Pink not a healthy sign for eyes


By Mark Corrigan
District Veterinarian

P: 02 6051 2208 | M: 0428 256 431 | E:

Pink eye disease presenting in a cow‘In the pink’ is an expression that reflects good health, but unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the eyes of your livestock. There have been some recent reports of the painful condition pink eye occurring in sheep in the west of the district.

Pink eye in both sheep and cattle causes pain and blindness, which may be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity. The first sign of pink eye is when the eye starts to weep. As the disease progresses the membranes of the eye become red and swollen, eventually causing the eye to become cloudy and ulcerated.

Pink eye is caused by an infection with bacteria. Sheep and goats are generally infected by mycoplasma and chlamydia. Cattle are predominantly affected by moraxella bovis, but occasionally mycoplasma.

Some of the factors that are causing outbreaks at this time of year are:

  • dusty conditions
  • animals in close contact such as yarding or shedding or lot feeding
  • dried-off feed, which can lead to grass seed issues in eyes as well as causing irritation to the eye, allowing the bacteria to get established.
  • flies, which can move infection between animals.

Prevention and treatment

  • Vaccination – There is a vaccine available for cattle against moraxella bovis. Vaccine should be given 3-6 weeks prior to the onset of pink eye season on the recommendation of your veterinary advisory.
  • Avoid dusty and dry conditions
  • Avoid high risk- grass seed pastures
  • Antibiotics treatment with advice from your veterinarian.  The process of yarding stock can exacerbate the severity of the outbreak and cause more issues. Therefore, the yarding of stock, especially sheep, needs serious consideration and discussion with your animal health advisor.  Cattle are more likely to benefit from treatment, with recovery greatly improved by using an eye patch over the affected eye in addition to topical antibiotic tubes. Stock blind in both eyes will need easy access to water and feed until their sight improves.

Photo caption: Pink eye in cattle - photo NSW DPI images.

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