Will Salt Cure a Cow’s Pink Eye?
Bovine pinkeye is a contagious infection of the eye that is common in cattle. While folk remedies and anecdotal evidence suggest salt may be effective in its treatment, there are multiple veterinarian-approved methods for treating the condition. Moreover, salt could irritate eye tissue and compound the problem even more. As such, it’s best to educate oneself about the disease itself and scientifically-based treatment methods.
In cattle, pinkeye is caused by the bacteria Moraxella bovis. A related strain, Moraxella ovis may also be the culprit. The condition causes swelling and inflammation of the eye tissue as well as eye ulcers. Light becomes an irritant and often leads to squinting. Left untreated, ulcers may rupture and cause loss of sight in the infected eye.
Once infected, cattle present symptoms of pinkeye within a couple of days. They eyes first become puffy and runny. The tissue is often red and appears irritated. Over time the cornea may cloud and eventually may turn white or bluish in spots. Even when treated, scar tissue may be present on the eye as the healing process runs its course, resulting in lifelong damage to the animal’s vision.
Pinkeye is highly contagious and passes from one cow to another through contact and relative vicinity. It tends to spread the most intensely in the summer and early fall.
As with most condition, it’s best to begin treatment for bovine pinkeye at the first sign of outbreak. An intra-muscular or subcutaneous injection of oxytetracyline is the primary treatment for pinkeye. Other drugs such as ceftiofur, penicillin, and fulfonamides are sometimes used. A herd veterinarian may also inject antibiotics under the eyelid, serving a similar function to the folk remedy of salt.
An eye patch over the infected area is often recommended, and in severe cases, the animal’s eye may be sutured shut until it has healed.
While anecdotal evidence suggests salt may help in the treatment of pinkeye, it may also irritate the eye and cause further complications. As such it is recommended to consult a herd veterinarian and pursue more orthodox treatment. Given the highly contagious nature of pinkeye, this can help prevent one or two cases into a full outbreak. Another school of thought recommends the topical application of mild antibiotics. While this may aid in the short term, these preparations don’t last long enough to aid the healing process for more than a brief period.
The key factor in mitigating pinkeye is controlling face flies. Insecticide treatments are usually recommended, either administered as a medicated ear tap, or applied via a dust bag tied above a sluiced feeding area.
There are bovine pinkeye vaccines that are especially recommended for working cattle. The supervision of a herd veterinarian is recommended during the administration of these vaccines.
While pinkeye is also common in humans, the bacteria responsible for the cow form is species-specific.