Animals that are healthy will perform well and produce maximally for the benefit of man. Animal health and diseases generally reduce the performance or productivity of animals especially food animals (livestock) and ruminants in particular.
It is therefore important that good animal management practices be observed on a farm or where animals are kept not just to keep diseases away but for maximum performance.
There are basic terminologies that are used when describing animal health and diseases and these are to be understood. This article will define or explain the certain basic terms used in animal health.
It will also describe how you can recognize sick animals and the action to take in order to determine the cause or aetiology of the disease affecting a sick animal.
Definition of Common Terms Used in Animal Health
An animal is said to be in good health when it is in a complete state of physical, social and mental well-being and not just that the animal is free from disease.
This means that the animal in question must be adequately cared for with respect to provision of feed, water, space, clean environment etc. An animal that lacks these basic provisions can easily come down with a disease.
Disease is a deviation from the normal and is revealed by changes in the animal. Any animal that has a disease will show some abnormality.
This change in the animal can be observed from the behavior, structure or function of the animal in question. A sick animal will look dull and weak (lethargy), stay on its own and will refuse to feed (anorexia).
A dairy animal that produces milk will have a drop in the quantity of milk produced. You can also notice a change in shape in areas of the body structure of a sick animal depending on the part or organ of the body that is affected.
These changes can be major or minor depending on the severity of the disease condition and it can also be qualitative or quantitative.
The observable changes seen or noticed when an animal is sick is known as symptoms or clinical signs.
There are symptoms or clinical signs that are common to most diseases while some are specific to particular diseases.
Some of the common symptoms seen in most animal diseases include: refusal to eat, fever or pyrexia (increase in body temperature), dullness etc.
The changes observed when an animal is sick is a basis for diagnosis or determining what is causing the sickness in the animal, and diagnosis can be defined as the art and science of determining the nature and causes of diseases and differentiating between diseases.
To arrive at a diagnosis, you have to get some information or facts about the animal. The information you gather or collect should be as comprehensive as possible and these can be regarded as components of diagnosis. These include:
History taking:- This is gathering some information about the animal such as identity of the animal (specie, name or tag no., age, sex, breed, colour of the animal etc), when the animal was first noticed to have changed in behavior or performance, how long this condition has been on etc.
Physical examination:- This done by observing the animal itself for any sign of abnormality, taking the temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate. If this done on a farm, it can include looking at the housing and environment where the animal is kept, the type of feed given to the animal or animals etc.
Laboratory examination:- This is carried out on samples or materials collected from the animal or the environment where the animal is kept. The sample collected is subjected to several laboratory procedures to detect the presence or absence some disease-causing agents or substances.
Examples of samples collected from a sick animal include blood, faeces, skin scrapings, urine or even organs of a dead animal (especially, where there are many animals on a farm) etc.
Also, some part feed of the given to the animal can be collected for laboratory examination. Laboratory examination of samples collected from sick animals is important in arriving at a definitive diagnosis.
Recognition of Sick Animals
Diseases result in a disturbance in the normal behavior, activity or performance of the animal or animals.
In most cases you can observe this change in behavior, activity or performance. General signs or symptoms of sick animals are:-
- Anorexia (inappetance) – the animal goes off feed or refuses to eat
- Fever (pyrexia) – this an increases in body temperature of the animal above normal
- Weakness (lethargy)
These symptoms or clinical signs may not all be present in all diseases all the times. For example an animal suffering from helminthosis (worm infestation) may not show fever unless this condition has another concurrent infection.
In summary, at this point you have understood that it is important to keep animals healthy and can explain or define some common terminologies used in animal health.
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You have also learnt basic things that are done to determine the cause of a disease or a diagnosis is arrived at. In addition, you have also learnt some general observable signs of a sick and what samples can be collected from sick animal for further examination to support a correct diagnosis.
At this stage you can define or explain terminologies like disease, diagnosis as well as describe steps used to arrive at diagnosis of a sick animal. You should also be able to mention some general signs of a sick animal.
In fact if you are present on farm when veterinary doctor come to look at a sick animal, you know some initial or basic things he will do to determine the cause of sick animal.
This article has shown that keeping animals healthy is important for optimum production and defined some basic terminologies used in relation to animal health and diseases.
The article has also revealed the steps involved in arriving at the diagnosis of a sick animal as well as given some general symptoms or clinical sign of diseases in animals.
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