Vets see speed of action as key to effective pneumonia treatment

Over the last two years, Merial Animal Health has been asking the opinions of cattle vets with regards to the impact of pneumonia, its treatment and management. ‘Achieving rapid effective concentrations of antibiotic in the lung lining fluid is crucial to effective treatment of calf pneumonia’ was the resounding feeling among practitioners. Plus the fact that long term performance of affected animals can suffer significantly, placing even more importance on early recognition of the signs of disease and seeking effective, fast-acting therapy where appropriate.

All the vets questioned in the survey said that calf pneumonia is a common problem for farmers, with 85 per cent agreeing that it occurs on a seasonal basis.

Often the primary cause of pneumonia is viral, with secondary bacterial infection commonly due to the extracellular bacteria Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida and Histophilus somni . All are to be found in the epithelial lining fluid of the lower respiratory tract (pulmonary epithelial lining fluid or PELF); this is the primary site of bacterial infection.

When considering treatment options for animals affected by pneumonia, 96 per cent of vets agreed that the speed of action of an antibiotic was important. The majority of vets questioned also indicated that given the time it takes for damaged lung tissue to repair (between 7 and 10 days) the longevity of action of an antibiotic was important; with 63 per cent suggesting 10-15 days is the most desirable length of action, followed by a further 11 per cent who suggested more than 20 days.

“Calf pneumonia remains an important priority for farmers. Where preventative measures have failed, it is important to treat the disease quickly and effectively first time around. Studies have shown that dairy cows can produce 8 per cent less milk in the second lactation after infection2 and in beef cattle it can reduce growth rates and increase the number of days to finishing, making it an expensive drain on productivity and profits,” says Fiona MacGillivray, Veterinary Advisor for Merial Animal Health.

“From both an animal welfare and financial perspective, treating more than once is to be avoided wherever possible. With lung repair taking up to ten days, balancing speed of action in the PELF with sustained effective activity that lasts around two weeks would provide appropriate antibiotic therapy ‘tailor-made’ for this particular disease,” she adds.

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