Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a viral disease in cattle and is mainly spread by biting flies, midges, mosquitoes, and to a lesser extent ticks. Direct transmission between animals can also occur where feed and water troughs are shared.

“As it is a viral disease, we cannot treat the disease itself but only its effects. Prevention is therefore key and can be achieved through vaccination,” explains Dr Gillian Declercq, community state veterinarian with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD).

Vaccinate once a year

She stresses that all animals must be vaccinated against LSD once a year. “Lumpy skin disease commonly occurs in summer and early autumn as insect activity is more
common during wet and humid weather.

Vaccination must be done in late winter or spring, allowing the animals to develop immunity by the time the virus is doing its rounds.” Animals infected with LSD are feverish,
produce excess saliva, have a runny nose and in some cases also have teary eyes. “A few days after the occurrence of these first clinical signs, round raised lumps appear on the skin, ranging from about the size of a R1 coin to that of a R5 coin. The lumps are hard, do not move under the skin and are usually randomly distributed all over the body.

“More problems arise when these bumps occur as ulcers in the mouth, as the animal refuses to eat due to the pain. In severe cases the ulcers will extend into the trachea and can lead to secondary pneumonia. “When the eyes are affected, the animal will keep them closed, excess tears are produced, the surface of the eye may become cloudy and the animal may even go blind. The virus can also affect the coronary band above the hooves, making walking extremely painful. In severe cases the bottom parts of the body, such as the dewlap and legs, become warm, swollen and painful,” says Dr Declercq. As already mentioned, the disease itself cannot be treated. It is, however, very important to tackle the effects of the disease and the various secondary problems headon.

How to tackle LSD

Dr Declercq shares practical advice on how this can be achieved:

  • Ulcers in the mouth can be washed with warm salt water to prevent infection.
  • The affected animals must be provided with soft, palatable feeds such as milled hay and concentrates.
  • Clean water must always be readily available.
  •  If the animal has ulcers in the mouth and trachea that may be extending into the lungs, listen for coughing as this may indicate secondary pneumonia. These animals should be
    placed on antibiotic treatment under the supervision of a veterinarian.
  • In severe cases, animals might become recumbant and it will be important to give supportive care. This includes moving the animal from side to side, providing feed and water, as well as treating any open sores with antiseptic ointment.
  • It is often advised that animals exhibiting a high number of lumps be placed on long-acting antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. This should only be undertaken under the advisement of a veterinarian.

Prevention is better than cure – words that are particularly apt in the case of LSD. It remains crucial to annually vaccinate all animals against the disease. “That is the only
way we can control viral diseases such as LSD,” says Dr Declercq. – Marike Brits, Stockfarm

This article is the fourth in a series of informative animal health articles. The series goes hand in hand with the #VideoVet video series that can be viewed on Watch the video below.

For more information, contact your MSD Animal Health representative or phone 011 923 9300. (ZA/ORUM/0218/0003e)

Thank you for the support of several role-players in creating this series: the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Gillian Declercq and the CCS veterinarians (Dr Lindsay Parvess and Dr Heidi Kuhn), MSD Animal Health, as well as Kenneth Ndlovu and the Amogelang team for their assistance and animals for demonstration.

#VideoVet: Reign in orf before it wreaks havoc