Pinkeye In Beef Cattle

This article is part of Catlett Animal Hospital’s new series of in-depth information on specific diseases and conditions!

Pinkeye, also known as Infectious Bovine Keratoconjunctivitis (IBK), is a disease caused by the bacteria Moraxella bovis and can cause severe lesions on the eyes of cattle. The disease can include corneal ulcers and blindness, which can lead to a significant decrease in calf weight gain and cause calves to be discounted at the sale barn.


Photo from VA Co-Op Ext – Stage 2 pinkeye

What causes Pinkeye?

Pinkeye is frequently caused by irritation to the eye, which could include:

  •  Face flies
  •  Sunlight
  •  Grass
  •  Bacterial infections
  •  Viral infections (IBR)
  •  Nutritional deficits

What are commons signs of Pinkeye?

Your cattle may show some of the following signs of pinkeye – as soon as you are suspicious, it’s important to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment!

  • Squinting of the eye
  • Watering of the eye
  • Small gray spot in center of eye
  • The whole eyeball may become cloudy
  • Redness on the cornea (clear part of the eye)
  • Corneal ulcers will appear dished out, while white spots may appear in the middle of the eye
  • The eye may eventually rupture

How do I prevent Pinkeye?

  •  Control flies
    •  Fly tags (in both eyes of calves)
    •  Mineral containing IGR
  •  Pasture management
  •  Avoidance of sunlight and irritation
  •  Pinkeye vaccine may be available, but should be discussed with a veterinarian, as it may not be effective or appropriate in every case

How is Pinkeye treated when it occurs?

  •  Protect the eye during healing
    • Patches
    • Shade
    • Temporary tarsorrhaphy (sewing the eyelid shut to protect the eye) – can be performed by your veterinarian. Good for severe cases and eyes that may be in danger of rupturing.
  • Injectible oxytetracycline: best if given early in the course of disease
  • Subconjunctival penicillin injections
  • Have a whole-herd outbreak?
    • Move pastures if cattle are in tall grass
    • Fly spray to remove all flies
    • Treat whole herd with long-duration antibiotics

Further reading from Virginia Cooperative Extension –

Be sure to contact our Catlett Animal Hospital Large Animal Service veterinarians if you have questions about Pinkeye in your animals, or with any other questions. They are eager to be of service in any way possible!

Summertime Shows!


Here at Catlett Animal Hospital, we think that one of the best ways to spend your summer is preparing for the county fair. No matter what kind of animals you are showing, time spent in the barn is tough to beat!

As you count down the days until the fair and continue working with your animals there are several things to consider.


1.  On these HOT days, always make sure your animals have access to shade and clean water! Providing a fan in the barn can also make your livestock more comfortable, urging them to keep eating and putting on weight, and stimulate hair growth.


2.  Consider working your animals either in the morning or late afternoon during the cooler parts of the day. Heat stress caused by overworking your animals (especially pigs) can slow their growth, decrease their immune response making disease more likely, and in severe cases, result in death.


3. Weigh your animals often! Knowing the weight of your livestock can help you adjust feed intake and achieve your show day weight goal. Don’t forget it’s not just about the weight though. Also monitor the finish (or fat cover) of your animal to achieve that optimum grade.



4. Monitor your animal’s health closely. Sick animals may not be taken to the fair and exhibited. Be sure to observe your animal for heavy breathing or coughing, skin conditions such as ringworm or JGhorsessore mouth, and GI disorders. Many of these ailments can be overcome if they are caught quickly and treated. For all lamb and goat exhibitors, if you ever notice your wether in pain and straining to urinate, contact your veterinarian immediately. Wether lambs and kids can develop urinary calculi and have a blocked urethra. This is an emergency!


5. Don’t forget about health papers! Most livestock shows require that all animals have a current health certificate signed by a veterinarian.

Our clinic is currently offering FREE health papers to 4Hers exhibiting livestock!

(All you have to pay is the farm call, which is also currently discounted!)

Large Animal Services Now Available!

Catlett Animal Hospital is proud to announce the opening of our Large Animal Services division!

We now provide care for your horses, cattle, goats, sheep, llamas and alpacas, pigs, and chickens!

Our two large or mixed animal doctors, Dr. Julia Gibson and Dr. Clara Nelson, are available to make farm calls as well as address emergencies 24/7.

Visit our Large Animal Services page for all the info!


From our doctors, in their own words…

“Thanks to everyone for helping get us off to a great start. We are excited to be working with you!

So far we have seen many pet goats with a wide variety of ailments, done some routine equine vaccinations and Coggins testing, and are starting our beef cattle herd work!

Please continue to call us for all of your large animal needs!”


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