Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Clostridium botulinum

Synonym(s): botulism

Contributor(s): Veronica Fowler , Tammy Hassel




  • Kingdom: bacteria.
  • Phylum: firmicutes.
  • Class: clostridia.
  • Order: clostridiales.
  • Family: clostridiaceae.
  • Genus: Clostridium.
  • Species: C. botulinum.


  • Gk: Clostridium: klōstēr - a spindle. L:botulus - sausage.

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Clinical Effects



  • C. botulinum can be found in decaying carcasses or vegetable materials.
  • Types A and B found in all soils.
  • Types C, D, E and F found in muddy soils or aquatic sediments.
  • Types C and D also inhabit intestinal tract of various animals.


  • Predominantly by ingestion.
  • Infection can also occur via infection of tissues within a live animal, leading to in vivo production of toxin.

Pathological effects

  • Associated clinical signs:
    • Muscle paralysis including obvious reduction in tongue strength.
      • Unable to eat or drink.
    • Excessive salivation Salivation: an overview of the causes of abnormal salivation.
    • Progressive motor paralysis.
    • Altered vision.
    • Difficulty in swallowing.
    • High heart rate.
    • Low rectal temperatures.
    • Low blood pH.
    • Flaccid paralysis of the tail, constipation.
    • Progressive paresis leading to death.
  • Other pathological effects:
    • Resistance depends on circulating antitoxin.
    • Botulism Botulism is usually caused by ingestion of the preformed neurotoxin and is an intoxication rather than an infection.
    • May be caused by wounds being contaminated by spores which germinate; the neurotoxin is formed at the site of infection.
    • The toxin is carried by the blood to the peripheral nerve cells where it prevents release of acetylcholine → flaccid/respiratory paralysis → death.
    • Bovine cases are usually due to ingestion of toxin in hay, spoiled silage or contaminating animal carrion.

Differential diagnoses

Other Host Effects

  • Spores may be found in the intestines of healthy animals.
  • Endospores are distributed in soil and aquatic environments.


Control via animal

  • If recent ingestion suspected, evacuate stomach.
  • Dietary deficiencies should be corrected (to avoid animals chewing bones for example).
  • Euthanasia of cattle displaying clinical signs.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Antitoxins have been used successfully in other species, but are rarely used in cattle.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy is the recommended treatment Fluid therapy for cattle.

Control via environment

  • Dead animals should be disposed of immediately. Poultry carcases should be promptly removed and disposed of by incineration, or rendering as required by EU Regulations No. 1069/2009 and 142/2011.
  • Poultry litter should not be sprayed onto fields where cattle will graze, or from which hay/silage will be made from.
  • Decayed feed should be disposed of.


  • Vaccination of cattle with types C and D toxin is possible.
  • Mildly affected animals can recover.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Kennedy S & Ball H (2011) Botulism in cattle associated with poultry litter. Vet Rec 168 (24), 638-9 PubMed.
  • Payne J H, Hogg R A, Otter A, Roest H I & Livesey C T (2011) Emergence of suspected type
    D botulism in ruminants in England and Wales (2001 to 2009), associated with exposure to broiler litter.
    Vet Rec 168 (24), 640 PubMed.
  • Holzhauer M, Roest H I, de Jong M G & Vos J H (2009) Botulism in dairy cattle in 2008:
    symptoms, diagnosis, pathogenesis, therapy, and prevention.
    134 (13), 564-70 PubMed.
  • Braun U (2006) Botulism in cattle. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 148 (7), 331-9.
  • Lindström M & Korkeala H (2006) Laboratory Diagnostics of Botulism. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 19 (2), 298-314 PubMed.
  • Braun U, Feige K, Schweizer G & Pospischil A (2005) Clinical findings and treatment
    of 30 cattle with botulism.
    Vet Rec 156 (14), 438-41 PubMed.
  • Livesey C T, Sharpe R T & Hogg R A (2004) Recent association of cattle botulism with
    poultry litter.
    Vet Rec 154 (23), 734-5 PubMed.
  • van Wuijckhuise L, Beekhuis A, Breukers W A & van Dijk P (2002) Botulism poisoning in
    cattle, a case report, diagnosis and prevention.
    Tijdschr Diergeneeskd (13), 422-4 PubMed.
  • Heider L C, McClure J T & Leger E R (2001) Presumptive diagnosis of Clostridium
    botulinum type D intoxication in a herd of feedlot cattle.
    Can Vet J 42 (3), 210-2 PubMed.
  • Galey F D, Terra R, Walker R, Adaska J, Etchebarne M A, Puschner B, Fisher E,
    Whitlock R H, Rocke T, Willoughby D & Tor E (2000) Type C botulism in dairy cattle from
    feed contaminated with a dead cat.
    J Vet Diagn Invest 12 (3), 204-9 PubMed.
  • Kelch W J, Kerr L A, Pringle J K, Rohrbach B W & Whitlock R H (2000) Fatal Clostridium
    botulinum toxicosis in eleven Holstein cattle fed round bale barley haylage.
    J Vet Diagn Invest 12 (5), 453-5 PubMed.
  • Hofmann W (1999) Clinical aspects of botulism in cattle. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr 106 (2), 74 PubMed.
  • Ortolani E L, Brito L A, Mori C S, Schalch U, Pacheco J & Baldacci L (1997) Botulism
    outbreak associated with poultry litter consumption in three Brazilian cattle
    Vet hum toxicol 39 (2), 89-92 PubMed.
  • Wobeser G, Baptiste K, Clark E G & Deyo A W (1997) Type C botulism in cattle in
    association with a botulism die-off in waterfowl in Saskatchewan.
    Can Vet J 38 (12), 782 PubMed.
  • Neill S D, McLoughlin M F & McIlroy S G (1989) Type C botulism in cattle being fed
    ensiled poultry litter.
    Vet Rec 124 (21), 558-60 PubMed.
  • McLoughlin M F, Mcllroy S G & Neill S D (1988) A major outbreak of botulism in cattle
    being fed ensiled poultry litter.
    Vet Rec 122 (24), 579-81 PubMed.
  • Smart J L, Jones T O, Clegg F G & McMurtry M J (1987) Poultry waste associated type C
    botulism in cattle.
    Epidemiol Infect 98 (1), 73-9 PubMed.
  • Notermans S, Dufrenne J & Oosterom J (1981) Persistence of Clostridium botulinum
    type B on a cattle farm after an outbreak of botulism.
    Appl Environ Microbiol 41 (1), 179-83 PubMed.