Common Diseases of Farm Animals

July 17th, 2007

DISEASES OF THE MOUTH -The mouth is the first division of the digestive tract. It is formed by the lips, cheeks, palate, soft palate, tongue and teeth. Here the feed is acted on mechanically. It is broken up by the teeth and moved about until mixed with the saliva and put into condition to pass through the pharynx and along the oesophagus to the stomach. The mechanical change that the feed is subject to is very imperfect in dogs. In the horse it is a slow, thorough process, although greedy feeders are not uncommon.
The first mastication in the ox is three times quicker than in horses, but the process of rumination is slow and thorough.

STOMATITIS.-Simple inflammation of the mouth is frequently met with in horses. Ulcerative or infectious inflammation commonly occurs in young, and occasionally in old, debilitated animals. This form of sore mouth will be discussed along with other infectious diseases, and the following discussion will be confined to the non-infectious form of the disease.

The causes are irritation from the bit, sharp teeth, irritating drenches, roughage that contains beards or awns of grasses and grains, and burrs that wound the lining membrane of the mouth. Febrile, or digestive disorders, or any condition that may interfere with feeding, may cause this disorder. In the latter cases the mucous membrane of the mouth is not cleansed by the saliva. Particles of feed may decompose and irritating organisms set up an inflammation. Putrid or decomposed slops, hot feeds, irritating drenches and drinking from filthy wallows are common causes of inflammation of the mouth in hogs.

The symptoms vary in the different cases and species. Slight or localized inflammation of the mouth is usually overlooked by the attendant. Lampas of horses may be considered a local inflammation involving the palate.  Lacerations of the cheek or tongue by the teeth, or irritating feed, usually result in a slight interference with prehension and mastication and more or less salivation. Salivation from this cause should not be confused
with salivation resulting from feeding on white clover.

In generalized inflammation of the mucous membrane, the first symptom usually noticed is the inability to eat. On examining the mouth we find the mucous membrane inflamed, hot and dry. A part may appear coated. In a short time the odor from the mouth is fetid. Following this dry stage of the inflammation is the period of salivation. Saliva dribbles from the mouth, and in severe cases it is mixed with white, stringy shreds of epithelium
and tinged with blood. In less acute forms of the disease, we may notice little blisters or vesicles scattered over the lining membrane of the lips, cheeks and tongue.

The acute form of stomatitis runs a short course, usually a few days, and responds readily to treatment. Localized inflammation caused by irritation from teeth, or feeding irritating feeds, does not respond so readily to treatment.

The treatment is largely preventive and consists largely in removing the cause. When the mouth is inflamed, roughage should be fed rather sparingly, and soft feeds such as slops, mashes, or gruels given in place of the regular diet. Plenty of clean drinking water should be provided. In the way of medicinal treatment antiseptic and astringent washes are indicated. A four per cent water solution of boric acid may be used, or a one-half per
cent water solution of a high grade coal-tar disinfectant. The mouth should be thoroughly irrigated twice daily until the mucous surfaces appear normal.


A depraved appetite is met with in all species of farm animals, but it is especially common in ruminants. It should not be classed as a disease, but more correctly as a bad habit, or symptom of innutrition or indigestion.  The animals affected seem to have an irresistible desire to lick, chew and swallow indigestible and disgusting objects.

The common cause of depraved appetite is the feeding of a ration deficient in certain food elements. A ration deficient in protein or in salts is said to cause this disorder. Lack of exercise, or confinement, innutrition, and a depraved sense of taste may favor the development of this disease. For example, when sheep are housed closely they may contract the habit of chewing one another’s fleeces. Lambs are especially apt to contract this habit when suckling ewes that have on their udders long wool soiled with urine and faeces.

The first symptom is the desire to chew, lick or eat indigestible or filthy substances. Horses and cattle may stand and lick a board for an hour or more; cattle may chew the long hair from the tails of horses; sheep may nibble wool; sows may within a short time after giving birth to their pigs, kill and eat them; chickens may pick and eat feathers. Innutrition may accompany the abnormal appetite, as very frequently the affected animal
shows a disposition to leave its feed in order to eat these injurious and innutritions substances. In ruminants, the wool or hair may form balls and obstruct the opening into the third compartment, causing chronic indigestion and death.

The treatment consists in the removal of the cause. Feeding a ration that meets the needs of the system, clean quarters and plenty of exercise are the most important preventive lines of treatment. In such cases medicinal treatment (saline and bitter tonics) may be indicated. It is usually advisable to remove the affected animals from the herd or flock in order to prevent others from imitating them.

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