(Dan) Folks welcome to Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University. I’m glad you joined us. Dr. Matt Miesner is going to be joining us today to talk about copper toxicity in sheep, cattle and other species. It’s bound to be a great show. Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned after this break.
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(Dan) Matt welcome to the show. (Matt) Glad to be here. Folks, Dr. Matt Miesner. He is boarded in Internal Medicine for Food and Fiber animals. He is the Section Head of the Agricultural Practices Section here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine where he is an Associate Clinical Professor. And when we get to talking about things out there in the pastures and up and down the Flint Hills and different areas of the world, copper’s a pretty important element that can be both a nutrient and a toxin. (Matt) Yea, copper becomes one of those things where we see problems with either too little or too much. And I think today we talk a little bit about the way it comes about being too much. And every year we’ll have situations where it rises up where we’ll have a bunch of animals that develop copper toxicity. And usually it shows up with sheep and often times when I see it it turns out to be a fair number of pretty valuable show sheep and other individuals that come about with copper problems. And it’s a… when we talk about, I think we can talk about the toxicity portion, it seems to be sheep almost exclusively. Other species are susceptible to it, but sheep are unique in that they take it up pretty well and then they bind it and they can’t get rid of it and so sheep seem to be the species we think about most commonly that develop copper toxicity. (Dan) Right. Cattle do get copper toxicity and other species, but sheep are like ten times more sensitive to copper than cattle. (Matt) Right. (Dan) Kind of ball park figures. (Matt) Sure. And even when we talk and think about other small remnant species goats, they’re closer to the cattle and they’re kind of in between there. But we see it where probably the two most common reasons that we see copper toxicity develop in sheep is… would be either mismanaged feed mixes, or sometimes it’s just contaminants in the mixers that get in. It’s enough to do something like that to allow them to get too much copper absorbed and then bound. And it could be eating other species feed. You know we just said cattle are less sensitive, but they have more copper in their feed and that might not be kosher with the sheep. (Dan) Especially pigs. Pigs, it’s actually growth promoting, copper can be and so the level we run on pig feeds are… so somebody that has show lambs and show hogs, same barn mixing up feed… (Matt) Sure. (Dan) Could really cause them trouble. (Matt) That’s not even taking into consideration some of the plants that might be in the pasture that have a little additive. You know we talked about this whole consumption thing, it’s all an additive type of set up that we get into. (Dan) So, kind of talk to me a little bit about, we got about a minute here before break, but talk to me a little bit about the development of the disease. (Matt) So, what happens most commonly, so there’s two ways, they can either just consume a ton of it all at once. But more commonly what happens is that they absorb it and it keeps getting stored in the liver over a period of time. And so they store it, they bind it well. They’re not excreting it that well. And this can go over months, months to years before you even see a problem. And then usually what happens is some sort of a stressor. I think that sheep can be really stressed pretty easily probably by environment, handling, processing, any of those things can set that up. And now all this bound up copper in their liver’s just released all of a sudden. And just massive amounts in the blood stream and then causes acute copper toxicity to the body. (Dan) Perfect. We’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’ll talk about the clinical signs of copper toxicity. You’re watching Doc Talk.
(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. I’m here with Dr. Matt Miesner, who is the Section Head of Agricultural Practices here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine where he is an Associate Clinical Professor and he is a Boarded Internal Medicine Specialist for Food and Fiber Animals. And Matt, it’s always great to have you on the show. It’s always great to pick your brain on these types of things. But copper toxicity, we led right up to the break, but we have that stressful situation, animal liver dumps the copper into the body and now things are gonna start happening. What are we gonna see first? (Matt) Honestly sometimes the first thing you see are dead animals. So, client goes out and it may be one, it may be two, it may be multiple. And it may be so fast, so rapid that you have dead animals in your pasture, or in your barn or where ever they’re kept. Others, what this is causing is, it’s just pretty much destroying all their red blood cells. OK, so they’re all popping. So, they’re becoming severely anemic. They look weak. They look depressed. Some of ’em, to some point in time, they’re breathing heavy, and since this is damaging all these red blood cells, the color, the pigment of that is coming through in the urine in some of these. Some of these would be urinating red or we call it a port wine type of a urination, which is pretty severe. And this pigment in the blood cells is actually toxic to tissues too. So, they’re in kidney failure, they’re in liver failure. They’re having some major systemic disease that’s pretty rapid. (Dan) So, that’s pretty obvious when you walk out you’ve got some dead animals. And then you start to see these clinical signs. (Matt) Sure. And it’s rapid and often times we try to treat these at this point. We’ll talk about that in a bit, but once we’ve seen clinical signs, it’s pretty hard to get it back. And so, we start trying to get… really get a good diagnosis if we can. There’s plenty of things that will cause acute death. But copper, especially in sheep we look at ’em. You may go out and they’re pretty severe. Some of them look really yellow. So, they’re very icteric. So you can recognize that pretty rapidly. And at that point, that’s the time you start to get a definitive diagnosis, meaning we can pull blood. It can be some transient… we’re going to start trying to measure copper levels. That ones not the best. These dead animals, it’s always good to try to do a post mortem exam on anything that dies acutely, in any situation to try to figure out what it was. (Dan) Get a veterinarian out there. Have ’em do a post mortem. What kind of samples are we gonna take? (Matt) Particularly the best ones would be liver and kidney. Often times your veterinarian when they open ’em up will recognize the problems. There’s one that we call… kidney’s have a pretty characteristic appearance. I think they call it a gun metal grey type kidney. There’s massive hemorrhaging and those kind of things. Not hemorrhage, but hemolysis. (Dan) Right. (Matt) They look really yellow. So your veterinarian would be pretty suspicious right off the bat. They’re gonna get some samples of liver and they’re gonna get some samples of kidney and they’re gonna send that off to the lab. And at that point it’s also a good time to get you a feed sample. You know, try to figure out where your sources are, if it’s a problem. (Dan) Well, so when you get ’em veterinarians will send ’em to the D lab. We’ll get a diagnosis and then we’ll take a break now for a commercial and when we come back, it will be time to treat ’em. (Matt) Great. (Dan) Thanks for being here. Folks, thanks for being at Doc Talk. More with Dr. Matt Miesner on copper toxicity after this break.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with my friend and colleague Dr. Matt Miesner. Dr. Miesner is the Section Head of Agricultural Practices here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor and is boarded in Internal Medicine for Food and Fiber animals and sees a lot of cases here, referral cases, sees some of our local cases, but copper toxicity is one of those that we do see. Those are cases that are out in the field that… specifically with sheep. So, you’ve gotten us to the point where the sheep have built up the problem. Now we’ve had the clinical signs and some dead sheep and we’ve sent the livers and kidneys in got a definitive diagnosis and now we’re gonna go out and treat some of these animals. What are we gonna try to do on treatment? (Matt) Right. I think that a lot of times like I said at the beginning, we’ll have some pretty valuable individuals. This can be pretty devastating to commercial producers. But then alot of times we’ll get some of these pretty high end show sheep and what not. Some of these, even though it’s a long shot, some of these really acute cases that we’re seeing, we’re gonna try to treat those. And we’ll try some fluids. We’ll try some other drugs to try to bind up some of this copper acutely, support… we’re trying to keep this as low stress as possible. I’ve even done blood transfusions in some of these sheep that were valuable enough. (Dan) Really? (Matt) And it’s not that it’s that expensive but you know it can get pretty intense on the critical care and recognizing some of these. But, like I say the individual’s hard to treat and hard to get back. So, what we’re gonna really do is we’re gonna start jumping on the rest of the herd or the remainder of those animals that are still in the barn or the pasture or what not that need to be treated. And the drugs we’re gonna use, and your veterinarian would use would be things that help bind it, bind copper, prevent the copper from being absorbed. Bind it in the liver, help get it out, help them pee it out. And there’s various drugs and chemicals that we use for those that have some pretty long names and have to be used daily or twice daily and so you have to be careful with some of your stressors that you’re putting on the animal, just to get them treated. But we’re gonna try to get…we know we’ve got a problem. We know we have a few individuals that are having issues, so we’re gonna now try to bind it and get it out of the remainder of those animals in the herd. (Dan) So when I’m looking at ’em and of course, we always want you to work with your local practitioner, but let’s say I walk out and I walk out there and I’ve got, looks like I’ve got some to triage, I’ve got some that are probably been eating the same feed, but they aren’t showing the clinical signs. Do you treat ’em all? (Matt) Sure. (Dan) OK. (Matt) You know that they’re at risk. You know that you’ve got some and we might see clinical problems a year later. You know, cause this… (Dan) Oh. Cause it’s building. (Matt) This stuff binds up. And so it’s stored, you never know when it’s gonna be released, but you know if you have individuals, you’ve got other exposed. (Dan) OK and when we start to… you know when you’re starting to relieve this from them, how often or how expensive is this treatment? (Matt) Actually some of the drugs are pretty expensive. (Dan) OK. (Matt) But there are some sources, talk to your veterinarian, they can call us, we have some sources where we can get reasonably priced, other medications that can be given daily. (Dan) OK. (Matt) There are some sources for these kind of drugs and chemicals that we can use to bind it. So, it’s not completely cost prohibitive for a lot of those things. (Dan) OK. Well, we’re gonna take a break. And I think the next segment will be the most important is, let’s prevent it and keep it from happening within your herd. Thanks for watching Doc Talk. More after these messages.
(Dan) Folks welcome back to Doc talk. Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. Matt Miesner and Dr. Miesner is a Boarded Internal Medicine Specialist and Associate Clinical Professor here in the Ag Practices at Kansas State Veterinary Health Center where he serves as the Section Head. And we were talking about copper toxicity and Matt when we talk about… we’ve talked about how they get it, clinical signs, treatment, but preventing it’s the key. (Matt) Sure, and so you know, once we’ve got a diagnosis or we’ve had it on the place, you’re gonna be certainly tying to prevent it. But even if you haven’t had trouble, if you’ve got sheep you should try to be proactive in preventing it. One of the things on the prevention side, is it’s not just total copper load, there’s some antagonist things that could be misbalanced in the feed as well. So, you’re gonna look at your overall feed mixture. You’re gonna consult a nutritionist. You’re gonna look at things like for example, molybdenum and sulfur. Those kind of things help prevent some of that copper going. So, it might be a situation where if you get new batches of feed, you keep ’em and you store ’em. Just so that you have it for a back up. Or you go ahead and test ’em and see what the components of that feed are. So, preventing it, preventing copper from being absorbed too much in the sheep would be one thing. But nutritionist, your veterinarian can help you balance those and look at that balance and make sure they’re safe. And then we just talked about other sources, so there’s some non-traditional ways of deworming where people have used some copper oxide type or copper needles. You know, so they kind of slow release copper. Foot baths, you know there’s some copper sulfate, you know you may be using things that I’m trying to prevent disease spread or foot care and those kind of things. And that, if they drink that, it’s straight copper. Like I say, some plants, some other things. Any time we see this whole overall balance of issues we try to limit those sources and limit the amount of copper that gets absorbed in the animal. (Dan) I think that getting the feed samples, storing those back, keeping those in the freezer, so that whenever you do need to have something analyzed. But I go ahead, if these are valuable animals and I don’t know any animals that are producing protein or wool that aren’t valuable… (Matt) Right, yea. (Dan) I would be sending those samples in and getting a good copper, get a good chemical analysis of my feed that I’m offering these animals anyway. (Matt) Right. And like I say, what was planned on going into that mixture, might have been OK, but we talked about there’s sometimes some contaminated mixing equipment. There’s other portions or parts of that feed that go in that sometimes just naturally contaminated with copper. So, each one’s gonna be a little bit different. So, it’s always good to just have a sample tested before hand. Storing is fine because you may not see problems until 18 months later, so that’s a long time. (Dan) Most every co-op will send a sample in. (Matt) Sure. And looking at that overall balance. And it’s never a malicious thing, it’s just an accident often times. (Dan) You bet. Thanks for being here today. Thanks for watching Doc Talk. Remember always work with your local veterinarian. And if you want to know more about what Dr. Miesner and I do here at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Thanks for watching Doc Talk today. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.
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