Keep an eye out for pinkeye in livestock

18th Jan 2023

Given the continuing hot and dry conditions, Local Land Services is reminding producers to keep an eye out for the early signs pinkeye throughout summer.
The bacterial infection is highly contagious in cattle, causing inflammation and sometimes ulceration of the cornea. Sheep and goats also get pinkeye but it is caused by different bacteria and they usually recover quickly.
Local Land Services Business Partner Animal Biosecurity and Welfare Scott Ison said pinkeye is most likely to occur in summer, when conditions are drier and more flies are present.
“Pinkeye is a painful, debilitating condition that can severely affect animal productivity and can lead to temporary and permanent blindness,” Dr Ison said.
“The first sign of pinkeye is when the eye starts to weep and as the infection progresses, the membranes of the eye become red and swollen, eventually causing the eye to become cloudy and ulcerated.
“Flies are attracted to the watery eyes, feeding on the infected secretions and then they move from animal to animal, which can spread the disease very quickly through the herd.
“When identified early, treatment of pinkeye is generally successful and should be started as early as possible to minimise adverse animal welfare outcomes and limit the spread though the herd.”
Pinkeye treatment can include antibiotics in the eye, injectable anti-inflammatories and sometimes injectable antibiotics, depending on the severity and stage of the infection.
Dr Ison said there are also a number of ways producers can lower the risk of pinkeye in their livestock.
“There are many factors that increase the likelihood of pinkeye, such as microorganisms and eye irritation from dust, thistles, flies and bright sunlight,” Dr Ison said.
“Producers should consider reducing fly numbers, treating cattle with fly repellent pour-on treatments of insecticidal ear tags, controlling thistles and other abrasive grass seeds and minimise yarding during dusty periods.”
A vaccine is available to assist with preventing and minimising the impacts of pinkeye infection in herds but requires 3-6 weeks after use to provide immunity.
To discuss pinkeye prevention, treatment options and vaccination program, contact your local veterinarian.