Clinical signs

  • Sudden death
  • Young animals may be found lying down having convulsions
  • Older animals may have a longer illness, and appear depressed, bloated and have no appetite
  • Some animals will have nervous signs such as aimless wandering

Cause - a bacterial infection (Clostridium perfringens)

This organism is normally found in the gut of healthy animals and only causes disease under exceptional conditions which allow it to multiply and produce a lethal toxin. This toxin is absorbed by the animal and causes damage to the lining of blood vessels. Enterotoxaemia also occurs in sheep and goats and in these species it is usually referred to as pulpy kidney.

Animals likely to be affected

Young cattle that are in good condition and on very good feed

Other diseases with similar signs

Any other diseases that cause sudden death and or nervous signs for example, anthraxgrass tetany or poisoning (lead or other toxic substances or plant toxins)

Confirming the diagnosis

The history of sudden death in young animals that are on good feed, and in good condition, suggests a diagnosis of enterotoxaemia. Laboratory examination of intestinal contents and blood can confirm the diagnosis.

Spread of the disease

Enterotoxaemia does not spread from animal to animal.

Risks to people

Enterotoxaemia in cattle is not a public health risk, but it is always important to be careful about personal hygienic when handling the carcase of an animal that has died suddenly, as it could be a disease such as anthrax that can infect people.


Even if animals are found alive they usually do not respond to treatment. The most effective action is to remove the herd to another paddock where the feed is less lush and to vaccinate with a clostridial vaccine.

Risk factors

• Failure to fully vaccinate young stock with clostridial vaccines (5 in 1, 7 in 1 or 8 in 1)

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