Sudden death in cattle in southern Brazil: epidemiology and diagnosis

Pablo Estima-Silva Kayane Rosales Molarinho Clairton Marcolongo-Pereira Mauro Pereira Soares Eliza S.V. Sallis Silvia R.L. Ladeira Ana Lucia Schild About the authors


A survey of cases with history of sudden death in cattle was conducted in all necropsy protocols of the Regional Diagnostic Laboratory of the Veterinary School of the Federal University of Pelotas (LRD/UFPel) from 2000 to 2014. We considered animals that had died unexpectedly without prior illness or clinical signs 24 hours before death (Category 1), or before they were moved or suffered some type of management and died after falls or trembling (Category 2). We identified 72 cases (3.5%) from those two categories of a total of 2,031 materials of cattle received in LRD/UFPel. The cases occurred in all seasons of the year. In 34 cases (47.2%), affected cattle had more than four years of age, in 23 cases (31.9%) cattle had between two and three years, and in 11 cases (15.3%) they were up to one year of age. In four protocols (5.6%) age was not reported. In 62 cases (86.1%) the cattle were in an extensive grazing system, in seven (9.7%), they were in a semi-intensive grazing system, and in three cases (4.2%), they were maintained in an intensive farming system. Out of the 72 cases observed, 52 (72.2%) were classified in Category 1 and 20 (27.8%) in Category 2. The diseases that caused more often sudden death, were cerebral babesiosis (10/72), organophosphates poisoning (10/72), anthrax (7/72), bacillary hemoglobinuria (5/72), and fulguration (3/72). Out of the 18 cases considered inconclusive, just five full necropsiey were performed, and of the other 15, the material submitted was considered negative for Bacillus anthracis, and the material did not allow investigation for other diseases. The results showed that sudden deaths in southern Rio Grande do Sul are caused by diseases, mostly well-known and endemic to the region, which can be controlled or prevented by vaccination and appropriate management. Organs sent to the lab instead of the full body, limit the possibilities of conclusive diagnosis in cases of sudden death. The large number of negative cases regarding Bacillus anthracis infection was due to anthrax being a frequent suspicion when cattle appear dead without clinical signs, and the result of sending inappropriate material for the right diagnosis.

Index Terms:
Sudden death; epidemiology; cattle

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