General description
  • Fever is a generalised sign of disease that can produce changes to body tissues.
  • Septicaemia (sepsis, or ‘blood poisoning’) is a life-threatening condition due to spreading by bacterial infection (via the blood stream), and an acute, generalised inflammatory response.
  • Septicaemia and fever often occur together. Both conditions can produce changes to the carcase that require condemnation.
  • Affected carcases are prone to putrefaction, often have cloudy fluid collection in tissue, darkened tissues, enlarged lymph node glands and evidence of bleeding within organs and muscles.
  • The signs are general and simply reflect the presence of severe infection.
  • Localised infections can result in bacteria gaining entry to the blood stream.
  • Many bacteria and many sites of infection can lead to septicaemia. Septicaemia may develop from severe pneumonia, gut infections or from contaminated wounds (e.g. at marking etc.)
  • The infection produces toxins, which damage tissues.
  • Bacteria (and toxins) in the blood stream will stimulate acute inflammatory response by the body, and these further promote change in tissues such as reddening and swelling).
  • An outbreak of septicaemia indicates animals are exposed as a group to infection. Immediate veterinary investigation is warranted.
Clinical signs
  • Affected cattle are often depressed and won’t eat.
  • In the early stages of disease, they may have an elevated temperature and respiratory rate. This may progress to a decrease in temperature as disease progresses.
  • Death may follow shortly after the onset of signs.
  • The gums and membranes can show signs of small haemorrhages (mini bleeds) and lymph nodes may be enlarged and/or painful.
  • A veterinarian can assist in diagnosis and management. 
  • Samples may need be collected and sent to the laboratory for culture to determine the bacteria involved.
  • Post mortem examination can identify the primary site of infection.
  • Affected animals may require antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria from the blood stream and anti-inflammatory medications to counteract the effect of toxins, and the body’s response to the toxins.  
  • Affected cattle should be withheld from slaughter.
  • Requires identification of the source of the bacteria and the site of first infection. Control of these routes into the body underpin prevention.
  • This may include use of sterile marking equipment, clean yards and changed practices if an outbreak is due to poor sterility practices.  
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