the virus (but this is not always effective).

Akabane

Another cattle virus spread by biting insects, Akabane rarely shows until calving time - it can cause calves to be born with limb malformations or brain lesions. While there is no means of prevention or treatment, producers should be aware of the possibility of the virus.

Blackleg

Blackleg most commonly affects cattle younger than two years of age. It is caused after bacterial spores enter an animal from contaminated environments by ingestion or through small wounds. Disease can occur even months later, often triggered by bruising or injury. Common signs include fever, severe depression, gassy swelling under the skin or in muscles even before death, or sudden death usually with rapid bloating of the carcase.

Leptospirosis

All farm animals, including dogs and horses, are affected by Leptospirosis. The disease is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long as it is still moist. It can result in death but common signs include fever, abortion, infertility and weak newborns.

In cattle, a specific form of mastitis, known as 'milk-drop syndrome', can occur. Horses can develop blindness due to inflammation of eye tissues.

Even if already infected, vaccination can prevent clinical leptospiral disease from developing, though the animal will remain infected and able to transmit disease organisms, albeit in reduced numbers.

Botulism

This disease is a progressive paralysis and generally fatal disease of livestock caused by the ingestion of a toxin found in rotting animal material or on the bones of dead animals. Supplementing the cattle´s diet with phosphorous can assist if given early, but if cattle develop a habit of chewing bones they may continue the habit.

Following flooding, decaying vegetation can be a source of botulism toxin. Animals seeking feed in the immediate aftermath, may consume some of this decaying material, either inadvertently or deliberately if hungry.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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