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Posted: 06/08/2022
Close view of an Angus beef cow's eye

How to Help Prevent, Treat and Control Pinkeye in Livestock

Are you thinking pink? Pinkeye, that is – and how it can affect your cattle herd? A single cow with pinkeye can lead to, dare we say, an “udder” mess in your operation. While treatment is possible once it’s caught, prevention is a far more cost-effective and reliable strategy. See how with early vaccination, fly control, pasture maintenance and other solutions, you can prevent, treat and control pinkeye in livestock.

What is Pinkeye?

Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis – better known as pinkeye – comes from the bacteria Moraxella bovis (or M. bovis). It’s an eye disease that causes irritation, tearing, staining, and squinting, and in some cases corneal ulceration and vision loss. Pinkeye can be hard to spot, and containing an outbreak is tricky once it starts to spread throughout a herd.

The spread of pinkeye occurs when cows come in contact with eye or nose secretions of an infected animal. This can happen in close quarters – when they share a feeder or face covering – or while roaming the pasture. A cow’s excessive tears also attract flies that spread the bacteria to other animals. Flies carry M. bovis for as many as three days, and one fly can spread it to several other animals in a single day.

Calf with pinkeye infection

Cattle Pinkeye Stages

Be aware of cattle pinkeye stages so you can treat quickly if spotted. The initial stage includes watery eyes and possible light sensitivity which may prompt cows to spend more time in the shade. This limits grazing time and could also lead to weight loss. Watch for excessive blinking and possibly a small white spot (ulcer) in the middle of the cornea.

Stage two of the eye disease brings increased cloudiness in the eye. The cornea will start looking pink or red and may begin to affect the cow’s vision. If an ulcer expands large enough to cover most of the cow’s cornea, you’ve crossed into stage three. By now, pus is present in the eye with a more yellow than pink shade, and it could mean irreparable damage.

Ulcers can heal and become clear again, but when they reach the point of extending through the cornea and the iris sticks out from the ulcer, a vet will often recommend removing the eye. There’s no way to heal in this stage, and the risk factors are too great for the rest of the herd.

Pinkeye Cattle Treatment

Quick treatment makes a big difference in controlling outbreaks and for an infected animal’s outcome. To keep contamination from spreading, isolate the infected animal, and/or consider treating the infection with one or more of these proven products below.


Whether you’re dealing with pinkeye or other ocular infections, Terramycin Ophthalmic Ointment by Zoetis is a great value and a staple to keep on hand year-round. This broad-spectrum topical can be used to prevent and treat infection in cattle as well as horses, sheep, dogs and cats.

Eye Spray

Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Pink Eye Spray, calls for only one to two daily sprays until the condition is no longer visible. It’s an antibiotic-free alternative for all animals and proven effective with NO withdrawal period.

Livestock Patches

Ultraviolet rays can further damage the infected eye(s) so eyepatches both contain the bacteria from spreading and provide a shield from sunlight. You can apply these easy-to-use, biodegradable patches by Curicyn that can be trimmed to fit any animal. Or, try these best-selling Shut-Eye Pinkeye Patches for cattle (with cement adhesive included). They hold medication in place and protect the eye from irritation by insects, grass, weeds, wind and sunlight.

PBS Animal Health also carries the Curicyn Pink Eye Kit with ointment, patches and adhesive all in one for fast healing in just one to three days.

Pinkeye Prevention is Possible

Treatment works, but patching and spraying one cow – let alone several – can take time away from your routine. Plus, some cows can be asymptomatic, so even if you know what to look for you won’t find it. That’s why vaccines are important in preventing the disease altogether. We know you want to work the cattle as little as possible and maximize their time in the chute, so choose a vaccine that lines up time-wise in your existing vaccination protocols and strategically overlaps with your fly population's most prevalent time of year.

Check out these pinkeye bacterin options to save time and money up front:

    • Manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim
    • Single dose
    • Power of Alpha-7 with added pinkeye protection

    • Manufactured by Merck
    • Short, 21-day slaughter withdrawal
    • Aids in preventing disease caused by 7 types of clostridial organisms and Moraxella bovis

    • Manufactured by Elanco
    • One dose annually provides protection all season long
    • Protects healthy cattle and calves against pinkeye caused by four strains of Moraxella bovis

    • Manufactured by AgriLabs
    • One dose annually
    • Safe for pregnant and lactating cattle (no milk withdrawal; 21-day slaughter withdrawal)

    • Manufactured by Zoetis
    • Pre-measured implant includes both an immediate release (IR) pellet and a programmed release (PR) pellet delivering initial and booster doses in a single step
    • Season-long protection for cattle 3 months and older (21 day slaughter withdrawal)

    Aside from annual vaccination for your herd, it’s important to keep pastures trimmed and minimize irritants of tall grasses and weeds. Eliminate or reduce anything that’s brushing up against the cattle’s eyes to avoid unnecessary stressors.

    Controlling face flies also goes a long way in preventing an outbreak. Remember, flies spread the Moraxella bovis bacteria from animal to animal. Fly tags, sprays, dusts and other fly control products will kill and repel flies on the animals, in hay and feed storage areas, in stall barns, in calf hutches, and elsewhere. Don’t forget to manage breeding grounds like standing water and excessive manure piles where flies gather. Together, these products and maintenance procedures make a huge difference in total fly control.

    Protect Your Herd with PBS Animal Health Products

    Don’t wait for pinkeye to become a problem before you act. Prevention is possible – and saves both time and money compared to treating an outbreak in the herd. PBS Animal Health stocks all the proper fly control products, Moraxella bovoculi bacterin vaccines and other items you need for successful pinkeye prevention.

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