Talking about black leg in ruminants

Blackleg, also known as black quarter, is a severe infectious disease affecting mainly pastured cattle and occasionally sheep worldwide.

Blackleg is caused by the bacterium Clostridium chauvoei and it leads to myonecrosis with high mortality rates, particularly in young animals.

Clinical signs include:

  • High fever
  • Depression (refusal to eat, lethargy)
  • Subcutaneous gas edema
  • Rapid death

The pathogenesis involves ingestion of spores from the soil, which remain latent in muscles until activated by trauma or ischemia, causing necrosis and toxin release

Diagnosis is challenging. In the live animal a preliminary diagnosis of blackleg can be made based on clinical signs and the presence of typical muscle emphysema.

Treatment options are limited: Prevention through vaccination may be the primary strategy. Treatment with antimicrobials (drug of choice being procaine penicillin) around affected tissues, aggressive surgical debridement to allow aeration along with supportive treatment can be of value too.

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