Pinkeye (infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis) is a common infectious disease affecting the eyes of cattle. The name describes the redness and inflammation of the lining of the eyelid and eyeball. Although pinkeye is non-fatal, it has a marked economic impact on the cattle industry. It is known to occur at all seasons of the year and in all breeds of cattle. Pinkeye and foot rot are the two most prevalent conditions affecting all breeding beef females
One or both eyes may be involved. Excessive weeping of the affected eye and closure due to pain are the two signs most commonly observed. As the disease progresses, the cornea becomes cloudy or white. An ulcer (eroded circular spot) frequently develops near the center of the cornea. Cattle with pinkeye keep the affected eye or eyes closed because of pain and to avoid bright sunlight. They lose weight because they are reluctant to forage for feed and water. The course of the infection may run for 4 to 8 weeks, or even longer.
As the eye begins to heal, white scar tissue infiltrates the cornea. In most cases this scar will gradually disappear as healing progresses and vision will be restored. However, in severely affected eyes, a white scar often persists and interferes with vision. If the ulceration is severe enough to penetrate all layers of cells forming the cornea, the fluid in the eyeball will escape. This results in the iris and/or lens protruding partially or entirely through the ulceration. If this occurs, there will be permanent blindness in the affected eye.
Pinkeye is caused by a combination of factors. A good control program should incorporate procedures to reduce initial eye irritation.
An intensive fly control program is essential to limit the spread of pinkeye in a herd of cattle. The insecticide-impregnated plastic ear tags are effective in controlling the horn fly and face fly. These ear tags are also an aid in controlling the stable fly and house fly, and remain effective for up to 5 months. Also sprays, charged backrubbers, and dusts bags are products that can provide chemical control. Manure, weed, and brush management are necessary for total fly control.
Cattle often have grass or weed seeds in their eyes, and these materials no doubt irritate the eye and contribute to the development of pinkeye. Clipping pastures to reduce the amount of tall grass and weeds can be an important management technique in controlling pinkeye.
Ultraviolet light (sun light) - breed for eyelid pigmentation, introduce Brahman influence into the herd, provide shade or tree rows with ample room to prevent overcrowding.
Cattle with pinkeye can be helped by prompt treatment. Most antibiotics in eye sprays are effective in reducing the infection. Many eye sprays also contain an anesthetic to relieve the intense pain due to infection. A dye to act as a filter for some of the light rays is also commonly included and probably gives some protection to the injured eye. The aerosol pinkeye sprays are most effective if applied several times a day.
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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