Vet Watch
Vet Watch


Earlier this year, in an effort to better understand the needs and interests of our readers, we conducted a number of surveys of veterinary practitioners including one of Vet Watch subscribers.

Overall, we were pleased that feedback on the content of Vet Watch was favourable. Respondents generally found the information in the newsletter useful and easy to understand and were satisfied with the layout.  The preference was for articles with a Victorian focus followed by national issues. The top four areas of  interest were summary disease notifications, seasonal trends, local emerging diseases and zoonoses. A few respondents  noted that it would be useful to not just focus on large animals but to also include other species.

We would like to thank all those who participated in the survey.  The information provided will guide our approach to future editions.

Upper alimentary ulceration syndrome

The Department of Economic Development Jobs Transport and Resources has been investigating cases on seven farms of a previously unrecognised syndrome of upper alimentary tract ulceration and enteritis in weaned calves (mostly dairy heifers).  

The syndrome presents as severe weight loss and scouring in weaned calves up to eight months old.
Up to 60% of the calf group may be affected. Mortality in affected calf groups can be as high as10%. Affected animals show emaciation and scouring which is unresponsive to parasiticides and only occasionally responsive to antibiotics. Some affected calves displayed small oral erosions especially on the underside of the tongue and on the buccal mucosa and/or small nasal ulcers.
On post-mortem, severe acute ulcerative oesophagitis and pharyngitis with secondary bacterial infection are the most prominent features. Enteritis is seen in some affected calves.

Figure 1. Proximal oesophagus showing severe diffuse diphtheritic oesophagitis

Figure 2.  Affected calf  - weight loss and scouring

To date, no aetiological agent has been identified. Affected calves from the first three properties investigated have returned  universally negative results for intestinal worm infestations, liver fluke, bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD; aka pestivirus), Salmonellosis, Yersiniosis, and Coccidiosis. To date, only one animal has been tested for infectious bovine rhinotraceitis (IBR) and it returned negative results. There are few and relatively minor respiratory signs in affected calves.

Case definition

A syndrome of weight loss, scouring and mortality in weaned calves up to eight months old, characterised by upper alimentary tract ulceration and enteritis where other agents (e.g. intestinal parasites, pestivirus, Salmonellosis, Coccidiosis and Yersiniosis) have been ruled out as likely causes.
The DEDJTR investigation seeks to

  • establish an aetiological agent,
  • identify contributing factors and
  • suggest possible control methods.
 What can you do to help?
If you suspect a possible case of this syndrome, please discuss it with your local District Veterinary Officer and submit a Significant Disease Investigation.

If, following appropriate diagnostic work up, the case fits the case definition, more detailed follow up on farm will be conducted by your District Veterinary Officer. There will be no cost to the producer for this follow up investigation and testing, and you will be kept informed of the progress of the investigation.

Strangles investigations

There have been  14 cases of strangles reported to the Department  between May and July this year; eleven of which were confirmed by laboratory testing. Figure 3 shows the spatial distribution of the cases.
It appears that some strangles cases may be associated with the rescue and agistment of horses acquired through saleyard auction sales. This situation is being monitored to see if this is becoming a significant problem.
Strangles is a notifiable disease in Victoria under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and it must be reported within seven days to a Department veterinary officer or animal health officer. The requirement to notify ensures that, particularly in cases where multiple horses are affected and there has not been laboratory confirmation of a diagnosis, the possibility of the presence of exotic diseases (especially equine influenza) can be ruled out.
There is no regulatory action taken if strangles is detected and properties are not placed under quarantine. Departmental officers will provide advice on biosecurity measures that will prevent further spread. To find out more visit Information for the Control of Strangles

To assist you in managing inquiries about strangles the Equine Veterinarians of Australia have developed the following information sheet with advice on treatment and management of the condition.
Equine Veterinarians of Australia advice on treatment and management of Strangles

 Figure 3 Location  of reported strangles cases

Infectious laryngotracheitis continues to circulate in Victorian poultry

Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) virus outbreaks continue to occur amongst Victoria’s commercial poultry sector. There were 41 notifications based on clinical signs between May and July 2015; four were confirmed by laboratory testing.
Although ILT can cause significant disease in itself, its importance comes in its similarity to early stages of virulent Newcastle disease, a highly contagious viral disease exotic to Australia. For that reason, ILT is notifiable to the Department  within 12 hours, and Newcastle disease/avian influenza exclusion is vital when investigating suspect flocks.
ILT is characterised by coughing, gasping for air, neck extension and conjunctivitis, and may also cause reduced egg production and predispose birds to other respiratory pathogens. If you suspect ILT in poultry you are investigating, remember to notify DEDJTR (notifiable disease form available at ).
Diagnosis: The best samples to send are fresh trachea and larynx.  As ILT is a notifiable disease, the department will subsidise diagnostic testing.

Figure 4  Classic watery eyes of a hen with ILT

Disease investigations across the State

Private veterinarians play a major role in the success of the state’s animal disease surveillance activities.
There were 514 disease investigations in the three months from May to July, with private veterinarians undertaking or reporting  84 % of these.  The distribution of these investigations is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5  Location of disease investigations, May-July  2015

Cattle investigations made up the majority of cases (Figure 6).  In cases where a final diagnosis was reached, gastrointestinal diseases were the most commonly diagnosed diseases in cattle, sheep and pigs (Figure 7).

Figure 6  Investigations by species, May-July  2015

The following figure shows the most commonly diagnosed conditions in cattle, sheep and pigs.

Figure 7  Most commonly diagnosed diseases in cattle, sheep  and pigs.

New Agriculture website

The agriculture content of the former Department of Environment and Primary Industries website has recently transitioned to a new Agriculture website following changes to the Victorian Government structure. Specific information and resources for veterinary practitioners can be found by visiting VetSource.    The site includes information on the Significant Disease Investigation program, the National TSE program and information about how to report a Notifiable Disease

Across the nation...

Hendra virus confirmed in north Queensland.
Australian CVO assumes Vice-presidency of OIE
National strategy to tackle antibiotic overuse in livestock and people

Around the world...

Avian influenza H5N8 – United States outbreak

 Poultry producers in the USA are starting to rebuild after the avian influenza outbreak that began in December 2014.  There were 223 avian influenza reports during the  outbreak with over 48 million birds from 15 states affected. For more information visit the USDA website

The global situation can be seen in Figure 8 (visit for more information).

Figure 8: Highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks, January - June 2015. Source: World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID).

Foot and mouth disease

Foot and mouth disease outbreaks continue to occur in parts of Africa and Asia (January-June 2015).
Figures 9 and 10: OIE member countries’ official FMD outbreak map (above) and distribution map (below), January – June 30 2015. Source: World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID).

For more information of the latest disease outbreaks across the globe, please visit:

What's happening out there?

For the latest edition of the Department of Agriculture’s EAD alerts, visit: Emergency and Exotic Animal Diseases - Bulletins and Alerts.
To access the Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly Report:

For international disease updates, visit:
GLEWS (Global Livestock Early Warning System):
OIE/WAHID database:
FAOSTAT agriculture - production, consumption and trade of agricultural commodities:
FAOSTAT - detailed world agricultural trade flows: :

World Veterinary Education in Production Animal Health: 
International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association:



Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

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