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Ask A Vet: Treatment and control of pinkeye

Angela Garavet for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 March 2018
Pinkeye

Pinkeye (infectious keratoconjunctivitis) is the most common ocular disease of cattle, affecting one or both eyes.

Infection lasts several days to weeks and can affect cattle of any age, but younger age groups are more commonly affected. Lesions may gradually disappear in the early stages or continue to progress. In severe cases, corneal ulcers may persist and interfere with vision or result in permanent blindness.

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Pinkeye is spread by flies feeding on secretions and then traveling from animal to animal or by direct rubbing of eye secretions between animals. It is important to note outside factors which can exacerbate this disease: UV light exposure, flies, a Mycoplasma spp. infection, an infectious bovine rhinotracheitis infection and foreign bodies.

Symptoms

Early signs

  • Redness and inflammation in the white part of the eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Eye may “close” due to pain and to avoid sunlight

Late signs

  • Cornea is cloudy or white and eroded or raised
  • Circular spot near the center of the cornea

Costs

  • Weight and milk production loss make cows less profitable until pain subsides and normal feeding habits resume.

  • An animal with both eyes affected has extreme difficulty finding feed and water unless restricted to a small pen by itself.

Prevention

  • Reduce initial eye irritations and prevent sharp objects from traumatizing the eye.

  • Establish a fly control program.

  • Vaccinate prior to fly season.

Treatment

Early treatment is the key to success.

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  • Separate infected animals.

  • Vaccinate the entire herd to stop the spread of disease and significantly reduce pinkeye incidence.

  • Consult your veterinarian to determine which vaccine is best for your herd.

o Commercial vaccines may not cover your herd’s exact strain, requiring the use of an autogenous vaccine.

o Microbial cultures help your veterinarian better treat your herd.

  • May apply an eye patch.

  • Keep the animal in a shaded area to promote eating and drinking.

  • Properly adhere the eye patch to prevent egg-laying house flies from getting in between the patch and the eye.

  • Eyelid flap surgery may be needed for severe cases.

  • Fly control is crucial.  end mark
Angela Garavet
  • Angela Garavet

  • Veterinarian
  • Animart Professional Services
  • Email Angela Garavet

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