Scott Nordstrom, DVM
Merck Animal Health
When animals become sick, I treat them as soon as possible based on the symptoms we see. Is there a practical, cost-effective way to determine the specific pathogen involved without delaying treatment?
Your question raises an important point. If you ask producers what animals died from on their operations, they can almost always tell us. But when you start to peel back the onion, that response is almost always based on what they were treating those animals for. Then, when you do necropsies to discover what those animals actually died from, often the assumed “diagnosis” based on treatment information only is incorrect. Often times, diseases affect many animals in a group. That is why it is important for producers not to waste the opportunity to understand an early death loss with diagnostics and a necropsy and to help direct future treatments.
The best way to know the cause of an illness is to first collect a diagnostic sample that your veterinarian or a laboratory can use to develop a specific diagnosis. If the animal’s symptoms warrant immediate treatment, then work with your veterinarian to determine the treatment while awaiting test results. Once the diagnostic results are available, your veterinarian can not only identify whether to adjust treatment for the individual animal, but also consider whether changes to your herd-health protocols are needed based on this new information.
While this approach does require an investment in diagnostic testing, it means you will know you are treating the real health problem, and provides you and your veterinarian with ongoing information to keep your herd-health program up-to-date -- benefits that provide an extraordinary return on your investment.