“For a clinical diagnosis, veterinarians will commonly test a cow’s blood for anaplasmosis with a blood smear,” Jones said. “We can actually see the organism attached to the margin of red blood cells with a microscope.”
In the acute phase, anaplasmosis can be fatal if not treated properly. Ill cattle must be treated with great care, said Jones, because the stress of handling cattle can be fatal if the disease is advanced.
“If you suspect a cow of being infected, don’t chase her with horses or dogs if you can help it. You really need to handle them delicately to reduce their stress as much as possible,” Jones said.
The most common treatment is the use of tetracycline antibiotics. Improvement in cattle’s symptoms can be seen within a few days, but it takes between two to four weeks to see a significant recovery of red blood cell numbers.
As with most diseases, prevention is ideal. Jones recommends fly tags, rubs and pour-on insect repellents to ward off biting insects and ticks. She also suggests changing needles between each cow when vaccinating or administering medicines. Another option is to add low levels of chlortetracycline to the feed to kill the organism before it replicates and attaches to red blood cells.
Unlike many diseases, which attack young and elderly populations, anaplasmosis mostly affects middle-aged cattle. In fact, most deadly cases occur in cattle between six and eight years of age. Younger cattle are better able to regenerate red blood cells and recover, often developing immunity.
Jones says cattlemen should pay particular attention to their adult cows and bulls as the season progresses, watching for symptoms characteristic of anaplasmosis.off the shelves.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.