Mastitis in animals is a very common but nasty problem. This is the inflammation and/or infection of the mammary glands. It is very easily contracted from the environment and/or caused by man. We will break this down into to primary problems, but it is actually very complex.
The first primary problem is environmental. This is where we have a fresh (a female that has given birth within a month) animal. Here we have what we call an easy milker. We have all seen these animals; they are dripping milk from their teats. This has either happened from the milking machine or naturally. The lower sphincter of their teat is loose or has scar tissue there from the milking machine being on too long or the wring pressure. This opens the sinus and the udder to bacteria crawling up the sinus into the udder. The udder is a wonderful incubator for bacteria to grow. The most common bacteria doing this is Streps and coliforms; (E. coli and enterobacter). Most of these bacteria will make your animal very sick and or kill her, if not treated appropriately. And sometimes we will lose them even if we do treat appropriately. These bacteria are just that nasty.
Now the next problem is what we call contagious mastitis. It is transmitted normally by milking or from where the cows loaf. I have found it under shade trees and in the loafing barns. This is commonly caused by one of the Staph sp. Bacteria. We all know about the Staph infections from the hospitals, well this is just like it. Staph is found every where in the environment. It is an opportunistic bacterium, so if we give it a chance, it will pick your pocket.
Now, this Staph sp., generally it will not kill the animal, but will render the udder non-functional. In other words, the udder will be full of scar tissue and we will not have any functioning milk glands. For example, we have all seen those cows going through the sale barn with big lumpy bags. Generally, this is from a Staph sp. bacteria. Staph mastitis will generally be contracted sometime during lactation. It will sit in the bag until the dry period and then flair up destroying the udder. Dairymen will notice during lactation that their somatic cell counts will go up. Then after the dry period and the female has given birth, there will not be any milk for the baby. I have seen whole bags destroyed by this infection. And for dairymen, I like to call this the dairyman killer. Where E. coli will kill the cow, Staph will cause the somatic cell count in their milk to be too high, the milk company will not take the milk, thus this will put the dairyman out of business, thus a dairyman killer.
Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark.


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