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Pulpy Kidney – the one thing you wouldn’t think of in drought

Erica Kennedy, District Veterinarian, Nyngan

Pulpy Kidney (enterotoxaemia) is a disease of sheep, goats and cattle. It occurs when a bacteria (Clostridium perfringens) which normally inhabits an animal’s intestines begins to rapidly multiply and produce toxins that damage the small intestine.

The reason the bacteria begin to rapidly multiply is because there is a ‘spill’ of readily fermentable carbohydrates into the small intestine which fuel the bacteria to reproduce.

Lush, green feed is full of highly fermentable carbohydrates (starches, sugars) which is why we usually see pulpy kidney during winter and spring (in a normal year). Other feeds that are full of readily fermentable carbohydrates are grain and some pulses!

There are plenty of these being fed right now which is why we have been seeing a number of cases of pulpy kidney throughout this drought.

Pulpy kidney can be largely prevented through vaccination however a  single shot at marking is not going to do the trick.

Ewes need to be vaccinated every year prior to lambing to ensure they are passing on protection (via the colostrum) to their lambs for their first few weeks of life.

If ewes are not vaccinated, lambs will not have adequate protection until after their second vaccination and are vulnerable until then.

All ruminants (sheep, cattle, goats) should receive a pulpy kidney vaccination at least yearly to avoid a pulpy kidney outbreak. In high challenge situations (such as a high grain diet) it may be necessary to vaccinate every three months depending on the vaccine used – please consult your District Vet.

Once an outbreak starts there is little that can be done to treat and prevent it.

If stock have never been vaccinated then it will take at least 6 weeks before they will have any reliable immunity post vaccination, in the meantime there is little that can be done.

Remember to immediately report all sudden, unexplained deaths to your District Veterinarian so that the cause can be identified and resolved as quickly as possible.