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Read about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of eye discharge.

Eye discharge

Conditions that cause weeping or red eyes, swollen eye lids or growths on or around the eyeball. 

These conditions are caused by a number of environmental factors, most notably by dust, UV light, tall plants and pollens. This condition can present itself all year round but animals are at the highest risk of infection in the summer months. 

The pinkeye organism persists in the farm environment and some animals can carry the infection without showing any symptoms. Flies help spread the organism between animals.

  • Pink eye

    Pink eye

    What to look for

    • Affected eyes are painful and develop a discharge
    • Animals go off their feed and try to avoid bright light
    • Ulcers may appear in the front part of the eye (the cornea)
    • Ruptured ulcers may cause permanent blindness

    Cause - a bacterial infection (Moraxella bovis)

    The organism is found in the environment and can remain in the eyes for long periods. Infection is aided by damage to the eye caused by dust, UV light, tall plants, pollens so pinkeye is most often seen in the summer.

    Animals likely to be affected

    Most common in younger animals. Under bad conditions a large number of animals may be infected. Most animals recover over a few weeks but scarring of the cornea may persist.

    Confirming the diagnosis

    Pinkeye is usually diagnosed by clinical examination and the history of the animals concerned. If only one or two animals are affected, other causes of eye damage must be considered e.g. grass seeds, foreign bodies. In older animals cancer eye (squamous cell carcinoma) must be ruled out. Laboratory test may be of value if the eye condition is not typical of pinkeye.

    Spread of the disease

    The pinkeye organism persists in the farm environment and some animals can carry the infection without showing any symptoms. Flies help spread the organism between animals.

    Treatment

    Antibiotic eye ointments can be effective in limiting damage to the eye if applied early and repeated several days later. Injectible antibiotics may be needed in severe cases. It is helpful to apply a patch over the eye to protect the eye and assist healing.

    Risk factors

    • Yarding of animals
    • Supplementary feeding of young animals with dusty feeds
    • Feeding roughage with stalks and seed heads
    • Eye damage due to dust, strong ultraviolet light, tall plants, pollens
    • High fly populations

    Prevention

    Minimise the effect of predisposing factors and attempt to control flies with insecticides. Separate infected animals from uninfected animals and avoid yarding of animals because this can accelerate the rate of spread. A vaccine is available and should be administered about a month before the anticipated pinkeye season and maintained by an annual booster.

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