Introducing livestock to a decontamination process can be stressful. The goal in any stress-related situation is to limit the amount of stress over a period of time. Animals can endure high stress levels for short periods of time, and low stress levels for longer periods of time. If animals are under high stress conditions, the process needs to be quick and efficient. Animals with lower stress levels can tolerate the stress for longer periods of time. It is important to note, animals with limited human interaction react differently than livestock that have been handled properly.
Implementing the proper level of stress for each individual animal, paying attention to behavioral changes, and following proper handling protocols are important in keeping animals and handlers safe during the process. Stress has a negative impact on all livestock and keeping stress levels down will contribute the livestock’s future well-being.
Stress occurs when animals have to make extreme and/or prolonged physiological and behavioral adjustments in order to cope with their environment.
Animals can experience three types of stress:
· Physical – due to fatigue or injury
· Physiological – due to hunger, thirst, or temperature control
· Behavioral – due to the environment, unfamiliar people or surroundings
The effects of stress on an animal are similar to those on humans. In both humans and animals, stress causes the body to release adrenaline and cortisol hormones. These chemicals cause heart rate and respiration to speed up and suppress the immune system.
While these responses are adaptive, overexposure to stress can cause physiological problems, such as weight loss, changes to the immune system and decreased reproductive capacity.
The factors which can cause stress are called stressors. Things like noise, unfamiliar pen mates, or even dogs can cause stress on livestock. Although many animals might be able to tolerate a single stressor for a short period of time, multiple stressors over a long period of time may lead to distress and suffering. The ability of animals to cope with stress will also depend on the genetic background of the species and the animal’s past experiences.
Stressed animals display low to no feed intake, poor immune function, poor response to vaccines, and decreased reproductive performance. Some degree of stress is inevitable, so the aim is to keep stress to a minimum. The response to stress is driven by hormone produced in the adrenal glands called cortisol. Cortisol is often called the stress hormone and when it’s released, it does a lot more than just increase heart rate and temperatures.
Here are some ways higher than normal cortisol levels can affect the body:
· Metabolism – blocks insulin to increase blood sugar levels as well as increasing glucose production in the liver, increases metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates
· Immune system – suppresses immune response
· Reproductive function – impairs the synthesis and release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (can delay establishment of puberty and ovulation)
· Memory – works in the brain to create short-term memories of stressful events
Animal Decon has developed a low-stress decontamination system for livestock. The main purpose of decontamination at a hazardous materials emergency is to limit the spread of contaminants from the release area, or "hot zone," to include the cleaning of responders and their equipment.
Decontamination is an important factor in preventing infection in primary and secondary care settings. Failing to decontaminate equipment or the environment may not always be obvious, but it can result in cross-infection and put owners, responders and the community at risk.
The removal or neutralization of a contaminating substance, such as poisonous gas or a radioactive material is necessary for overall health.
Agricultural animals must be managed in a complex array of priorities that include public health and safety, food supply safety, animal welfare, agricultural economics, and the environment.
Animal decontamination is complex and requires a commitment to training, time, resources and the engagement of those with expertise, experience and management of animals and hazard incidents.
Flood-affected livestock may develop dermatitis (skin infection) and cellulitis (limb swelling) due to breeches in the skin’s barrier capabilities from standing in contaminated water for long periods of time. This can lead to more serious complications such as septic arthritis and lameness if not treated appropriately.
Flood-affected livestock may develop dermatitis (skin infection) and cellulitis (limb swelling) due to breeches in the skin’s barrier capabilities from standing in contaminated water for long periods of time. This can lead to more serious complications such as septic arthritis and lameness if not treated appropriately
Severe fires throughout California over the past few years have exposed humans and animals to unhealthy air containing wildfire smoke and particulates. Those particles continue to live in the haircoats of livestock and if not properly removed create long term health issues for animals housed together that groom one another.
Particulates can build up in the respiratory system, causing several health problems including burning eyes, runny noses and illnesses such as bronchitis. They can also aggravate heart and lung diseases such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma.
Smoke is made up of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, soot, hydrocarbons and other organic substances including nitrogen oxides and trace minerals. The composition of smoke depends on what is burned; different types of wood, vegetation, plastics, house materials, and other combustibles all produce different compounds when burned. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that is produced in the greatest quantity during the smoldering stages of the fire, can be fatal in high doses.
The removal of unseen fire embers that are easily masked under hair coats, if not decontaminated, may cause the ember to fester and burn and potentially kill an animal.
In general, particulate matter is the major pollutant of concern in wildfire smoke. Particulate is a general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Particulates from smoke tend to be very small (less than one micron in diameter), which allows them to reach the deepest airways within the lung. Consequently, particulates in smoke are more of a health concern than the coarser particles that typically make up road dust. The longer the smoke lives on the skin and in the hair on an animal the higher the risk of long-term issues..
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