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Our information can help you with issues that affect the mouth, throat or respiratory system of cattle.

Breathing issues, discharge from mouth or nose

Conditions that affect the mouth, throat or respiratory system of cattle. How many animals are affected?

Several animals

A single animal

  • Bloat

    Bloat (frothy)

    What to look for

    • Animals are often found dead with a very distended abdomen
    • If found before death: distended abdomen on the left side between the last rib and the hip bone very distressed, difficulty breathing if untreated, may die quickly
    • Cows can also have less severe forms of bloat that may depress milk production

    Cause

    Consumption of young, rapidly growing legumes, clover or lucerne. Bloat is usually caused by eating pasture species that are growing quickly and contain low fibre levels. Consequently, animals produce less saliva production which makes them more susceptible to bloat. Under certain circumstances, feeding on these pastures can lead to build up of foam in the rumen that prevents animals burping to remove the gas produced in the rumen.

    Animals likely to be affected

    Heifers are more likely to die of bloat than older cows. There may be breed differences in susceptibility, with Jerseys and crossbred cattle being more susceptible. 

    Other diseases with similar signs

    Other causes of sudden death.

    Confirming the diagnosis

    Sudden death of animals with very distended abdomens (this is only useful in diagnosis if the animal has died recently because all animals will œblow up after death) Recently introduced to pastures with a high clover or lucerne content Characteristic foam in the rumen (but this only lasts for a few hours after death)

    Treatment

    • Move animals from the toxic pasture to a pasture with lower levels of clover or lucerne
    • Provide supplementary feed such as hay or silage Animals that are mildly affected can be treated with a bloat drench.
    • In advanced cases of bloat it is often difficult to administer treatments that will reduce foam in the rumen.
    • Seriously affected animals (having difficulty breathing, open mouth, tongue out) need immediate assistance to either reduce the foam or remove it.
    • As a last resort, an incision can be made in the upper left flank to allow the foam to escape. While this approach may save the bloated animal it is essential to call your vet immediately to repair the wound and administer antibiotics to counter infection.

    Risk factors

    Overconsumption of young, rapidly growing legumes, clover or lucerne pastures

    Prevention

    Only introduce animals when their appetite has been partially satisfied with safe pastures, hay or silage.

    • Limit grazing time and observe cattle closely to assess the risk and act quickly if animals start to show signs of bloat.
    • Administer anti-foaming chemicals:
    • detergents such as the teric group of chemicals
    • anti-foaming agents (bloat oils) such as paraffin oil and tallow rumen
    • modifiers such as monensin

    Most anti-foaming chemicals are only effective for a relatively short time. The major challenge is to ensure that animals have a continual supply of the chemical in their rumen.

    Systems for maintaining a safe level of chemical in the rumen include:

    • drench twice a day
    • spray pastures with oil
    • mix the medication with feeds that delivered in the bail during milking flank
    • application of bloat oil - some animals do not lick the oil and are not protected add detergents to drinking troughs
    • bloat blocks“ limited success because not all animals will lick the blocks
    • bloat capsules - designed to stay in the rumen and slowly release monensin for ~ 3 months

  • Bluetongue

    Bluetongue

    What to look for“ - Australian strains cause no signs of disease

    Virulent bluetongue virus may cause fever, small ulcers and bleeding in the mouth and nose, dribbling of saliva and nasal discharges.

    Cause -“ an insect-borne virus

    There are 24 different types of bluetongue virus and, of these, 10 have been found in Australia. We need to keep Australia free of the virulent strains of bluetongue virus.

    Animals likely to be affected

    Any ruminant animals such as sheep, cattle, buffaloes and goats.

    Other diseases with similar signs

    Virulent strains of bluetongue resemble other exotic diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Vesicular Stomatitis. Bluetongue may also be mistaken for diseases that occur in Australia such infectious bovine rhinotracheitis or BVDV(mucosal disease). Any outbreak of disease resembling bluetongue should be reported promptly to a veterinarian for a thorough investigation.

    Confirming the diagnosis

    Laboratory testing of blood samples indicates whether an animal has had contact with bluetongue virus. Laboratory testing of other samples can identify and type the bluetongue virus.

    Spread of the disease

    Bluetongue virus is transmitted from animal to animal by biting midges from the Culicoides family. These midges feed on infected animals and the virus multiplies in their salivary glands before being injected into another animal. Australia has several different types of Culicoides midges, each with a different distribution, but all are primarily located in northern Australia.

    Risks to people

    None.

    Treatment

    None.

  • Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis

    Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis

    What to look for

    Varies from outbreaks of mild disease through to severe illness.

    • Respiratory signs and fever
    • Clear discharge from their nostrils which may become cloudy and profuse
    • Drop in milk production Inflamed eyes Ulcers in the mouth
    • Laboured breathing

    Not fatal unless there are complications such as bacterial infections

    Cause

    A herpes virus.

    Animals likely to be affected

    Most often seen as an outbreak in two year old cows but can occur in any age group. Outbreaks may be triggered by stressful situations such as transport or crowding.

    Other diseases with similar signs

    BVDV/Mucosal disease.

    Confirming the diagnosis

    Virus can be isolated from swabs of infected animals. Two blood samples collected several weeks apart can be tested to see if the level of antibodies to IBR increases.

    Spread of the disease

    The IBR virus is usually passed from cow to cow without causing disease. If a group of animals that have not previously encountered the virus and are stressed by such things as transport or introduction to the dairy herd an outbreak may occur. Animals usually stay infected with the virus for life and can spread it to animals that have not previously been exposed.

    Treatment

    Treatment is usually not required unless animals are seriously ill. If so, they should be isolated, given good nursing support and anti inflammatories. If bacterial infections are suspected, treat animals with antibiotics.

    Risk factors

    • Introducing cattle from outside the herd
    • Transportation, overcrowding or other stresses

    Prevention

    Maintaining a closed herd reduces the risk of introducing IBR virus but the virus is widespread in cattle populations and may be present in herds without clinical disease. If an outbreak occurs, isolate infected animals to reduce the spread of the virus to vulnerable animals. Vaccines can be used to if there is reason to believe that animals are vulnerable to IBR e.g. entering a feedlot.

  • Malignant catarrhal fever

    Malignant Catarrhal Fever

    What to look for

    There are 2 different forms of the disease

    Head and eye form:

    • Usually occurs in single animals
    • Sudden onset of fever, depression, lack of appetite
    • A big drop in milk production in lactating cows
    • Copious discharges from the nostrils, red nose and cloudy eyes
    • May develop ulcers in the mouth
    • Affected animals generally die within a few days

    Gut form:

    May affect individual animals or occur as an outbreak Much milder changes to the nostrils, eyes and mouth seen Animals rapidly develop profuse diarrhoea and die quickly

    Cause:

    A virus that is normally found in sheep without causing clinical signs of disease

    Spread of the disease

    Most sheep are infected with the virus which is secreted in their nasal secretions. It is not clear how cattle become infected but the disease rarely occurs in cattle that do not have contact with sheep. Some cattle appear to become infected without showing any clinical signs but it is believed that there is no transfer of MCF virus between cattle.

    Animals likely to be affected

    Malignant Catarrhal Fever is an unusual condition that is most often seen in yearling animals. Wild and domesticated deer are also susceptible.

    Other diseases with similar signs

    May resemble some forms of Bovine Virus Diarrhoea mucosal disease (caused by bovine pestivirus) or exotic diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease.

    Confirming the diagnosis

    Any suspected case of MCF should be investigated by your vet to rule out the possibility of the Foot and Mouth Disease or other similar diseases that do not occur in this country.

    Treatment

    There is no treatment for MCF and so infected animals should be humanely killed.

    Risk factors

    Running sheep and cattle together. There is no vaccine for MCF and no specific preventive measures.  

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