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Spring Is Here - April 2019

Spring Is Here And Pink Eye Is Right Around The Corner!

Spring, it seems, is finally here. Soon everyone will be busy working fields and getting this year’s crops into the ground. It also means the return of flies and pink eye. Every time summer comes around, pink eye is among one of the biggest issues that we fight with in cattle, especially younger heifers and those animals with white faces. Pink eye will form in one or both eyes and is very distinct in its presentation; cloudy, white eyes, redness around the outer edges of the eye, excessive watery eyes, eyelids held mostly or completely shut. In more severe cases the eye can also develop ulcers in the cornea (the surface of the eye) to varying depths.


The main cause of pink eye is a bacterial organism called Moraxella bovis. It’s a very common bacteria that can be found on many farms and on just about any animal and is the only organism that has been shown to cause pink eye on its own. However, there is another bacterium that is starting to become more prevalent in pink eye cultures and may be a potential factor in causing pink eye called Moraxella bovoculi. M. bovoculi has been around for awhile but researchers are still trying to determine it’s role in cases of pink eye as either a risk factor, a primary pathogen that causes infection, or if it works in tandem with M. bovis.


There are several risk factors that can aid M. bovis in causing infection either by damaging the cornea of the eye or weakening the immune system of the eye. Some of the most common risk factors that can damage the eye surface include:

- Tall grasses

- Plant awns (long, thin hair-like extensions from the seed heads of taller mature grasses)

- UV radiation from bright sunlight

- Dry and dusty environments

- Shipping stress

- Trace mineral deficiencies such as selenium and copper


There also are other infectious agents that can be factors in causing pink eye, such as Mycoplasma bovoculi or other Mycoplasma infections, or that can cause infections that look similar to pink eye, such as IBR. IBR infections look similar to pink eye, however, it rarely causes ulcers in the cornea and the animal will typically have upper respiratory signs as well. Vaccination against IBR aids in reducing IBR infections but it is still possible especially with unknown vaccination histories groups of animals from unknown sources.


Taking the time to implement good management practices and preventative strategies will help immensely in reducing and preventing pink eye spread in your herd. Some of those strategies include:

- Vaccinate with a pink eye vaccine 6-8 weeks before the first anticipated

cases of pink eye or exposure

- Fly control measures such as fly tags, rubs, dusters, manure

management where able, etc

- Ample shade to protect against excessive UV exposure

- Heat abatement to reduce heat stress

- Good nutrition and mineral supplementation to prevent trace mineral

deficiencies especially for selenium and copper

- Vaccination with Moraxella bovoculi and/or an autogenous pink eye

vaccine specific to your herd, if needed

- If able, separate infected animals from non-infected animals and

temporarily isolate and preventatively treat new herd additions

- Wear disposable gloves and protective clothing when handling and

treating affected animals


Fortunately, pink eye infections are susceptible to a number of different antibiotics generally making it easy to treat. You can discuss treatment options, diagnostics testing, and preventative measures with any of the doctors at River Valley Vet to help get a regimen that works best for your farm.


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