Dry Conditions Increase Risk of Pink Eye in Sheep

16 March, 1999

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is warning farmers that dry dusty conditions can result in outbreaks of pink eye in sheep, particularly when the animals are in close contact.

Pink eye is a type of infectious conjunctivitis that can cause blindness. The first signs are reddening of the eyes with a watery discharge, and the surface of the eye may then become white. Usually the condition clears up without treatment, but some cases progress to ulceration of the eye and permanent blindness. Usually only one eye is affected, but when both eyes are affected, the animal is unable to see.

Ross Burnell of MAF's Animal Welfare Enforcement Unit warns that in areas affected by drought this could prove to be a significant health and welfare issue to add to farmers' problems.

Mr Burnell says that supplementary feeding can lead to spread of infection by bringing the heads of the animals into close contact, and dust may cause damage to the surface of the eye and allow infection to gain hold.

"If any sheep show signs of pink eye, the risk of spread can be reduced by ensuring the stocking density is low, and by removing affected sheep. If grain or other supplementary feed is being given, provide more troughs or feeding racks or spread the feed out well on the ground.

"Veterinarians will advise on whether or not treatment is warranted, and on what type of treatment to give," Mr Burnell says. "Affected sheep can be kept in a separate mob, both for ease of treatment if appropriate and for special care ifthey are blind. There are effective treatments in the form of antibiotic powders or creams for the eye but these must be administered carefully in accordance with manufacturer's directions."

Contact person:
Ross Burnell, MAF Animal Welfare Enforcement Unit, Auckland Airport.
Phone 09 256 6423. Fax 09 256 6424.



Last Updated: 10 September 2010

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