Pink Eye in Cattle

Pink Eye in Cattle
By Tom David, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

Pink eye in cattle can be a terrible disease. It is highly infectious; a few cases can rip through a mob faster than Brett Lee rips through a Black Caps lower order.
Pink eye is the name for an infection of the eye and conjunctiva by certain bacteria. Possible factors in the transmission of pink eye include high stocking rates, long grass, flies and dust.

Summer and autumn tend to be the worst times of the year for pink-eye, but it can occur at any time.

Pink eye can leave cows blind. The worst-case scenario is the development of an ulcer on the eye. These ulcers can become quite deep, and it is not uncommon for badly affected eyes to burst. Even in cases where the eye doesn’t burst, damage to the eye can be permanent and leave healed animals permanently blind.

What to do

Pink eye is highly contagious, so you need to consider this when yarding mobs where some animals might have pink eye.

In general terms we recommend:

Treating animals with active pinkeye with Orbenin eye ointment. This should be repeated every two days until the disease is resolved. Use half the tube to treat the NON-affected eye first (hygiene and prevention), then use the second half of the tube to treat the affected eye.

Treat non-affected animals in the mob with a special antibiotic spray (we mix this up for you). This is generally put in a Spray bottle, and squirted generously into eyes of all the animals in the mob. This is a quick and easy way to mitigate the risks associated with yarding animals with an infectious condition.
Separating affected animals from healthy animals. Keep checking the healthy animals as more of these will become affected and require treatment.

Any ruptured eyes will need to be removed by a vet.


Vaccination can be an effective tool for outbreak prevention. Unfortunately, the vaccine is only effective against certain strains of the pink eye causing bacteria. We thus recommend getting bacteria cultures from eyes before purchasing the vaccine.

Date Added: Wednesday, 10th February 2021