Cervid Solutions
Originally appeared in the January 2019 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

What is it?
  • Mycoplasmas are a group of very small bacteria which have unusual characteristics making them different from most other bacteria.
  • Mycoplasma bacteria have special defense mechanisms that make it challenging to diagnose and treat.
  • It lacks a cell wall so that certain widely used antibiotics are not effective because most antibiotics attack the cell wall.
  • It also has the ability to hide away from the immune system so that infections are difficult to fight.
  • Mycoplasma has the ability to create conditions that allow evasion from antibiotic treatment.
  • Mycoplasma is a bacterium that can cause pneumonia, arthritis, reproductive problems, and middle inner ear infections.

What symptoms are typically seen in Cervid?
  • Mycoplasma bovis does not cause disease in humans. Studies have mostly been on cattle but in a study in 2003 in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases a farmed cervid facility found mycoplasma bovis in fawns with severe respiratory disease resulting in death.
  • This bacterium has been more prevalent in the deer industry recently.

How is it spread?
  • Mycoplasma is spread from one deer to another (or from cattle to deer) through repeated contact over short distances.
  • The agent can also shed from infected animals through eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, semen and milk.
  • Animals do not need to be showing signs of sickness for it to spread.
  • Mycoplasma bovis has been found to survive up to 6 months at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in laboratory conditions, 20 days in straw and over 2 weeks in water. Even in cold water the organism can survive 1 to 2 weeks on bedding and in water.
Signs and Symptoms
  • Pneumonia, especially pneumonia that is resistant to treatment
  • Slight clear nasal discharge
  • Puffing out of cheeks when breathing
  • Dry cough with neck extended down and out from the body
  • Elevated body temp.
  • Ear Infections
    • Ear drop on one side or the other
    • Head tilt and possible facial paralysis
  • Joint Infections
    • Lameness
  • Often a sign of mycoplasma is pneumonia accompanied by lameness, unresponsive to antibiotics
Disease Management
  • Do not keep cattle and deer together, mycoplasma is very common in cattle and can be spread from cattle to deer
  • Don’t feed poor quality hay or feed. Animals with poor nutrition are known to be more susceptible to disease.
  • Minimize stress on your deer or elk.
  • Quarantine new animals for 30 days before introducing them to your herd and vaccinate before transferring them in.
  • Introduce and maintain a vaccination protocol.

Points to Remember
  • Mycoplasma bacteria lack a cell wall and therefore are not easily treated by antibiotics
  • In Cervid, Mycoplasma mostly cause Pneumonia
  • Mycoplasma can survive varying temperatures and longer periods of time in the environment
  • This bacteria is spread from animal to animal
  • Vaccination is your best defense to Mycoplasma, Pneu-Vac 2 covers the Mycoplasma bacterin