Liver Abscess

General Description 

  • Liver abscess is a disease marked by inflammation and necrosis of the liver. 

  • Lesions that occur on the liver are pale yellow, often spherical with necrosis of the liver cells and the surrounding area which leads to inflammation of the liver 

  • Abscesses are found in all ages and breeds of cattle and under all types of management, but most cases are found in beef cattle from feedlots due to a high grain content diet.  

  • Feedlot cattle with abscessed livers have reduced feed conversion efficiency, and those with severely abscessed livers gain 5–15% less per day than cattle without abscesses, reducing production rate and resulting carcases weight. 

Cause 

  • Fusobacteriumnecrophorum, an anaerobic bacteria, is the primary agent of the disease. 

  • The disease is initiated by a physical opening in the rumen outer layer, allowing bacteria that is normally contained to enter the blood steam. 

  • Acidosis is often the first step in creating an entrance point for bacteria in the rumen.  

Clinical Signs 

  • No obvious clinical signs on farm or in feedlot. However, maybe suspected due to reduced production efficiency.  

  • Disease is found at slaughter when the whole liver is condemned due to abscess in the liver 

Diagnosis 

  • Difficult to diagnose liver abscess.  

Treatment 

  • Preventative measures are often undertaken rather than treatment.  

  • Treatment usually involves antibiotics, but should only be used in consultation with your veterinarian. 

Prevention 

  • Change of diet is key to preventing the acidosis that leads to liver abscesses occurring. An increase in fibre and a decrease in the amount of carbohydrate-rich grain provided should minimise of the incidence of liver abscesses in cattle.  

  • Consult with your veterinarian about nutritional management and other preventative measures 

More information

Liver Abscess Factsheet