If you have a farm, or just dogs and cats, you may be interested to know a little more about bovine tuberculosis. Similar to tuberculosis that’s plagued thousands of humans, the bacteria can spread from wild animals to wild animals, animals to people, or from people to animals.
The cause of bovine tuberculosis is a bacteria called Mycobacterium bovis. Usually found in cattle, the disease can also strike deer, goats and other warm-blooded animals. Since the late 90’s, the ailment has been identified in elk, bison, cats, dogs, and other wild or kept animals.
The most common way for bovine tuberculosis to travel is through breathing. Droplets containing the bacteria can be exhaled by infected animals and inhaled by animals and humans. Livestock and other animals can infect each other, also, by drinking from the same water or eating from the same food source.
Humans and animals alike can contract TB by drinking unpasteurized cow’s milk if the cow is infected. The disease can also be contracted by eating undercooked meat from infected animals. Of all animals, dogs are the most likely to get TB – usually by eating carcasses of infected animals. Rarely do horses and cats contract TB but they can, especially when kept on a farm, or in a barn, with infected animals.
Symptoms of bovine tuberculosis include weight loss and a general decline of good health. Shortness of breath or coughing can also signal the disease. Some animals will show no symptoms at all.
The best way to control the bacteria, and reduce the possibility of infection in humans and animals alike, is to follow a few rules: never drink unpasteurized milk and never give it to animals, either. Keep animals like dogs and cats away from dead carcasses. Keep animals on your own property and don’t allow them to run free. Also, burn all dead carcasses – burying them means that wild animals can just dig them up again.
If you have cattle, goats and other farm animals you should have the entire lot tested for TB, by a veterinarian. The animals should be tested at least every two years. For more information about the disease, contact the US Department of Agriculture.