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Google Maps location for Willunga Vet  Services

Willunga Vet Services
37 Main Rd
SA 5172

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8556 2075
8556 2654

Aldinga Vet Services
16 Heathersay Ave
Aldinga Beach
SA 5173

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8556 5498

We have recently seen a number of cases of tetanus in calves and sheep post marking and tailing. It has highlighted the importance of vaccinating with 5 in 1. Tetanus is a frustrating disease to treat as most affected animals die despite treatment, but it is a highly preventable disease. Protection is as simple as two "5 in 1" vaccinations a month apart. Calves and lambs require TWO 5 in 1 vaccination a month apart to be fully protected against clostridial diseases such as tetanus. Full protection is not obtained until at least 10 days after the second vaccination. Commonly we see calves and lambs receive only one 5 in 1 vaccination at marking. The greatest risk for tetanus is from 1-14 days after marking. Any protection from a single vaccination takes 10-14 days to work, and without a booster, any protection is short lived. So one vaccination at marking doesn't really provide much protection.



In terms of cost benefit - individual vaccination with 5 in 1 is about 50 cents a dose. Multiply this by two for the full course, add a bit for your time to get mobs in and then consider the potential loss from tetanus and other clostridial diseases. It's a relatively inexpensive prevention exercise that just requires some planning and organization.


Some facts about tetanus: 

The tetanus bacteria are a normal inhabitant of the soil, and it can remain viable in the soil for many years. It is most common on cultivated land and those areas contaminated with animal manure. The bacterium generally infects deep wounds, wounds with tissue damage or wounds contaminated with soil or manure. Once established the bacteria produce a toxin, which spreads via the nerves to the spinal chord, leading to uncontrolled contractions of the muscles. The end result is an exaggerated response to stimuli that causes multiple uncontrolled muscle contractions. The muscles first affected may be those in the part of the body where the toxin is produced, later the effect is general. Death is usually due to failure of the respiratory muscles or the heart.

All domestic animals are susceptible to tetanus. In cattle most cases are associated with castration, tail docking or calving. Outbreaks of tetanus have been observed following the use of rubber elastrator rings in cattle grazed on crops or muddy pastures.



History of wound, calving, marking etc

Signs usually seen 10-14 days after infection (but can be 4 days-4 weeks)

Usually start with stiff stilted walk, muscle stiffness, tremors or lockjaw

Often have some form of bloat

As progress often fall over then unable to get back up


The earlier treatment is started the more likely it is to be effective, so whether treatment is worthwhile depends on the stage of the disease and the value of the animal.

Tetanus has a mortality rate of around 50% even with treatment, so prevention is certainly better than cure.

Penicillin in large doses is the treatment of choice.

If you have animals you believe have tetanus, a vet visit is strongly recommended.


Prevention and control:

Tetanus vaccination is extremely effective at reducing the risk of tetanus. Long lasting protection can be provided by vaccination and can be carried out at any age. Two vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart are required. Although some immunity develops 10-14 days after the first vaccination, this is usually short lived and a second dose is needed if ongoing immunity is to be achieved. Vaccination against tetanus (in combination with other clostridial vaccines ie 5 in 1 vaccines) should form part of the routine vaccination strategy for all calves. Annual boosters of 5 in 1 are also recommended for ongoing protection.

All surgical procedures ie: marking or dehorning should be carried out using the best possible techniques with emphasis on cleanliness rather than disinfection, as many disinfectants do not kill the tetanus bacteria. Avoiding contamination of wounds with soil, manure, or yard dust can reduce the risk of tetanus. Animals should be turned out onto clean pasture after surgery 

Elastrator band castration poses an increased risk for the development of tetanus as the technique causes damage to the neck of the scrotal sac, an ideal site for the growth of the tetanus bacteria. Full vaccination with 5 in 1 (2 doses 4-6 weeks apart) is strongly recommended BEFORE elastrator band castration in calves. ie: the full course of the vaccine completed at least 2 weeks before marking.

As always of you have any queries or questions please give us a call.