Take Down Pinkeye
Iowa veterinarian Bob Freese treats a bull for pinkeye, or infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, which is caused by the bacteria Moraxella bovis. It's one of the most common diseases of cattle & highly contagious in the summer. If untreated, it can cause blindness. Many factors contribute to the development of the disease.
This bull has Stage 1 pinkeye. In this stage, cattle have excessive tearing and increased sensitivity to light. There will be a small ulcer in the center of the cornea which appears as a small white spot. The cornea develops a slightly cloudy gray appearance due to inflammation.
The bull owner requests the eye be sutured shut, so the veterinarian starts with an injection. Only veterinarians should perform these procedures. Injections placed in the wrong area are ineffective in treating pinkeye and could damage the eye.
Suturing the third eyelid over the eye makes the eye more comfortable, reduces further irritation and shedding of the bacteria, and helps prevent corneal rupture. Again, this procedure should be done by a veterinarian or someone who has been adequately trained.
The next cow though the chute has Stage 2 pinkeye, where the ulcer has spread across the cornea. Blood vessels make the cornea appear pink, which is why the disease is called pinkeye.
This cow did not enjoy the suturing, and went down in the chute. No problem. In the previous photo you may have noticed a fly on the cow’s head. Face flies, which look like large houseflies, feed around the face of cattle, causing irritation and spreading the disease from animal to animal. Many animals can be infected by one fly.
The pinkeye in this cow was not bad enough for suturing, so she was given an antibiotic and a pour-on fly control product to reduce the number of adult face flies on the animal.
Here is another bad eye. Other sources of eye irritation that can cause pinkeye are tall weeds and grasses rubbing the eyes as cattle walk and graze, feed and dust when cattle eat from overhead feed bunks or the center of round bales, dust on windy days, and exposure to excessive sunlight.
Pinkeye problems? Here's a close view at how to treat infected cattle.