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Farm Animal Practice
Diagnosis and implications of botulism
  1. Robert Hogg

    Robert Hogg graduated from Liverpool in 1974. He is a veterinary investigation officer at Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) – Preston and is currently a VLA botulism disease consultant.

  2. Chris Livesey

    Chris Livesey graduated from Liverpool in 1972. He is head of toxicology and nutrition at the VLA, based at VLA – Weybridge.

  3. Jo Payne

    Jo Payne graduated from Liverpool in 1985. She is currently project leader of chemical food safety and deputy head of toxicology and nutrition at the VLA, based at VLA – Sutton Bonington.


BOTULISM is a neuroparalytic condition affecting birds, mammals and fish, and is caused by exposure to toxins produced by various biotypes of Clostridium botulinum. Until a few years ago, botulism was considered to be a rare disease in farm animals in the UK. However, since 2003, there has been an upsurge in the number of suspected cases reported, particularly in cattle and more recently sheep. The diagnosis of botulism is problematic and relies heavily on clinical signs. Confidence in the diagnosis is improved by identifying the risk factors and suspect sources, and by ruling out the more common differential diagnoses. This article describes the clinical signs of classic and atypical disease, and discusses the implications of a diagnosis of botulism with regard to animal welfare, food safety and public health.

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