Whitetail Deer Diseases: EHD and Parasistes

Hemorrhagic Diseases are many whitetail deer diseases grouped together. This is a group of similiar, highly lethal viruses, such as Blue Tongue and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). These illnesses cause massive internal bleeding throughout the animalís body, and can lead to death in as little as two days from contraction in extreme cases. Hemorrhaging in the deerís lungs creates breathing problems, and deer become dehydrated and feverish. EHD is transmitted through bites from gnats carrying the virus. Outbreaks among herds generally occur during the later summer and early fall seasons and can be difficult to ward off, but survival and recovery within the herd are possible. An infected deer that successfully fights off the virus develops immunity and prevents further contraction of the disease.

Parasites are another source of deer illnesses that are lumped together for practicality. Whitetail deer are susceptible to parasites such as roundworm, lungworm, foot worm, brain worm and tapeworm. Roundworms settle in the ligaments of a deerís joints as well as their hooves. Frequently found in over populated deer areas, tapeworm causes malnutrition and can sometimes lead to death. The brain worm is a parasite with an interesting relationship specific to whitetail deer. This organism lives and produces offspring in the casing surrounding the brain, but does not cause any damage to the whitetail deer. However, if the parasite is ingested by any other animal, such as sheep, goat or elk, it infects the brain and spinal cord and is fatal. The brain worm is transported through deer fecal matter as larvae and then picked up by snails and slugs that are eaten by other animals.

Whitetail Deer Diseases: Tumors, Fever and CWD

Another abnormality often witnessed in whitetial are tumors. These dark, external growths that appear on some deer are fibromas or papillomas, caused by the papillomavirus. These lumps are usually non-threatening to the animal, and are believed to be developed by the virus transferred from biting insects. Fibromas can grow either from the skin or the layer of tissue just below the skin (dermis), while papillomas are only present on the epidermis. The tumors are not contagious and do not normally contaminate venison, since the growths do not spread to muscle tissues. Harvested deer meat should not be consumed if there is a lump inside of the body, or if the tumor is extremely large with a secondary infection present.

Malignant Catarrhal Fever (MCF) is an extremely lethal whitetail deer disease that affects deer and many other ungulates. Symptoms of MCF range from depression, separation from the herd, anorexia, disorientation, persistent fever, conjunctivitis, excessive salivation and nasal discharge. The virus is spread through sheep, wildebeests and goats, which act as hosts of the infection but are not harmed by it. MCF is highly contagious scientists have yet to determine the precise cause of contraction. Deer can develop the disease by contact with another infected animal (like cattle) or contact with a carrier (like sheep), but many cases have been reported with little or no contact between suspected infected or carrying animals. There is no treatment or prevention of MCF and it is almost always fatal. Any deer that does survive will always be a carrier of the virus, and therefore a danger to the herd.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is another fatal deer disease. CWD is similar to the once highly publicized mad cow disease. CWD is a neurological disease that destroys the brain and neural tissue of infected whitetail, mule deer and elk. Not much is known about transmission of CWD, but it is highly infectious in areas where it is found. Contraction in deer can occur from direct contact and from contaminated enclosures. CWD is untreatable and fatal to any deer that contracts the sickness.


White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the North American deer family. Whitetail are found from southern Canada to South America. They are an important part of the landscape in all areas where they are found. During summer months deer often use fields and meadows, searching for forbs high in protein, but whitetail deer are primarily browsers. Read more...

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