Extreme Weather Causing New Health Problems

NORTH DAKOTA, US - Extreme weather conditions nationwide could lead to livestock health problems not normally seen in North Dakota.
calendar icon 15 August 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

Severe drought in the southern US, coupled with extreme wet conditions in the upper Midwest, is creating situations in which North Dakota veterinarians and livestock owners may see health problems not normally found in the state.

“There is unprecedented movement of cattle across the country,” says North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow.

“Livestock owners may see signs in their cattle that they have not seen before. If they do, they should contact their veterinarian right away and have the animal examined.”

Health problems cattle owners might see include anaplasmosis, red water disease and babesiosis.

Anaplasmosis usually is caused by Anaplasma marginale, a blood parasite. It is not contagious between animals. It usually is transmitted by a tick. The ticks that carry anaplasmosis can overwinter in North Dakota. Other biting insects, such as mosquitoes, horse flies and stable flies, also can transmit anaplasmosis.

Calves can be infected with the disease but are much more resistant than older cattle. Because the parasite destroys red blood cells, anemia is the classic symptom associated with anaplasmosis.

Redwater is caused by Leptospira, a bacterial pathogen. Leptospirosis is transmitted from animal to animal (and to humans) by contact with Leptospira in contaminated urine, feed and water.

The Leptospira pathogen associated with redwater causes the destruction of red blood cells and the release of hemoglobin, which is flushed from the animal’s body through the urine, hence the name redwater. Leptospira can survive in North Dakota.

Babesiosis (Texas fever) is very rare in the US, and a programme is under way along the US-Mexico border to control it. Babesiosis is caused by Babesia bigemina and Babesia bovis, which are blood parasites.

Babesiosis is transmitted by Boophilus ticks. Boophilus ticks cannot survive North Dakota winters, but cattle can be infected with the disease elsewhere before being brought into the state. Signs in cattle include a high fever (105 F and above), anemia, hemoglobinuria (brown urine) and staggering.

“It is important for veterinarians and livestock owners to be observant and vigilant,” Mr Stoltenow says. “Livestock owners are encouraged to contact their veterinarian right away if an animal is exhibiting signs of illness.”

He also recommends livestock owners purchase and move only animals with a known health background.

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