For Clostridial Diseases and Pinkeye,
Prevention is Better than Treatment.

Clostridial Diseases

  • Various species of the bacterial genus Clostridium can cause severe and often fatal diseases in cattle 
  • Bacteria can form spores that survive in the soil for years
  • Cattle can become infected by consuming clostridial spores in contaminated pastures or feed, or when spores are introduced into a wound
  • Both the bacteria and the toxins they produce can cause disease 
  • Treatment options are limited, so prevention is key

Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IBK or Pinkeye)

  • A highly contagious disease that can spread quickly
  • U.S cattle producers lose an estimated $150 million annually due to losses associated with pinkeye
  • In a study, calves with pinkeye weighed an average of 19.6 pounds less at weaning than healthy calves1
  • One or both eyes may be affected
  • If left untreated, pinkeye can lead to severe eye damage and blindness

For more details, click on specific diseases below: 

  • Blackleg

    What is blackleg?

    • A bacterial disease affecting the skeletal and cardiac muscles caused by Clostridium chauvoei
    • Animals often die within 12 to 48 hours


    Cattle affected

    • Occurs mostly in rapidly growing animals 6 months to 2 years of age, but other ages can be affected
    • Animals are often in excellent body condition, on a high plane of nutrition


    Disease development

    • Blackleg doesn’t pass from animal to animal; cattle become infected from eating spores in soil
    • Spores can exist in the animal’s bloodstream and muscles without causing disease
    • Usually, some kind of muscle trauma enables the spores to grow and release toxins, causing local tissue death


    Signs

    • Lameness, depression, anorexia, fever, sudden death
    • Swellings can develop at various body locations


    Diagnosis

    • Presumptive diagnosis made on signs and visible lesions
    • Confirmation by tissue testing
    • Affected muscles are dark red or black with a rancid odor


    Treatment

    • Because animals typically die quickly, there’s often no time for treatment
    • If there is time, penicillin G procaine and supportive care (anti-inflammatory drugs, fluids) may help


    Disposal

    • Animals that die from blackleg can seed the environment with spores, increasing risk for future outbreaks
    • Carcasses should be burned or buried in deep ground


    Prevention

    • Vaccination of calves and adult cattle
  • Malignant Edema (Gas Gangrene)

    What is gas gangrene (malignant edema)?

    • A bacterial disease caused by Clostridium septicum, but other species may be involved, including C. chauvoei, C. sordellii, C. perfringens and C. novyi 


    Cattle affected

    • Cattle of any age


    Disease development

    • Spores from environment enter the animal through wounds in the skin or mucosa
    • May occur in postpartum dairy cattle, secondary to calving trauma


    Signs

    • Anorexia
    • Fever
    • Pitting edema, sloughing skin
    • Death


    Diagnosis

    • Presumptive diagnosis made on signs and visible lesions
    • Confirmation by tissue testing


    Treatment

    • If there is time, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs may help


    Prevention

    • Proper sanitation of surgical instruments
    • Multivalent vaccines are available
  • Enterotoxemia

    What is enterotoxemia?

    • A bacterial disease of the digestive tract, caused by Clostridium perfringens Type C
    • Infection can also occur with C. perfringens Types A, B and D, but less commonly


    Cattle affected

    • Newborn/Young calves


    Disease development

    • C. perfringens bacteria, in low numbers, are normal inhabitants of the GI tract
    • Inciting causes, such as stress or large intake of feed or milk or improperly mixed milk replacer, cause bacterial overgrowth
    • The bacteria produce toxins, which damages the gut wall and can be absorbed into the bloodstream


    Signs

    • Depression, abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea sometimes with blood and mucus
    • Sudden death


    Diagnosis

    • Tissue analysis (necropsy), bacterial culture


    Treatment

    • Antibiotics, Clostridium antitoxin and supportive care including intravenous fluids and anti-inflammatory drugs


    Prevention

    • Vaccinate dams at pregnancy check to improve colostrum
    • Vaccinate calves shortly after birth
    • Ensure consistent feeding practices: solids, temperature and timing of feeding
  • Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IBK or Pinkeye)

    What is pinkeye?

    • A highly contagious disease, causing inflammation of the cornea (clear surface of the eye) and conjunctiva (pink tissue lining the eyelids)
    • Can lead to corneal ulceration and blindness
    • Virus involved may include Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)
    • Bacteria involved may include Moraxella bovis, Moraxella bovoculi, Mycoplasma bovis and Mycoplasma bovoculi 


    Cattle affected

    • Calves are more likely to develop pinkeye, but any age can be affected


    Disease development

    • Pinkeye is multifactorial, meaning that multiple factors can contribute to the development of disease
    • It usually starts with eye irritation (dust, flies, sunlight, trauma or viral disease)
    • Bacteria are transmitted by contact with secretions from an infected animal, face flies or objects carrying organisms


    Signs

    • Excessive tearing, sensitivity to light
    • Loss of appetite
    • Ulcer on surface of cornea, which may appear initially as a white spot


    Diagnosis

    • Physical exam
    • Culture and sensitivity
    • Advanced diagnostics, if needed


    Treatment

    • Topical and/or injectable antibiotics
    • Surgery in severe cases
    • Early intervention is best to minimize eye damage and reduce bacterial spread
    • Cover and protect the affected eye with a temporary patch


    Prevention

    • Vaccination before typical pinkeye season
    • Clip weeds and tall grass from pasture where possible
    • Commercial vaccines protect against Moraxella bovis. In certain situations a custom-made vaccine may be necessary for Moraxella bovoculi, Mycoplasma bovis, and Mycoplasma bovoculi. These can be ordered by your veterinarian.
    • Fly control
    • Dust control
 

Dairy Clostridial and Pinkeye Products

Videos on Pinkeye In Cattle

The Costly Economics of Pinkeye

Research shows that calves that contract pinkeye can experience a $40 to $50 reduction in profitability. Dr. Richard Linhart, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim, explains the economic consequences of this complex infection. 

The Clinical Signs of Pinkeye

Recognizing and treating painful pinkeye early are important for animal welfare and productivity. Learn the signs of this infectious condition.

1Snowder GD, Van Vleck LD, Cundiff LV, Bennett GL Genetic and environmental factors associated with incidence of infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis in preweaned beef calves. J Anim Sci 2005;83:507—518.