Pulpy Kidney – the one thing you wouldnt think

Pulpy Kidney (enterotoxaemia) is a disease of sheep, goats and cattle.

It occurs when a bacteria (Clostridium perfringens) which normally inhabits an animals intestines begins to rapidly multiply and produce toxins that damage the small intestine.

The reason why the bacteria begin to rapidly multiply is because there is a spill of readily fermentable carbohydrates into the small intestine which fuel the bacteria to reproduce.

Lush, green feed is full of highly fermentable carbohydrates (starches, sugars) which is why we usually see pulpy kidney during winter and spring (in a normal year).

Other feeds that are full of readily fermentable carbohydrates are grain and some pulses!

There are plenty of these being fed right now which is why I have been seeing a number of cases of pulpy kidney throughout this drought, including a two week old lamb; his mother had only had one vaccination at marking when she was a lamb.

Pulpy kidney can be largely prevented through vaccination.

A single shot at marking is not going to do the trick.

Ewes need to be vaccinated every year prior to lambing to ensure they are passing on protection (via the colostrum) to their lambs for their first few weeks of life.

If ewes are not vaccinated, lambs will not have adequate protection until after their second vaccination and are vulnerable until then.

All ruminants (sheep, cattle, goats) should receive a pulpy kidney vaccination at least yearly to avoid a pulpy kidney outbreak.

In high challenge situations (such as a high grain diet) it may be necessary to vaccinate every three months depending on the vaccine used – please give me a call or speak with your Rural Supply Store.

Once an outbreak starts there is little that can be done to treat and prevent it.

If stock have never been vaccinated then it will take at least six weeks before they will have any reliable immunity post vaccination, in the meantime there is little that can be done.

Signs, often, affected cattle are simply found dead. There are no prior signs of sickness and no evidence of struggling.

More commonly, the acute cases survive for about 24 hours. Symptoms mostly relate to nervous changes like sudden bellowing and mania followed by convulsions.

Adult cattle may develop severe bloat before dying, which usually occurs one–two hours after the onset of convulsions.

Remember to immediately report all sudden, unexplained deaths to me so that the cause can be identified and resolved as quickly as possible.

Dr Erica Kennedy District Veterinarian, 0438 842 365.

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