With flooding events and high rainfall throughout much of the province, Saskatchewan producers are reminded to watch for anthrax.
Anthrax is caused by spores that can survive in the soil for decades. Severe weather events such as flooding can move and concentrate spores. Spores can float and attach to forage or be in soil attached to roots pulled up with grazing. Ruminants, especially bison and cattle are most susceptible, but sheep, goats, horses and even outdoor pigs can be affected.
Often the disease first appears with animals found dead on pasture. Carcasses may bloat quickly, not go into rigour mortis and blood may not clot, so that it is seen running from body openings. Clinical signs are short lived but may include severe depression, respiratory distress, and swellings on the body.
Anthrax vaccination is effective in preventing the disease, and ideally should be given before animals go out on pasture, especially where cases have occurred before. It takes 10 days to 3 weeks for vaccine immunity to develop.
Producers are reminded that early detection of cases is important to prevent further deaths. If animals are found dead on pasture, a veterinary postmortem can determine cause of death. Carcass-side or in-clinic blood tests can quickly indicate if anthrax is likely, though the test result must be verified by a laboratory.
In Saskatchewan, the cost of diagnostic tests for anthrax is covered by the province.
In the case of a positive anthrax case, a provincial anthrax response program is in place to assure proper carcass disposal and clean up. Veterinarians can provide advice on prevention and treatment options, and on vaccination to protect the rest of the herd.
For more information, please contact the office of the Chief Veterinary Officer at (306) 787-5547
To review the anthrax frequently asked questions click here.
Anthrax Response Program
For more information on the Saskatchewan anthrax response program click here.