Shipping fever in Cattle


Shipping fever, also known as bovine respiratory disease (BRD), is a common respiratory condition affecting cattle. It is a complex disease with multiple contributing factors and can result in significant economic losses for the livestock industry. Let’s discuss its etiology, pathogenesis, transmission, and distribution:


Shipping fever/BRD is primarily caused by a combination of bacterial and viral pathogens. The most common causative agents include:

  • Bacterial pathogens:
  1. Pasteurella multocida
  2. Mannheimia haemolytica
  3. Mycoplasma bovis
  4. Histophilus somni.
  • Viral pathogens:

Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus (IBR), and parainfluenza-3 virus (PI-3V).


  • The pathogenesis of shipping fever involves a complex interplay between multiple factors, including stress, host susceptibility, and pathogen exposure. The disease typically occurs following a period of stress, such as transportation, weaning, commingling, or changes in environmental conditions. These stressors can weaken the animal’s immune system and predispose them to infection.


  • During transportation, cattle are often exposed to crowded conditions, dust, and poor ventilation, which further exacerbate stress and increase the risk of pathogen transmission. The inhaled pathogens invade the respiratory tract, leading to inflammation and damage to the respiratory epithelium. This damage impairs the respiratory defenses, allowing secondary bacterial infections to establish, leading to more severe clinical signs.








  • Shipping fever/BRD is primarily transmitted through direct and indirect contact with infected animals.
  • The respiratory secretions from infected animals containing the causative pathogens can spread to susceptible individuals through aerosols or direct contact. Additionally, contaminated environments, such as trailers, feedlots, and corrals, can serve as reservoirs for the pathogens, facilitating transmission between animals.




  • Shipping fever/BRD is a worldwide problem and affects cattle populations in various regions.
  • It is more commonly observed in intensively managed beef and dairy operations, where animals are frequently exposed to stressors and have increased opportunities for pathogen transmission.
  • The disease prevalence can vary seasonally and may be influenced by factors such as geographical location, management practices, and herd immunity.


Clinical Signs:


  • Fever (above normal body temperature)
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge (thick and purulent)
  • Rapid and labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced milk production in lactating cows



Lesions and Necropsy Findings:


  • Consolidated and inflamed lung tissue
  • Areas of necrosis (dead tissue) in the lungs
  • Fibrinous pleurisy (inflammation of the lining around the lungs)
  • Enlarged and congested lymph nodes
  • Fluid accumulation in the chest cavity




Diagnosing shipping fever involves a combination of clinical signs, history of transportation, and diagnostic tests. The following methods are commonly used:

  • Clinical examination of affected animals
  • History of transportation or recent stressors
  • Blood tests (complete blood count, serum biochemistry) to assess white blood cell count and inflammatory markers
  • Lung auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) to detect abnormal lung sounds
  • Thoracic radiography (X-rays) to visualize lung consolidation and pleural effusion
  • Tracheal wash or broncho-alveolar lavage for microbiological culture and sensitivity testing to identify the specific pathogens involved




Prevention is key in controlling shipping fever. There are following measures for reducing the risks:

  • Minimize stress during transportation, such as avoiding overcrowding and providing adequate ventilation.
  • Quarantine new animals before introducing them to the herd to prevent the spread of infectious agents.
  • Implement a vaccination program targeting common respiratory pathogens, such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV).
  • Maintain proper nutrition and overall herd health.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect transport vehicles and facilities.




Treatment of shipping fever typically involves a multifaceted approach and may include the following:

  1. Antibiotics: Broad-spectrum antibiotics are commonly used to control bacterial infections. Specific choices depend on the susceptibility of the involved bacteria.
  • Penicillin G (dura-pen)
  • Sulfadimethoxine (albon cattle bolus)
  • Enrofloxacin
  • Marbofloxacin
  • Micotil
  • Nuflor
  • Baytril 100
  • Naxcel
  • Excenel
  • Adspec
  1. Anti-inflammatory drugs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce fever, pain, and inflammation associated with the condition.
  • Flunixin
  • Meglumine
  • Phenylbutazone
  1. Supportive care: Adequate nutrition, hydration, and a stress-free environment are essential for the recovery of affected animals.
  2. Close monitoring: Regular assessment of clinical signs, temperature, and response to treatment is necessary to ensure appropriate adjustments in therapy.
  3. It’s important to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan for shipping fever, as management may vary depending on the specific situation and the causative agents involved.
  4. For more details about shipping fever in cattle click here

19 thoughts on “Shipping fever in Cattle”

  1. Very informative knowledge for dairy farmers and his treatment is best and I personally used this treatment protocol and the end I appreciate you sir this is amazing knowledge for vet students.keep it up sir

  2. That post is a knowledge jackpot! It’s like a virtual encyclopedia at my fingertips. Thanks for sharing! 🎉💡


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