Bovine ocular neoplasia includes a variety of benign and malignant skin tumors of the eyeball and eyelids. Benign tumors are growths that do not spread to other parts of the body and do not tend to grow into surrounding tissues. They can cause local problems with eye function, but do not affect the rest of the body. Malignant tumors are growths of cells that spread to other parts of the body and tend to invade surrounding tissues. Clearly, it is in the cattlemen's best interest from an economic, humane, and public perception standpoint to treat or market cattle with cancer eye as soon as practical.
Cancer eye appears to affect cattle that have non-pigmented skin, especially around the eye. You can reduce the incidence of cancer eye in your herd by selecting breeding stock with dark pigmentation or color around the eyes and by culling affected animals and their offspring from the breeding herd. The peak age for cancer eye is between 7 and 8 years of age. It occurs infrequently in cattle less than 3 years of age.
Check eyes whenever cattle are gathered for other routine procedures, especially breeds known to be commonly affected. Veterinary treatments include surgery, cryosurgery (freezing), hyperthermia (heating), or combinations of these. The success rate, if treated early, approaches 90 percent. Given the genetic susceptibility of this condition, you may elect to cull affected cattle rather than treating them.
Cattle with advanced lesions that have spread to other parts of the body or invaded the local tissues around the eye should be humanely destroyed and not transported to market. If presented, they will be condemned and the presence of cattle with cancer eye at the market could create negative public perceptions.
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Information contained in this article from one or more of the following:
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
South Carolina Extension Service
Nebraska Extension Service
Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension Service
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension
University of Minnesota Extension Service