When compared with other domestic livestock, the water buffalo generally is a healthy animal. This is particularly impressive because most of them live in hot, humid regions that are conducive to diseases. The buffalo is a bovine and is susceptible to most of the diseases and parasites that afflict cattle. Although the reasons are not specifically known, the effect of diseases on the buffalo and its productivity is often less deleterious than on cattle in the same ecosystem.
Antibiotics and vaccines developed for cattle work equally well on buffaloes. As a result, treatments are available for most of the serious diseases of buffaloes, although some are not very effective for both.
The major cause of losses in buffaloes is due to calf mortality. Newborn buffalo calves, like bovine calves, succumb in large numbers to viruses, bacteria and poor nutrition. This is largely due to poor management during the calf’s first 2 months of life, e.g. depriving calves of mother’s milk and proclivity for wallowing which exposes calves to waterborne diseases. Further, a young one occasionally drowns when an adult rolls on the top of it.
In countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma and India, buffaloes, as reported by several workers, are highly susceptible to rinderpest, and may be even more so than the indigenous cattle managed under comparable conditions. In south-eastern Europe, however, the buffalo is relatively more resistant than the local cattle breeds. In the broadest sense it seems that, subject to local and regional variations, the susceptibility of the buffalo to this disease increases from western to eastern Asia (Vittoz, 1951). The clinical syndromes and autopsy findings are more or less similar to those observed in cattle. However, the body-temperature curve in the buffalo is quite often erratic. Clinical symptoms tend to be more acute and as a rule the conjunctivae are more severely congested.
In general, buffaloes are less susceptible than cattle to foot-and-mouth disease. Nevertheless, severe outbreaks among buffaloes are not uncommon, and in countries like Laos and the Philippines more buffaloes were affected than cattle in some of the past epidemics.
Water buffaloes are highly susceptible to pasteurellosis, or haemorrhagic septicaemia, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida. Haemorrhagic septicaemia runs an acute course in buffaloes than in cattle and the oedematous form is more common. Buffaloes are more susceptible to it than cattle and die in large numbers when affected by pasteurellosis. A vaccine against pasteurellosis is effective in protecting both buffaloes and cattle; it is cheap and easily made.
Reports on the incidence of anthrax in buffaloes vary from country to country. In Egypt the disease appears to be rare in buffaloes. In India also the disease is less common in buffaloes than in cattle. However, the situation is just the reverse in Myannar where buffaloes frequently contract the infection; this poses a serious danger to the elephants working in adjacent forests. On some islands in Indonesia the disease occurs in a severe form and affects buffaloes more than cattle.
Several workers have reported that the buffalo is relatively less resistant to tuberculosis. This is one of the most important diseases affecting buffaloes in Egypt, the incidence being higher in housed buffaloes in the southern region. Slaughterhouse examinations of carcasses in a Cairo abattoir showed that about 7% of the buffaloes slaughtered had tuberculous lesions. Tuberculosis tests carried out in four representative areas in India on 44,519 cattle and 40,201 buffaloes under comparable conditions of management showed 4.7 and 13.8% reactors, respectively, in the two species (Lall et al., 1969).
The incidence of tuberculin reactors in India is higher in buffaloes than in cattle (Lall et al., 1969). Mammalian tuberculin evokes a stronger reaction in buffaloes on intradermal test as compared to that in cattle (Lall, 1946). Other strains of mycobacteria have been isolated from feral buffaloes and cattle in northern Australia but seem to have little effect on the animals. Tuberculosis occurs among buffalo herds of the world only because most of them are kept under unsanitary conditions.
Mastitis is one of the serious diseases of the buffalo, especially in countries where buffaloes are mainly kept for milk production. A mastitis survey carried out on 690 buffaloes in nine dairy herds in different parts of India showed an incidence of 20.7% of sub-clinical or insidious cases and 2.4% of clinical cases. In another random survey of 1.193 buffaloes in the northern part of India, Katra and Dhanda (1964) found an incidence of infection of 11% in the urban and 9% in the rural areas. The corresponding data for 3.097 cows were 10 and 7.5%. About 98% of the cases were caused by pathogenic staphylococci and streptococci while the remaining 2% of the cases were due to other organisms. In Egypt, incidence of mastitis in the two species was virtually the same (Wahby and Hilmy, 1946). In one survey 9% of 860 buffaloes brought to the Cairo clinic were affected with mastitis (El-Gindy et al.,1964). Treatment and control programmes used for cattle are equally effective for buffaloes.
Source :19 Annexure - IXA - Buffalo