What is it?
Malignant oedema is a severe, rapidly fatal wound infection in grazing animals most commonly in sheep but also cattle and goats. It is caused by toxins produced by several types of clostridial organisms that normally live in the soil but can infect wounds.
Contamination of wounds by the bacteria leads to inflammation and severe toxaemia (blood poisoning) and ultimately death of the animal.
Susceptible wounds may occur during routine operations like castration, ear marking and branding. Infection is not uncommon if these operations are carried out under dirty, unhygienic conditions. The genital tract may also become infected following prolonged or assisted lambing, kidding or calving.
What are the symptoms?
Clinical signs appear soon after the infection. Swelling and inflammation occurs initially at the wound site and gas production from the bacteria can cause the area to have an abnormal, “crinkly,” bubbly feeling. The skin darkens and becomes gangrenous as the tissues die and the blood supply is compromised. The infection may spread locally through the surrounding tissues. The animal often develops a fever and becomes dull and lethargic. Death typically occurs during the following 24 hours.
Can it be treated effectively?
Antibiotics and local wound treatment will occasionally be effective when the condition is detected in its very early stages. However many animals under normal pastoral and grazing systems in Australia will succumb and die prior to signs being noticed.
How do we treat it?
Vaccination is really the best and most effective way to control Malignant Oedema and we use Ultravac® 7in1.
Stabler and Howlett would like to thank our partners at Zoetis for their assistance in compiling this post. We recommend and sell the Zoetis range of cattle vaccines.