Lame weaner deer and necrobacillosis

Necrobacillosis is a disease with many different presentations and hence names - footrot, lumpy jaw, necrotic stomatitis and hepatic necrobacillosis to give just a few. It is a disease that can result in abscess formation in any joint or part of the body.

The disease is caused by the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum which is found in the intestines of many animals. This bacterium survives well in manure-contaminated wet soil. The bacteria cannot penetrate intact skin and enter the body via cuts, damaged skin or via the mouth. Changes in the rumen, caused for example by grain overload, can also precipitate the disease. One of the commonest entry points is through feet that have been damaged during yarding and trucking.

Animals with the disease can present in different ways but are often depressed, thin, and rough-coated poor-doers. They can have a swollen face or jaw, be lame in single or multiple limbs and can sometimes have an infection in the throat leading to wheezing and possibly the development of pneumonia. Animals are sometimes found dead and when autopsied, these animals can have abscessation in multiple organs.

There is no licensed vaccine for the disease and it is almost certainly better to avoid the problem in the first place. Suggestions include avoiding rough surfaces especially sharp rocks and concrete; board yards where possible; keep yards as clean as possible; and use clean weaning paddocks. Avoiding pressure points in laneways, running small mobs, keeping weaners away from wire netting and minimising time in yards can also all play a part in reducing the incidence of the disease. Totally Vets is investigating the use of footbaths as a preventative measure.

Treatment is not that successful and to have any chance, cases need to be treated early. Animals with severe multiple lamenesses should be culled but in mild cases, early antibiotic therapy may be successful. Once there is multiple organ involvement, there is no chance of a successful outcome.