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Benign theileriosis is a tick-borne disease caused by intracellular blood parasites belonging to the Theileria orientalis group (BATOG). This disease represents no threat to human health.

Although the prevalence of BATOG remains relatively small compared to some cattle health problems, it is becoming more widespread.

This disease results in massive production loss.

Cause

Bush ticks are mainly a cattle parasite, but are able to attach to other mammals including wildlife, birds, livestock (including horses, sheep, goats and poultry) and domestic animals such as dogs and cats. In sheep, bush ticks prefer to attach mainly on body parts not covered by wool.

The most common sites of attachment on cattle are around the tail, on the udder, inside the legs, on the brisket, in the ears, and occasionally on the face and neck.

Symptoms:

The disease is known as bovine anaemia. Signs are those associated with severe anaemia and include: lethargy, lack of appetite, exercise intolerance (weak cattle that lag behind the mob if moved).

Pregnant cows may abort and still births are common. In dairy cows a drop in milk production will occur. Death rates are highest in heavily pregnant cows.

Disease is generally seen when calves are 8-12 weeks old. By about six months of age, immunity develops and it is rare to see disease in calves older than six months and adults who have been resident in the area.

Diagnosis:

Treatment:

Treatment options for benign theileriosis are limited to supportive care and symptomatic treatment.

Blood transfusion has been performed occasionally on valuable animals.

Most importantly, stress and movement of affected cattle should be minimised or their reduced ability to transport oxygen throughout the body may lead to collapse.

They should be rested, nursed and given high quality feed. Handling of affected cattle should be avoided where possible.

A number of chemicals are known to work against the parasite, including buparvaquone (BPQ

Prevention:

In districts where Theileria is commonly found (endemic areas) and most adult cattle are immune, calves should be closely inspected when they are 6-12 weeks old.

Introduced cattle should be examined closely when they have been in the district for three to eight weeks.

Following simple biosecurity procedures is the best action producers can take to help prevent the spread of the disease. Here are some specific preventative steps for producers

Introduced cattle should be examined closely when they have been in the district for three to eight weeks.

Tick control:

Reducing tick numbers using a registered acaricide should reduce the likelihood of cattle becoming infected.

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