Pink eye - keeping an eye out for problems

an early pink eye lesion

an early pink eye lesion

Katie Field, Veterinarian
Pinkeye, or "infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis" is a disease commonly encountered in the summer and autumn in New Zealand. It can affect both youngstock and adult animals, although youngstock are considered most at risk. It is estimated that in some herds, up to 80% of calves may develop eye lesions during a summer! The condition can cause considerable pain and distress if left untreated, not to mention the growth check , weight loss, or milk drop off in cows that can accompany it.

The problem usually starts with damage to the cornea, the transparent layer forming the front of the eye. This damage can occur from UV light or from dust, pollen or similar. Flies are important carriers of the bacteria Moraxella bovis which then colonises the site of damage and sets up an infection. The disease is highly contagious and can spread easily between animals. Infected animals can act as carriers for a year or more.

The eye is often held closed, and appears watery. The eyeball itself may have a cloudy patch which is often surrounded by a pink ring.

It's important to be on the lookout for funny-looking eyes and treat them early!! If allowed to progress (which it can very quickly), damage to the eyeball can be irreparable and result in needing to take the eye out – more cost and loss of production for you. Mild lesions can be treated with a topical ointment such as Orbenin Eye Ointment.

Treating the unaffected eye first can help to prevent spread of the disease to that side too.

Prevention revolves around minimizing dust and flies as much as possible – which is often hard as it gets into the heat of summer! Using a pour-on product to control nuisance fly can help with this. Blaze Pour-On is a good option, come and talk to us if you'd like to know more about this product. There is the option to vaccinate your herd or young stock against pinkeye even in the face of an outbreak. For severely affected eyes or in animals with both eyes affected you should seek veterinary advice, there are various treatment options available including surgery. Talk to your vet about what is best for your situation.


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