We have seen a number of deaths from enterotoxaemia over this past summer. The longer than usual warm weather, together with plenty of rainfall has created ideal conditions for this disease to occur.
What is Enterotoxaemia?
Enterotoxaemia (commonly called “Pulpy Kidney”) is caused by the overgrowth of a particular species of bacteria (Clostridium perfringens) in the intestinal tract of many species of animals, including alpacas, sheep, cattle and goats. This bacterium produces a very potent toxin which causes severe systemic disease, leading to rapid collapse and death. There are usually no warning signs and there is no effective treatment. Typically, animals appear perfectly healthy one day and then are found dead the next. In some cases the course of the disease can be a bit slower – up to a day or so – but the end result is always the same.
Deaths from enterotoxaemia occur mainly in the spring and summer months when pastures are green and growing rapidly. Alternatively, they can occur after a change of feed, especially if there is an increase in the amount of fresh green grass or hay being fed or if animals are moved onto fresh pasture. These kinds of feed seem to set up conditions in the animal’s gut which favour the growth of Clostridium perfringens. You can reduce the chances of enterotoxaemia occurring by not making any sudden changes to the type of pasture or hay your animals are getting.
The good news is that most cases of enterotoxaemia can be prevented by vaccination. 5 in 1 and 7 in 1 vaccines protect against Clostridium perfringens Type D, which is the most common strain. There is also now an 8 in 1 vaccine, which covers some extra strains of the bacteria. We have seen some cases where people lost animals that had been vaccinated with 5 in 1, but the losses ceased when they started using 8 in 1. Incidentally, these vaccines also protect against other clostridial diseases, including tetanus and blackleg. In our area these other diseases tend to occur less often, but they are just as deadly!
Vaccination is the key!!
It is important to vaccinate animals before they are exposed to the disease and to make sure they have regular boosters. The initial course is 2 doses given 4 to 6 weeks apart. This is usually started at about 6 weeks of age. Sheep and cattle should have boosters every year, but for alpacas and goats it is recommended to give them boosters every 6 months. 5 in 1 vaccine is quite cheap and does not have to be given by a vet. It is quite OK for you to buy the vaccine and administer it yourself, although of course we can do it for you if you prefer. It is also quite safe to vaccinate at the same time as doing other procedures such as worming, so you can make it part of your routine management.
Please feel free to get in touch with us if you would like any more information about enterotoxaemia, or if you would like any help in setting up a vaccination program.