By Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA
Skin conditions in cattle can not only be unsightly, irritating and annoying but some can have more serious effects on your livestock leading to significant economic losses. Treating these conditions can range from old tried and true methods to the newer but more expensive pharmaceuticals. Whatever you chose, keeping your animal healthy is more that skin deep.
Cause: Ringworm is the most common a fungal infection of the skin in livestock. It is usually caused most frequently by the organism Trichophyton verrucosum but there are several species responsible to the disease.
Signs/Symptoms: Ringworm causes hair loss and white crusts to form on the skin. It is more prevalent in the winter months, where there is significant moisture and in young calves and yearlings .There is usually more than one lesion present, the most common site being the head and neck however lesions can form almost anywhere. The area will appear hairless or may be weeping if the animal finds a way to rub the lesion. It causes itching and discomfort therefore the cattle may frequently lick the affected area. Even without treatment, the disease is self-limiting and will disappear in few months.
Transmission: The fungus is spread from animal to animal by direct contact. It can also be spread from animal to animal when contact is made with a contaminated object (halters, equipment, trough, feeder, etc.). Cattle, especially the young ones that are sick, exposed to damp environments, or have poor nutrition are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Livestock who lack adequate sunlight are also more susceptible to ringworm. Humans are also susceptible to ringworm therefore the use of disposal gloves for the application of topical treatments is useful in preventing this additional problem.
Treatment can include any one of the following:
Iodine to the affected area daily for at least three days or until resolved
Over the counter generic fungal medications such as myconazole terbinafine, tolnaflate daily or until resolved
Chlorhexidine (diluted 1:4 in water) applied three times a day until resolved.
Clorox (diluted 1:10 in water) applied twice a week until resolved.
Captan, a plant fungicide, (mixed 1 ounce of the 50% powder to a gallon of water) applied daily for three days and then weekly until resolved.
Spread the area with a generous and thorough application of one of the above and include at least a one-inch border surrounding the affected site.
It is best to allow animals as much exposure to sunlight as possible. We have found rope halters to be a common culprit and carrier of this disease, therefore washing them in a washer with a cup of bleach and hot water is an easy was to clean and disinfect a large number of halters at once.
Rain Scald: Dermatophilosis
Cause: Dermatophilosis is a fungus caused by the actinomycete Dermatophilus congolensis. While usually dormant, periods of rain or high humidity can cause a proliferation of activity.
Signs/Symptoms: It presents with areas of hair loss, matting, crusting, and scab formation. Small tufts of hair are removed when grooming, exposing a raw hide that maybe infected.
Transmission: Modes of transmission are similar to ringworm therefore cleaning of equipment between animals is important to prevent the spread of the disease.
Treatment: The treatment for rain scald is similar to ringworm and those remedies can be used in addition to the following:
Clip the hair from the problem areas
Disinfect the lesions with dilute betadine or betadine shampoo
Keep the skin dry and exposed to sunlight
In severe cases, administer penicillin.
If the problem persists after treatment, a skin scraping to eliminate other causes such as mites worms, lice, or mange might also be necessary
Mange and Scabies Mites: Chorioptes bovis
Cause: Mange is the term used to describe infection by mites, microscopic relatives of spiders. They inhabit and damage the skin of domestic animals and man. Problems are most frequently seen in the autumn and winter but can occur all year round. Chorioptes is the type usually encountered in cattle. Demodex, mites cause less severe mange. Mites are spread through close contact. Cattle mange is often called barn itch. Sarocopes, a more intense form of mite is mostly found in horses and swine. All four forms of mites can be found in livestock and may be spead to humans.
Signs/Symptoms: The surface mite is usually found in the neck, down the inside of the hind legs and tail head of cattle. It causes intense itching and hair loss, which only increases over time if not treated.
Transmission: For three species, most commonly found in cattle, infection is spread mainly by direct contact between animals. However, the burrowing mite can survive for some time off the host, so, for this species, bedding, objects that come into contact with infected animals may become contaminated, and help spread the infection.
Treatment: Treatment of manage is important to the productivity of your herd. Drugs of the avermectin class are available in oral, injectable and pour-on formulas. Your veterinarian can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which if suspected needs to be treated early to prevent infestation of your herd.
Cause: There are four types of the papillomatosis virus that causes warts in cattle
Signs/Symptoms: Warts can be small and flat or as large as a baseball, they appear one to six months after exposure to the virus. Larger warts are cauliflower-like lesions that usually appear in the head in neck area. Smaller warts may develop in the reproductive organs such as the penis and vigina. These areas need prompt treatment as even the smallest amount of bleeding caused by irritation can kill sperm. Calves and cattle younger than age two are most susceptible but they can occur in older cattle.
Transmission: The wart virus is easily spread by hypodermic needles, tattoo equipment, tagging pliers or by rubbing on fences and posts that have recently come in to contact with infected cattle.
Treatment: Warts are unsightly but self-limiting. They are most prevalent in calves and may disappear spontaneously as they age. Surgical removal can hasten the disappearance of others. If the presence of warts becomes a herd issue both commercial and autogenous vaccines are available. The autogenous vaccine is prepared from the wart tissue take from a lesion of one of the herd animals.
Prevention of skin diseases through attention to appearance, early intervention and cleanliness puts breeders on the path to good animal health practices. Treatments are as near as the household medicine cabinet and when implemented at the onset of a disease can prevent a little problem from being a big one.
Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California where she serves as the Vice President of Animal Health. They have been Miniature Hereford owners and active participants in the MHBA since 2002. She is also employed as a critical care nurse for a local medical center.