Management of Skin Diseases in Farm Animals

Skin Diseases in Farm Animals
| Jun 21, 2024

The management of skin diseases in farm animals, especially cattle, involves understanding the disease’s causes, observing clinical signs, and using appropriate diagnostic and treatment strategies.

Various factors can cause skin disorders. Animals are commonly treated with drugs to fight external pests like fleas, mites, and internal parasites. To successfully treat skin diseases, each factor must be identified and addressed. Treatment may require long-term or lifelong care and often focuses on control rather than cure.

Common Skin Diseases of Farm Animals

Skin conditions in cattle are primarily caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal pathogens. These include respiratory illnesses, intestinal maladies impacting the digestive tract, reproductive disorders, skin ailments, and urinary tract infections. Below are some common infections found in cattle for each:

1.     Parasitic Infections

External parasites, such as mites and lice, can cause parasitic infections in farm animals if not adequately controlled. These mites feed on skin or blood, causing irritation and sometimes severe skin-related disease.

  • Mange: This disease is caused by mites such as Sarcoptes, Psoroptese, and Demodex. Its symptoms include skin irritation, which leads to scratching, causing inflammation, exudation with crusts, and scabs forming on the skin. This condition is usually found in the winter season. Pour-on products or injections, such as ivermectin injections, acaricides, and maintaining good hygiene, can be used to treat it
  • Lice Infestations: This type of infestation is caused by biting lice (Mallophaga) and sucking lice (Anophlura) which leads to hair loss, skin irritation, and reduced weight of cattle. Insecticidal sprays, powders, and pour-on formulations can be used to treat it.

2.     Fungal Infections

Fungal infections occur when fungi invade the skin, leading to conditions that often present as crusty or scaly lesions in cattle. Ringworms can frequently be seen in cattle during the winter.

They are caused by Trichophyton and Microsporum species, which recover spontaneously in spring and summer. Circular, crusty patches on the skin can be found on cattle skin with scales. Antifungal creams, shampoos or oral antifungal medications can be used in such conditions.

3. Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections result from bacteria entering the skin through cuts, abrasions, or other injuries, causing inflammation and sometimes systemic illness.

  • Abscesses: Bacterial invasion, commonly caused by Staphylococcus, causes this infection, which exhibits symptoms such as swelling, heat, pain, and pus discharge from the affected area. Treatment options include draining abscesses, using antibiotics, and applying antiseptic washes.
  • Dermatitis: This is caused by various bacteria, trauma, and environmental factors. Its symptoms include red, inflamed skin, pustules, crusts, and itching. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and improving environmental conditions can improve the condition.

4. Viral Infections

Viral infections in the skin can manifest as warts, lesions, or other dermatological symptoms and are often specific to certain types of viruses.

  • Warts (Papillomatosis): This is caused by the Papillomavirus. It can be noticed by the growth of warts on the skin and mucous membranes and can be treated by surgical removal or cryotherapy if severe.
  • Cowpox: This is caused by the virus Cowpox. It appears as red spots that develop into pustules, which then crust over. At this time, supportive care in animal husbandry and maintaining good hygiene will be effective care.
  • Lumpy Virus: This virus, which belongs to the family Poxviridae and is also called Neethling virus, causes the enlargement and formation of lumps (cutaneous nodules) 2–5 cm in diameter on the heads, necks, limbs, udders, genitalia, and perinea of affected animals. There is currently no cure for the virus, so the most effective control method is prevention through vaccination.

5. Allergic Reactions

Environmental factors or food can trigger allergic reactions in farm animals, leading to skin irritation and other symptoms.

Environmental Allergies: Pollen, dust, or any chemical can be the main factors for such allergy. Itching, redness, hives, and sometimes respiratory issues are common symptoms of such allergy. Staying away or keeping precautions from the pollen season for cattle can be effective, and in case of antihistamines can be taken.

Treatment Strategies for Management of Skin Diseases in Farm Animals

Managing skin diseases in farm animals requires an extensive method that includes a thorough understanding of the ailment, detailed diagnosis, and customised treatment plans. These techniques enable producers to efficiently handle skin conditions, shield their herds’ health, and improve productivity and effectiveness.

  • Antiparasitic Treatments: Antiparasitic treatments, such as topical applications or systemic medications, can be used depending on the identified parasite. It is crucial to choose treatments based on the specific parasite causing the disease and to consider the overall health status of the entire herd, e.g., Ivermectin.
  • Topical and Systemic Antibiotics: Topical or systemic antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial infections. However, the choice of antibiotic and the duration of treatment should be carefully considered, especially during meat and milk withdrawal periods. Tylosin or erythromycin is generally recommended.
  • Herbal Preparations: Certain natural remedies, such as neem oil, turmeric powder, lemon extract, camphor, and onion extract, may provide alternative treatment options for specific skin conditions. These natural treatments are effective in the management of skin diseases in farm animals.
  • Vaccination: For viral diseases such as Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), vaccination remains the most effective preventive measure. Although there is no cure for LSD, vaccination can significantly reduce the incidence and severity of the disease in vaccinated herds.

Best Practices for Management of Skin Diseases in Farm Animals

Managing skin diseases in farm animals effectively involves a combination of preventive measures, prompt treatment, and maintaining overall animal health. Here are some best practices to ensure the health and welfare of farm animals.

1. Prevention and Biosecurity Measures

  • Minimise contact and movement: To prevent disease spread, remember to minimise contact and movement of livestock. This is especially important for new animals coming to the farm, such as replacement animals, breeding animals, or animals returning from livestock shows.
  • Traffic control: Implement traffic control measures to minimise contamination of animals, feed, and equipment. Limit people to areas where they need to be, restrict visitor access to barns and lots, and keep a record of all visitors entering the premises.
  • Sanitation: Maintain high sanitation standards to prevent the spread of pathogens. Avoid using common syringes and needles for vaccinations, separate healthy and sick animals, and thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and facilities regularly.

2. Early Detection and Diagnosis

  • Regular Monitoring: It’s essential to stay alert for signs of disease in animals, such as coughing, weight loss, runny nose and eyes, difficulty breathing, abortions, stillbirths, and other unusual symptoms. Being familiar with and recognising these warning signs of exotic diseases is crucial for early detection and effective response.
  • Diagnostic Tests: When diagnosing skin diseases such as dermatophilosis, a cost-effective diagnostic test involves using routine cytology made from minced crusts or impression smears taken from the underside of crusts. This method allows for the observation of the causative organism.


Cows and buffaloes are essential to the global economy. Skin diseases in farm animals are mainly due to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Farm animals risk severe lumpy skin disease and many other parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungus infections. The illness is known for causing distinct lumps on the skin and tissues of infected animals.

The recent spread of the disease to new areas shows how significant it is. Keeping yourself aware of the management of skin disease in farm animals, how the disease spreads and implementing measures like vaccinations could help control it. Educational programs should target veterinarians, students, farmers, herders, cattle merchants, truck drivers, and inseminators to raise awareness about the disease.

Frequently Asked Question

  1. How do you manage skin diseases in farm animals?

    To manage skin diseases in farm animals:
    1. Antibiotics
    2. Antihistamines
    3. Laser skin resurfacing
    4. Moisturizers
    5. Oral medications
    6. Steroid pills, creams, or injections
    7. Surgical procedures

  2. What is the management of lumpy skin disease?

    The lumpy cow skin disease has no direct antiviral treatment. The infected animals receive supportive care, wound care sprays, painkillers, and antibiotics.

  3. What is disease management in livestock?

    Livestock disease management comprises two key components: Prevention measures in susceptible herds. Control measures are taken once infection occurs.

  4. What is the best medicine for skin disease in farm animals?

    Corticosteroids are the main topical medications used to relieve skin inflammation (swelling, itching, and redness).

  5. How do you treat skin disease in cattle?

    Symptomatic skin treatments include topical antibiotic powders and fly control preparations. To prevent further exposure, affected animals must be removed from pasture and confined to dark buildings.

  6. Which antibiotic is used in Lumpy Skin Disease?

    No specific antiviral drugs are available for the treatment of lumpy skin disease. The only treatment available is supportive care for cattle.

  7. What antibiotic is used for skin infection in cattle?

    The initial antimicrobial options could include cephalexin, cefadroxil, amoxicillin-clavulanate, trimethoprim-sulfa, lincosamides, and cefovecin (if owner adherence concerns).

  8. What are the methods of disease management?

    The six basic disease management principles are exclusion, eradication, protection, resistance, therapy, and avoidance of insect vectors and weed hosts.

  9. What drugs are used in skin disease?

    Several drugs can treat skin diseases and disorders; the most used retinoids are isotretinoin and acitretin.

  10. How do you control lumpy skin disease in animals?

    Control and prevention of lumpy skin disease relies on four basic processes: movement control (putting yourself in quarantine), vaccination, slaughter campaigns, and management strategies.


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