- Jaundice is the yellowing of body tissues like gums and conjunctiva due to liver malfunction or excessive breakdown of red blood cells, leading to an accumulation of bile.
- Liver malfunction can be caused by a variety of toxic plants.
- Cirrhosis is the term used when liver cells are severely damaged and replaced by scar tissue.
- On farm liver damage can lead to jaundice and cirrhosis, which results in reduced growth rate/weight loss, death, and costs due to management/treatment.
- Jaundiced animals can be prone to sunburn.
- At the abattoir the carcase or liver may be condemned.
- Various toxins cause liver damage resulting in jaundice and/or cirrhosis.
- Mycotoxins produced by fungus and commonly found in lupins (Lupinosis) and spoiled or mouldy feed (Aflatoxicosis).
- A variety of toxic plants (e.g. Lantana, St John’s Wort) can cause liver damage, jaundice and light sensitivity.
- Mycoplama ovis (formerly Eperythrozoon ovis), an infectious bacterium affecting the red blood cells that can cause carrier animals to relapse under stress.
- Copper toxicity can occur due to stresses like poor nutrition, yarding, transport and bad weather.
- Heliotrope toxicity causes death (weeks to years after toxin ingestion), depression and jaundice for 1-2 days before death.
- Lupinosis causes reduced appetite, condition loss, disorientation, depression, lethargy, stiff gait/hunched back, jaundice and death within 3 days.
- Copper toxicity causes pale gums, jaundice, lethargy and death in 3-5 days.
- Mycoplasma ovis causes ill thrift, pale gums, jaundice and death (especially after a stressful event).
- Photosensitive animals develop crusty lesions on less well-covered parts of the body, like to ears, face and nose.
- Veterinarians assist in diagnosis and management.
- Immediately remove animals from the source of toxicity.
- Provide animals with access to shade if showing signs of photosensitisation.
- Feed oats and cereal hay and prevent access to green pick for 6 weeks to prevent photosensitisation.
- Minimise stress and avoid yarding.
- Reduce bacterial infections by using sharp marking equipment, disinfected regularly by a chlorhexidine-based disinfectant e.g. Hibitane.
- Prevent weed introduction, use seeds and grain from known uninfested sources, maintain pastures, use weed deterrents and provide hay in weedy paddocks.
- Lupinosis can be prevented by limiting and managing lupin stubbles and avoiding grazing heavily pregnant ewes or weaners on lupin stubble.