MEANING OF ANIMAL HEALTH
Animal Health is a concept in Agricultural Science that ensures farm animals are healthy, free from diseases and well catered for. Animal health is very important because healthy animals make the world a better place. Animals play significant roles in the lives of people and communities through being livestock for food production and pets for companionship.
CAUSES OF DISEASES IN ANIMALS
In order to understand what causes disease in animals, we first need to know what disease is. Disease (also known as sickness) is any process that interferes with the normal functioning of the body. We do not normally consider injuries such as broken legs and cuts as diseases.
There are many causes of disease in animals. Knowledge of what causes disease and how animals can get a disease will help us know how to prevent disease and treat sick animals.
Parasites are organisms that have to live on or in other organisms, such as animals, in order to survive. Most parasites are easy to see, although some mites and the early stages of worms can only be seen under a microscope.
Parasites can result in irritation and skin damage in animals. Some parasites can also pass diseases such as Redwater in cattle.
Types of Parasites
- External parasites
Flies, lice, fleas, ticks and mites can cause serious diseases in animals.
Some live on the animals for their entire lives, others only spend part of their lives there, while others only visit to feed.
- Internal parasites
Internal parasites (including roundworms, flukes and tapeworms) can cause serious diseases and loss of production in animals.
They usually live in the stomach and intestines but also in other parts of the body such as the lungs and liver.
2. Microbes (germs)
Microbes (germs) are usually too small to be seen with the naked eye, and only a microscope will enable you to see what a microbe looks like. Just because you do not see microbes with your naked eye, does not mean they cannot cause disease in animals.
Some microbes are harmless. For example, bacteria surround animals and people, and they even live on our skin and inside our nose, mouth and stomach, but these bacteria do not normally cause problems. Also, some microbes are even helpful, such as the ones in our gut which help us to digest food.
However, many different microbes can cause disease in animals, but there are four main types:
Viruses are the smallest of all microbes. They must live inside cells in order to survive and breed. Viruses cause about 60% of disease outbreaks in animals and humans. Examples of diseases in animals caused by viruses are rabies, Newcastle disease and Bovine ephemeral fever, also known as three-day stiff-sickness.(TDS)
It is usually difficult to treat diseases caused by viruses because the viruses live inside animal cells. Therefore, any medicine that can kill the viruses will also harm the animals in which the viruses are present.
Bacteria can live in animals and in the environment. Not all bacteria cause disease. People and animals have bacteria living on and in them that do not cause disease. Examples of diseases in animals caused by bacteria are Anthrax, Black Quarter and Tuberculosis.
Bacteria can infect wounds, and that is why wounds should be treated.
Fungi include Mould on stale food and mushrooms. Fungi need to grow on organic material in order to feed, and this can include animals and humans. An example of a fungal disease in animals is ringworm. Some fungi are normally harmless, but can cause disease in some situations, especially after prolonged use of antibiotics. Some fungi can also produce toxins or poisons which can be a problem when food becomes stale or wet.
Some protozoa can live outside the cells, especially the types that cause Trichomonosis, a venereal disease in cattle. Others need to live inside cells, and include those causing Coccidiosis, Redwater, Heartwater and Gallsickness.
Animals can be poisoned by chemicals (such as insecticides and dips), poisonous plants and fungal toxins. Animals can also be poisoned when bitten by snakes, scorpions and spiders.
8. Dietary problems
Lack of enough food or lack of adequate the components (such as phosphorus) can diseases in animals. Malnourishment in animals may lead to other serious diseases.
9. Metabolic diseases
Metabolic diseases are an upset in the normal functioning of the animal (that is not caused by infection, poisoning or feed deficiencies) and usually result from intensive animal production. An example is milk fever in highly-productive dairy cows.
10. Congenital diseases
In some cases, animals can be born with a disease. Some of these may be inherited (passed on from the parents). This is rare, and inherited diseases are usually seen at birth. An example of congenital disease include hydrocephalus, which is a swelling of the brain caused by fluid, and can be clearly seen as a swelling of the head.
11. Environmental Condition
Environmental problems, such as littering, contribute to some diseases in animals, for example, animals may eat plastic bags or wires and this can harm the animal’s health.
Cancer occurs when some of the cells in the body grow abnormally. In some instances viruses can cause cancer.
Allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance Some diseases are caused by allergies, which is when the body’s own immune system attacks part of the body.
14. Degenerative disease
Just like in humans, some diseases are associated with old age in animals.
HOW TO PREVENT DISEASES IN ANIMALS
- Be sure not to bring infection onto your farm, or spread it around your farm.
- where possible, limit and control farm visitors – people and vehicles
- have pressure washers, brushes, water and disinfectant available, and make sure visitors use them
- don’t share injecting and dosing equipment – if it can’t be avoided, cleanse and disinfect thoroughly
- clean and then disinfect any farm machinery/equipment if you are sharing these with a neighbouring farm
- introduce a pest control programme
- fence off streams and rivers – supply clean fresh drinking water.
- keep livestock away from freshly spread slurry
- ensure your livestock identification and record keeping is accurate and up-to-date
- dispose of fallen stock (dead animals) properly
- make a herd/flock health plan with your vet including isolation for new or returning stock
- know the health status of any animals or birds you are buying or moving
- be vigilant to spot any signs of disease among your animals or birds, and report suspicions of noticeable disease to your vet
- train staff on the principles of hygiene and disease security
- include signs directing visitors to the farmhouse/office and urging visitors not to feed animals or get in close contact
- keep your farmyard and surroundings clean and tidy to discourage vermin
- provide cleaning and disinfectant materials for all visitors and workers
- wash your hands with soap and water after handling livestock
- avoid wearing dirty clothes and footwear off the farm - this is important when visiting markets, shows, farms and other premises where there are livestock
- clean and disinfect all shared and hired equipment before and after use
- make sure that animals kept indoors have fresh clean dry bedding
- dispose of used bedding away from livestock, humans and watercourses as it can cause contamination
- clean and disinfect buildings and equipment after use by livestock
- keep incoming and returning stock separate from the rest of the herd/flock
- use separate equipment and staff or handle isolated stock last
- have water bowls or drinkers above the level for faecal contamination
- avoid contamination of watercourses
- clean feed and water troughs regularly
- discourage dogs and cats from walking in feed troughs
- keep feed in a clean, dry store
- keep feed stores covered and shut to ensure no access by dogs, cats, vermin and wildlife
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