agriculture Horticulture

Adverse Reactions to Vaccines and Drugs in Cattle

Written by bheru lal gaderi

Occasionally cattle experience a reaction to a drug (injected, applied topically or given orally) & Vaccines. Allergic reactions can be mild and local (such as swelling at the injection site after vaccination) or serious and fatal—if the animal goes into anaphylactic shock.


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The drugs we administer are “foreign” to the animal’s body, and in the case of vaccines, the goal is for the body to recognize it as foreign and develop antibodies to combat these foreign agents (antigens) in the future. The vaccine will, therefore, enable the animal to create an immune response. On rare occasions, however, the animal may develop an acute allergic reaction to a foreign substance. Reactions can range in severity from hives/itching to systemic shock with fluid in the lungs and sudden death.

Since allergic reactions in cattle are rare, But today’s producers are giving more vaccines and antimicrobials, and with longer-acting products that are only approved subcutaneously or intramuscularly and not intravenously, the risk is higher.

The carrier or base in the products also can cause allergic reactions, so you never know when one will arise, but the treatment is very effective if given in time.

Most allergic reactions come about from the administration of products such as vaccines or antibiotics. Less commonly, an allergen can be inhaled or taken in orally. The reaction may be local, such as with a bee sting where the tissue in a large surrounding area becomes swollen. With cattle, we are more concerned with the full-blown reaction where eventually the lungs can fill with fluid, resulting in death.

Most severe reactions usually happen within 15 to 20 minutes of the insult. Clinical signs might include uneasiness or increased respiration. The most noticeable signs can be swollen, puffy eyelids and copious salivation. Bloat and staggering often follow these signs, which can progress to collapse from the lack of oxygen. The animal turns blue and dies.

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A good routine is to take a quick look at cattle once they have settled after processing to observe anything abnormal There can be a genetic susceptibility in a herd to a specific allergen, so if you inject a number of animals and you get one reaction, watch very closely for others. Mark down the animal affected especially if it’s a breeding animal as it could reoccur next time. That product needs to be avoided on that animal.

Individual reactions can occur with some products if not approved for intravenous usage and you happen to hit a small arteriole when injecting. This likelihood has been dramatically reduced with most products now approved subcutaneously. If given properly subcutaneously it is almost impossible to hit a big enough vein or artery. For intramuscular products like daily penicillin, it is a good preventive to first place the needle and then attach the syringe with the product. If blood comes bubbling out of the needle it is best to pull it out and place it in another location.

Many of the things we administer are foreign to the animal’s body, and in the case of vaccines, the goal is for the body to recognize it as foreign and develop antibodies to combat these foreign agents (antigens) in the future. The vaccine will, therefore, enable the animal to create an immune response. On rare occasions, however, the animal may develop an acute allergic reaction to a foreign substance. Reactions can range in severity from hives/itching to systemic shock with fluid in the lungs and sudden death.

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Label instructions give dosage, injection sites and whether the vaccine should be given intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SC). The neck is generally the preferred site — so injections are not going into muscles that would be better cuts of meat, in case of injection lesions. If the neck site will swell, however, put the vaccine a little farther up the neck (in the acceptable triangular area) rather than close to the shoulder. A painful swelling ahead of the shoulder makes it difficult for the animal to move that shoulder forward, creating lameness for several days.
The carriers of certain antibiotics are also somewhat irritating. Some individual animals are also more sensitive to certain products. You don’t always know, however, when giving a medication or a vaccine, whether that particular animal will react more adversely than the rest of the herd.

Hives sometimes occur when cattle are exposed again to a product they have already been sensitized to. A serious adverse reaction may be sudden and unexpected because many producers routinely vaccinate and treat animals for years and never experience a serious reaction.

There are four types of hypersensitivity, including immediate anaphylactic reaction, and hives can be part of that, along with swelling that shuts off the airways. Others are a delayed type of sensitivity, and in some of these instances, the animal may develop hives but no other problems.

the worst type of reaction is anaphylaxis. Unfortunately, with severe anaphylactic reactions, you don’t have a chance to treat; the animal just drops dead. In a less serious situation, you can treat the animal with intravenous epinephrine, but most people don’t have this drug on hand. Vaccines are the worst, for adverse reactions, just by their nature — because you are stimulating the immune system. Vaccine reactions also far outnumber reactions to drugs. The most common reactions are to clostridial bacterins that contain whole organisms.

The next most common causes of aller¬gic reactions are antibiotic injections. Penicillin is the most notorious for allergic reactions. In cattle, we see more reactions to oxytetracycline. If a cow or calf has an anaphylactic reaction to oxytetracycline, it’s usually not the first injection that they react to. It’s usually the second one because they have been previously sensitized to this drug

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Signs of reaction:-

Anaphylaxis is a severe multiple organ system immediate-type reactions, affecting the skin, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems within minutes to an hour of exposure to a precipitating agent. Lethal anaphylaxis is characterized by severe (upper or lower) airway obstruction, and/or shock with profound hypotension. In the absence of cardiovascular monitoring, the observable features of anaphylaxis need to be recognized if appropriate emergency treatment is to be provided.

However, it should be noted that in humans, patients may simply suffer a sudden cardiac arrest without any signs of anaphylaxis. In cattle, the observed features of anaphylaxis include sudden development of local or diffuse transient subcutaneous edema (angioneurotic edema), affecting the head in most cases, but also the perineum and udder. There is usually diffuse edema of the muzzle, eyelids, conjunctiva, and occasionally the cheeks.

This is characterized by doughy swelling that pits on pressure; when pressed firmly with the fingertips it retains the indentation for a considerable period of time. A rise in temperature (40°C) is likely due to muscle tremor. Isolated urticaria (mild hypersensitivity), without the involvement of other organ systems, may also result from parenteral administration of penicillin or streptomycin.

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Urticarial reactions may appear within minutes, or up to 5 wk after the administration of penicillin. In the latter case (delayed onset), the reactions are probably not IgE-mediated
Some of these swellings may be huge. Tetracycline, for instance, is a very irritating molecule. Sometimes the cow’s neck is so big you can’t get her in the head-catch. The carrier for a certain product may also cause irritation and reactions.

This is often the case with oxytetracycline. If you give the short-acting oxy-tet intravenously and give it too fast, it causes low blood pressure and the animal faints/collapses. Intravenous oxytetracycline and intravenous trimethoprim sulfas are notorious for that.

When an animal collapses during an IV injection, it usually recovers quickly — unless it is injured when it falls down. “It’s simply an acute collapse and then they bounce back up again. Those products should always be injected very slowly. With tetracycline, the reaction is due to both the molecule and the polypropylene carrier it’s in. With trimethoprim-sulfa, it seems to be mostly the carrier that causes this reaction in which the blood pressure drops
Adverse reactions are not well reported in our Indian system. It’s a bit easier to report adverse reactions in the American system.

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Ways to avoid or reduce risks from reactions:-

For instance, Ivermectin is very irritating, so it is labeled only for SC administration and you expect some swelling. But if you give Ivermectin intramuscularly it creates very nasty tissue damage. You can prevent some adverse reactions by giving the product according to label directions — at proper dosage and in the proper injection sites.
Most swellings are just tissue reaction at the injection site, but if a dirty needle was used, it may create an abscess. This needs to be opened and drained but may break open on its own. It’s very important to use clean needles, and follow proper procedures for injection.

It’s also common (especially in dairy cows), to accidentally put an IM injection between the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus muscles on the back of the hind leg. The drug then ends up in the facial plane between the muscles rather than in muscle and then it is absorbed much more slowly. It is best to do IM injections in the neck, where there are lots of small muscles and a lot of movement. The drug will be absorbed faster, and the irritation is in the less valuable cuts of meat.

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Preventing negative side-effects of cattle vaccinations:-

There is now a multitude of vaccines on the market for all facets of the dairy industry. Vaccinating has become part of the biosecurity program on our farm, ranch or dairy. It is good for our industry as it controls disease, minimizes antibiotic use, improves production, and decreases death or losses from abortion. But producers need to develop vaccination protocols with their herd veterinarian and, where possible, avoid some of the pitfalls that occasionally come with vaccinations. They are leukotoxic effects from gram-negative vaccines, allergic reactions, vaccine site infections, and poor immune response from a myriad of factors.

There are vaccines for viral infections and those for bacterial infections. The bacteria come in two forms called gram-positive and gram-negative.

Gram-positive are ones like clostridial diseases and anthrax and these don’t produce leukotoxins. Gram-negative bacteria are most of the other bacteria we vaccinate against such as the respiratory pathogens and E. coli used for scours prevention and to control E. coli mastitis in our dairies. Some of these bacteria are worse than others for their leukotoxic effects, so one needs to avoid the use of too many of these bacteria at the same time.


Leukotoxic effect:-

The leukotoxic effect causes rapid breathing, foaming at the mouth and can lead to abortions in pregnant cattle and death. If cattle do recover, they may be chronic poor doers and susceptible to other diseases.
We see more of these leukotoxic effects in dairy cattle because the sector uses more of the gram-negative vaccines and also because dairy cows are under the production stress of milking. There are also some genetic lines that seem more susceptible.

Potential parasitism, poor nutrition (microminerals lacking), and the potential of having slight acidosis (grain overload) all increase the odds of having a leukotoxic reaction when vaccinating.

It is important to know the more serious bacteria to avoid this stacking. E. coli, Vibrio, and salmonella are at the top for severity. Histophilus, foot rot, pink eye and Pasteurella (pneumonia) vaccines are in the middle group with Leptospirosis vaccines in the least leukotoxin-producing category.

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Cumulative effects:-

Vigorously shaking vaccines when you rehydrate them (versus swirling) can release more leukotoxins. These leukotoxins also increase as the vaccine ages or if it gets too hot or too old. All of these factors underscore the importance of proper handling of vaccines.

Fortunately, these vaccines are often given at different times. Vaccines also can have adjuvants to enhance the immune response and allergic reactions in some herds are a possibility. So just as we get allergic reactions to some antibiotics, the same can happen when vaccinating. This is more common with the killed bacterins and killed vaccines versus the modified live vaccines.

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Be prepared:-

Treatment should be administered immediately. A few minutes delay may result in the death of the animal. Most treatment recommendations are based on studies of small animals and humans. Epinephrine administered intramuscularly is often immediately effective. However, most anaphylactic reactions are usually of moderate severity and will spontaneously resolve over minutes or a few hours in otherwise healthy animals and humans. Corticosteroids are said to potentiate the effect of epinephrine and may be given immediately following the epinephrine in order to maintain the vascular integrity and to decrease the permeability of pulmonary vessels, although the evidence for this presumption is minimal.

Be aware this can happen and always have a bottle of epinephrine, as well as an antihistamine and even dexamethasone (steroid).

Generally, these allergic reactions happen very soon after the injections and one sees rapid breathing, swelling or puffy eyes depending on the degree of allergic reaction. Keep in mind the treatment may need to be repeated a few times.

Vaccine reactions can turn into infections. To avoid infections change needles frequently, make sure the syringe has been cleaned prior to starting the day, don’t vaccinate through manure, and use the proper-size needle. And if at all possible, don’t vaccinate in a rain shower as water can wash dust and debris into the needle hole.
The poor immune response depends on the stress level, nutrition, exposure to organisms, and parasitic burden. Just remember a good vaccination program can be overwhelmed by poor management and exposure to lots of organisms.

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Post no-683 Dt-27/05/2018

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bheru lal gaderi

Hello! My name is Bheru Lal Gaderi, a full time internet marketer and blogger from Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, India. Shouttermouth is my Blog here I write about Tips and Tricks,Making Money Online – SEO – Blogging and much more. Do check it out! Thanks.