Cattle Pneumonia

Moredun-logoSummary written Peter Nettleton BVMS MSc PhD, MRCVS and Emily Hotchkiss BVMS, PhD, MRCVS

Taken from Moredun Foundation Newsheet Volume 4 No. 20 (2008)


  • gloucester-cattlePneumonia is a common problem, particularly in calves during the housing period. Disease can be caused by several different viruses and bacteria and is often referred to as the bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex.
  • Severe cases of pneumonia can lead to mortality but more common outcomes include decreased growth rates, particularly where there is permanent lung damage, and time and money spent treating affected animals.
  • The main viruses involved are: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza type 3 (PI3) virus, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) virus and underlying bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD).
  • The main bacteria involved are: Mannheimia haemolytica (previously known as Pasteurella haemolytica), Pasteurella multocida, Mycoplasma spp. and Histophilus somnus.
  • Viruses and bacteria are spread through the air in droplets from infected to susceptible calves. Disease can be reduced by avoiding overcrowding and the mixing of cattle of different origins and different ages.
  • Good housing can reduce respiratory disease. Cattle accommodation should be dry, draught free, comfortable and well ventilated.
  • Management is important in preventing pneumonia. Ensure that calves receive plenty of colostrum and try to avoid or minimise stress. Carry out stressful procedures (castration, weaning etc) one at a time whenever possible and introduce dietary changes gradually.
  • Many good vaccines are now available to protect against the main causative agents of disease. When used correctly, they are valuable tools for protecting susceptible cattle. Vaccination should be discussed with your veterinary surgeon as part of your overall disease prevention programme. Treatment of cattle with pneumonia should be started as soon as symptoms are seen. Isolate affected animals to prevent infection spreading within an air space. Your veterinary surgeon will recommend the most appropriate antibiotic to control any bacterial infection. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used.


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