Notifiable Diseases

Notifiable Diseases in animals

‘Notifiable’ diseases are animal diseases that you’re legally obliged to report to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), even if you only suspect that an animal may be affected.

Notifiable diseases can be:

  • endemic – already present in the UK, such as bovine TB
  • exotic – not normally present in the UK, such as foot and mouth disease

Some endemic and exotic diseases are zoonotic which means they can pass between animals and humans, such as rabies.

Guides relating to notifiable diseases can be found here

If you suspect a notifiable animal disease you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.  Failure to do so is an offence.



Anthrax is an infectious bacterial disease of animals, caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It can affect humans and a wide range of animals, these include cattle, pigs, horses & sheep.

Cattle and sheep can die quickly from anthrax, but their carcasses may show no obvious signs of the disease, but the length of the illness varies and some animals may have signs of illness for several days before death.

In such cases the main clinical signs are:

  • high temperature, shivering or twitching
  • harsh dry cough
  • blood in dung or in nostrils
  • decrease or complete loss of milk
  • fits
  • bright staring eyes
  • colicky pains
  • dejection and loss of appetite

In pigs and horses

Anthrax can cause death in pigs and horses, though less quickly than in cattle and sheep.

The main clinical signs of anthrax in pigs and horses are:

  • hot painful swellings in the throat area
  • sudden colic pain in horses
  • loss of appetite in pigs


Blue Tongue Virus

Blue tongue is a notifiable disease of ruminants such as sheep and cattle.  This means if you suspect your animals may have blue tongue then you must report it to Defra on 03000300301.  APHA vets will then investigate it. 

Bluetongue is spread by midges which carry the bluetongue virus. The disease spreads when infected midges bite an animal affected by the disease and then bite another.  The midge season is normally March to September.

 Signs of blue tongue in sheep include the following:-

 ulcers in the mouth

  • discharge of mucus and drooling from mouth and nose
  • swelling of the mouth, head and neck and the coronary band (where the skin of the leg meets the horn of the foot)
  • red skin as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface
  • fever
  • lameness
  • breathing problems

Cattle are the main carriers of bluetongue and signs can include:

  • swelling and ulcers in the mouth
  • nasal discharge
  • red skin and eyes as a result of blood collecting beneath the surface
  • swollen teats
  • tiredness

Preventing blue tongue

You can help to prevent the disease by practising good biosecurity on your premises.   If you are considering importing animals from Europe into an unvaccinated herd you should discuss this with your private vet before doing so as there are various requirements that need to be observed depending on which Country they are coming from.

You should also work with your private vet to consider whether vaccination would be an appropriate protection for your herd or flock.


Foot and Mouth (FMD)

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hooved ruminants. FMD is not recognised as a zoonotic disease.

The disease spreads very quickly if not controlled and because of this is a reportable disease


  • Fever
  • Bilsters in the mouth and on feet
  • Drop in milk production
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quivering lips and frothing of mouth
  • Cows may develop blisters on teats
  • Lameness


Avian Flu

Avian Influenza, also known as ‘bird flu’, is a disease of birds, not humans. People can become infected but rarely are. There are many strains of avian influenza viruses which vary in their ability to cause disease.

There is a contingency plan in place should there be an outbreak of avian flu in Gloucestershire. Full details and relevant links are on the Emergency Management pages of the County Council website.

It is vital that all bird keepers in the UK continue to practice the highest levels of biosecurity and be vigilant for any signs of disease.

If you are concerned about the health of your birds you should seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.

If you suspect that your birds have avian influenza, you should report it to your local  Animal Health Office immediately.

Anyone who finds a number of dead wild birds in close proximity should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (select option 7).


Sheep Scab

Whilst sheep scab is not a notifiable disease, it is of concern if identified on the common land or if it is suspected that a farmer is not dealing with the issue themselves.

Sheep scab is caused by mites living in sheep’s fleeces or hair. The mites and their faeces cause intense itching which can lead to sheep:

  • rubbing and scratching against fence posts
  • nibbling and biting at their fleeces

That means you should look out for:

  • dirty areas of fleece from scratching hair, especially behind the shoulder
  • clean areas of fleece, where sheep have nibbled
  • broken areas of fleece on the sides of sheep from biting and scratching

Affected sheep can be extremely sensitive to being touched. They may respond by nibbling.

Affected sheep may also become dull and depressed and stand apart from the rest of the flock.

Other skin conditions in sheep cause similar affects to sheep scab. You should seek advice from a vet as soon as possible.

If you suspect your flock has sheep scab please contact this service immediately.

Further information on sheep scab can be found here

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