MASTITIS can be debilitating to any mammal, including goats, alpacas, sheep and cows, writes STUART BARBER
Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland, more commonly known in farm animals as the udder.
All mammals produce milk for their young from their mammary glands and all - from dolphins to dogs, goats, sheep, horses and cattle - can get mastitis.
Most people are probably also aware that mastitis can occur when women are breastfeeding.
Usually mothers recognise they have mastitis quickly as it tends to cause considerable pain.
The condition in animals is similar to that in humans, although farm animals tend to get more severe cases as it can be harder to recognise the symptoms, particularly if you have not seen mastitis in your stock before.
Both dairy and beef cows can get mastitis and it is usually caused by bacterial infection, though can also be due to viral infection and other less common causes.
Mastitis is more common in dairies where there is a range of bacteria. Milking technique can be responsible for increases in the numbers of these bacteria and maintaining machinery and good sanitation can reduce this problem.
The environment the cows are in may also influence the number of cases of mastitis, particularly if it's wet and muddy.
If you milk your own cow by hand, you can be one of the prime causes of mastitis, due to bacteria on your hands or your method. Make sure your hands are clean and you are careful with your technique.
Mastitis can be recognised by a change in colour, shape, temperature or tone of the udder.
Alternatively, it may be obvious looking at a sample of milk. It may appear blood stained, thick, lumpy, yellow or almost like water with flecks in it.
In early stages of the disease, the cow may appear uncomfortable or mildly lame.
These symptoms can make mastitis tricky to diagnose until more obvious signs in the udder or milk are clear.
If you are concerned that your cow has mastitis, contact your vet quickly as the disease can rapidly progress to being life threatening, depending on the cause.
In most situations, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.
This may come in one of two forms; either an intra-mammary syringe (into the udder) usually for three or more days, or injections over a similar time. Both treatments may be warranted, depending on the severity of the problem.
For all antibiotics, there will be a milk and meat withholding period generally for at least three days after the last administration.
If you have a house cow treated for mastitis, you should discard the milk over this period.
The cow may also require anti-inflammatory drugs and should have milk removed from the udder, either by milking or encouraging her calf to drink. Any meat withholding period for the cow also applies to the calf.
If you suspect your cow has a problem with its udder, contact your veterinarian quickly.
Leaving it too late can result in loss of milk, loss of the udder or, worst-case scenario, the loss of your animal.