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Reducing pink eye in cattle

Pinkeye is a common infectious disease that affects the eyes in cattle. Any age bovine can get pinkeye, but calves are the most affected. It’s important to watch for as it significantly lowers calf growth rate and can cause the animal to go blind if left untreated.

Dr. Peggy Thompson is a professional services veterinarian at Boehringer Ingelheim. She says pinkeye is caused by bacteria that get a foothold when the eye is injured.

"Anything that damages the cornea, so sunlight or dust, being poked by grass," says Thompson. "Anything like that that could damage the cornea of the eye could allow any of those bacteria to get in and cause the pinkeye-type lesions."

The bacteria are spread by flies, so good fly control is important, as well as preventive vaccinations. Thompson recommends vaccinating about 30-days prior to fly season. Keep the pasture well-cut so seed heads can’t irritate the animals’ eyes, and provide shade to avoid eye irritation from the sun.

Pinkeye is a painful condition and there are signs to watch for.

"The most common thing they’re probably going to see first is tearing of those eyes and probably a lot of blinking. If the lesion gets advanced, you could see those eyes turn cloudy and that’s just inflammation with the body trying to fight off the infection," she says. "And if it gets really severe, you could see an ulcer on that cornea where the cornea’s actually damaged. In severe cases, the eyeball will actually rupture."

An infected animal should be treated with antibiotics immediately.