Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Causes of bovine blindness

Synonym(s): Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, Squamous cell carcinoma, Ocular foreign body, Malignant catarrhal fever, IBR, Thromboembolic meningoencephalitis, rabies, listeriosis, water deprivation, polioencephalomalacia, ketosis, hypomagnesemia, sweet clover, brassica poisoning, hyphema, lead, vitamin A, pituitary abscess, hepatic encephalopathy, toxoplasmosis, echinococcus, thelazia, theileriasis, congenital cataracts, hydrocephalus.

Contributor(s): Ash Phipps , Paul Wood

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  • Blindness in cattle is defined as loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Blindness can be central or peripheral.
    • Central blindness is associated with lesions within the forebrain. Animals typically present  with a depressed menace response in one or both eyes, while the papillary light reflex (PLR) remains intact.
    • In cases of peripheral blindness, the menace reflex and PLR are absent.

Causes of blindness

  • Common causes of blindness in cattle are summarized in this table: Summary of conditions causing bovine blindness.
  • This article gives brief summaries of the conditions listed and is designed to be a useful overview. 
  • More detailed information about specific diseases and causal organisms etc can be found by clicking on the relevant licks throughout the article.

Acquired unilateral or bilateral blindness: local conditions

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Acquired unilateral or bilateral blindness: systemic conditions

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Congenital/neonatal blindness

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Niles G A (2017) Toxicoses of the ruminant nervous system. Vet clin food anim 33 (2017) 111–138 PubMed.
  • Berge A C & Vertenten G (2014) A field study to determine the prevalence, dairy herd management systems, and fresh cow clinical conditions associated with ketosis in western European dairy herds. Journal of dairy science 97 (4), 2145-2154 PubMed.
  • Tsujita H & Plummer C E (2010) Bovine ocular squamous cell carcinoma. Veterinary clinics of north america: food animal practice 26 (3), 511-529 PubMed.
  • McConnel C S, Shum L & House J K (2007) Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis antimicrobial therapy. Aus vet assoc 85 (1 &2), 65-69.
  • McConnel C S & House J K (2005) Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis vaccine development. Aus vet assoc 83 (8), 506-510 PubMed.
  • Pavesio C E & Lightman S (1996) Toxoplasma gondii and ocular toxoplasmosis: pathogenesis. The british journal of ophthalmology 80 (12), 1099.
  • Bertric S J, Grummer R R, Cadorniga-valino C & Stoddard E E (1992) Effect of prepartum dry  matter intake on liver triglyceride concentration and early lactation. Journal of dairy science 75, 1914-1922 PubMed.
  • Van der Lugt J J (1989) The pathology of blindness in new-born calves caused by hypovitaminosis A PubMed.
  • Foster L A (1988) Clinical ketosis. Vet clin north am food anim pract 4, 253-265.
  • Kennedy M J & Moraiko D (1987) The eyeworm, Thelazia skrjabini, in cattle in Canada. The canadian veterinary journal 28 (5), 254 PubMed.
  • Leipold H W, Mills J H L & Huston K (1974) Retinal Dysplasia and Internal Hydrocephalus in a Shorthorn Calf. Can vet jour 15 (2) PubMed.
  • Barnett K C, Palmer A C, Abrams J T, Bridge S, Spratling F R & Sharman I M (1970) Ocular Changes Associated with Hypovitaminosis a in Cattle. British veterinary journal 126 (11), 561-573 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Whitlock B K (2010) Heritable birth defects of cattle. In: Applied reproductive strategies conference proceedings. Nashville, T N. pp.146-153.
  • Parkinson T J, Vermunt J J & Malmo J (2010) Diseases of cattle in Australasia: a comprehensive textbook. In: New Zealand veterinary association foundation for continuing education. Wellington, N Z.
  • Radostits O M, Gay C C, Blood D C & Hinchliff K W (2006) Veterinary medicine. In: A textbook of the diseases of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses. 7th edn. Saunders, China.
  • Smith B P (2009) Large animal internal medicine. 4th edn. Mosby-Elsevier Publishing. St. Louis, MO.