On the Lookout for Pinkeye

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Now that hot, humid weather is gaining a foothold here in the mountains, cattle producers need to keep a sharp eye out for symptoms of pinkeye in cattle herds. Identifying this disease in its early onset may mean the difference between success and failure.

Cattle often develop pinkeye when grazing in excessively tall grass or pastures that are overgrown with abrasive weeds such as thistle or pigweed. Dust, seeds or other irritants can also lead to conditions favorable for pinkeye. As cattle graze in these situations, their eyes become irritated and produce excess tears. Tears in turn attract many flies, which can carry the pinkeye bacteria on their legs. The disease then spreads as files go from animal to animal.

The early, observable symptoms of pinkeye are cattle that are severely tear-stained and that are often keeping one or both eyes shut. As the disease progresses, eyes will develop ulcers and often become cloudy with the tissue around the eye becoming inflamed, having the classic “pink” appearance. If left untreated, blindness will result, often with the rupturing of the eye.

Once again, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for success. The usual and recommended treatment for pinkeye is the use of tetracycline-based medications such as LA-200Ò, Biomycin 200Ò, etc. Tulathromycin (DraxxinÒ) has also now been included as a recommendation for the treatment of pinkeye. It’s important to remember to always read and follow label directions when using these or other medications with animals.

Preventative measures can and should be taken to diminish the threat of pinkeye as well. Several measures, in addition to good pasture management, include:

  • Vaccines – several vaccines are readily available for the inoculation of cattle. Keeping in mind that while vaccines usually work well, they only cover certain strains of the pinkeye bacteria. This means that if your cattle have a particular strain that’s not covered by the vaccine, you’ll get no results. It’s also important to remember when using vaccines that the recommended booster is an absolute must. If you skip the booster, you might as well not use the vaccine.
  • Fly Control – Since flies are the vector that usually carry the pinkeye bacteria, reducing their populations can be tremendously helpful. The use of ear tags, medicated rubs, or pour-on treatments can be tremendously helpful in the battle against pinkeye. Talk to your veterinarian or local N.C. Cooperative Extension agent about the types of these products that are available to you.

The prevention and control of pinkeye in cattle herds is absolutely crucial. Left untreated, it can cost cattle producers thousands of dollars. However, with good management practices and quick response, you can keep it under control.