Cattle, goats, horses, pigs and sheep surviving Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are vulnerable to several diseases, including infectious diseases and toxicities, according to a veterinarian with the LSU AgCenter.
LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Christine Navarre says animal owners should be on the lookout for infectious diseases such as West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, anthrax, blackleg, tetanus and listeriosis.
"Livestock owners should contact their local veterinarian for specific treatment and vaccination recommendations," she says of the ways to deal with diseases that may occur or to attempt to prevent some of them.
As for the diseases, West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis are deadly horse diseases that have the potential to increase with increasing mosquito populations, according to Navarre, who says their symptoms include lameness or bizarre behavior, but they’re easily prevented through vaccination.
Anthrax can cause death in all livestock species, but especially cattle, Navarre says. Signs are excessive bleeding from body orifices. "Because anthrax is contagious to other animals and people, proper carcass disposal is critical to prevent future cases," Navarre cautions.
Blackleg and similar diseases can occur in cattle, sheep and goats following floods, particularly in areas where grass is short and animals are grazing close to the ground. "The signs vary with the particular disease, but acute death is common with all," Navarre says.
On the other hand, the LSU AgCenter veterinarian’s advice is that most of these disease problems generally can be avoided.
"These diseases are easily prevented with a very inexpensive vaccine," she says, adding, "Surviving animals also should be removed from areas where these diseases have occurred."
All livestock, but especially horses, sheep and goats, are susceptible to tetanus. Animals with injuries should have wounds treated and get a tetanus vaccination initiated or boostered, Navarre advises.
Listeriosis affects the nervous system and causes circling, blindness and other abnormal behavior in animals, Navarre says. It occurs on pasture when grass is grazed too close; in old, wet hay; and with improperly ensiled corn or other feedstuffs.
"Cattle and meat goats seem to be particularly susceptible," the veterinarian says of listeriosis. Antibiotics are necessary for treatment of the disease, while prevention includes removing animals from the source of the listeria bacteria.
In addition to diseases, livestock owners should be on the lookout for toxicity resulting from downed trees, particularly oak in cattle and red maple in horses, Navarre says.
"Signs of oak toxicity are constipation and then diarrhea and thick brownish nasal discharge, depression and weakness," she says. "Horses with red maple toxicity have pale gums and show signs of weakness and breathing difficulty."
The LSU AgCenter veterinarian warns that animals going without water for prolonged periods should be given small amounts of water frequently until they are rehydrated.
"Watch for signs of altered behavior and other nervous system signs and red urine, weakness and breathing difficulty," Navarre says. "Severely dehydrated animals should have veterinary treatment."
Navarre also warns livestock owners to be on the lookout for spoiled feedstuffs.
"Hay and other feedstuffs that became wet due to rain or flooding can have toxic molds growing in them that are a danger to livestock," she says. "Any feed that was damaged during a storm should be evaluated before being fed."
The veterinarian also says stress can contribute to problems.
"Animals surviving the hurricanes, especially animals that have been relocated, have undergone a very stressful event," Navarre says.
She says such stress can lead to secondary diseases, such as pneumonia, which can occur in any livestock species.
"Abrupt feed changes also are stressful and can cause significant disease and even death," Navarre says. "Feed changes should be minimized as much as possible."