Bovis ISSN 2398-2993


Synonym(s): actinobacillus, hypersalivation, wooden tongue

Contributor(s): Mo Kemp , Adam Dunstan-Martin


  • Cause: actinobacillosis is a well recognised condition in ruminants caused by a gram negative rod Actinobacillus lignieresii, often found as a commensal in the digestive tract of cattle and sheep.
  • Pathogenesis: the classic site is the tongue. Atypical forms affecting other areas have been reported, such as cutaneous actinobacillosis and infection of the oesophageal groove. When A. lignieresii enters soft tissues through lesions it causes granulomatous abscessation.
  • Diagnosis: clinical signs, response to treatment and biopsy are means of diagnosis.
  • Treatment: medical treatment with antimicrobials is generally successful.
  • Prognosis: generally medical treatment is succesful.



  • Gram negative cocci-baccillus Actinobacillus lignieresii Actinobacillus lignieresii, which is a normal commensal of the ruminant gastrointestinal trac.


  • Actinobacillus lignieresii Actinobacillus lignieresii is a normal inhabitant of the oral cavity and rumen.
  • Clinical disease can can occur when damage to the oral mucosa or damage to the skin integrity allows the organism to gain access.
    • Damage to the oral mucosa may occur due by stemmy forage, erupting teeth and/or bolusing injuries.
    • Changes in the skin integrity may occur due to surgical wounds and traumatic injuries.
    • Cutaneous forms arise by infection from saliva, by pus draining from other lesions or directly by plant awns that have A. lignieresii residing. Once inoculated into tissues the organism may cause local lesions and/or lesions in the draining lymph nodes.
    • Soft tissue granulomas have been reported in nose, eyelids, needle puncture wounds over the jugular vein, esophagus, pharnyx, palate, flank, internal iliac lymph nodes, testes, post-operative complication of cesarean section.


  • Lesions in the tongue and esophageal groove will present acutely, with signs being seen within days of infection.
  • Whereas, the infection may have been present for weeks to month before lesions in the cutaneous tissues may be noticed.


  • Cases tend to be sporadic but herd outbreaks have been associated with abrasive feedstuffs and crowded conditions.
  • Lesions elsewhere arise due to contamination from saliva or pus from draining lesions.
  • Herd outbreaks have been reported, in one case report 73% of heifers were affected within one month of them starting to feed from a source of coarse stemmy haylage and another publication reported two other case reports in which 50/500 steers were affected and 15/40 beef cows with young calves at foot were affected with lesions mainly affecting the tongue and oral cavity with some exhibiting flank lesions.
    • In the latter publication, prolonged drought, mass teething and the feeding of oat stubble were given as predisposing factors.
  • A slaughter survey of over 2,400 adult cattle as an extended recording exercise along with routine meat inspection gave the prevalence of actinobacillosis infection of the tongue as 0.7-3.6%.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Milne M H, Barrett D C, Mellor D J, O’Neill R & Fitzpatrick J L (2001) Clinical recognition and treatment of bovine cutaneous actinobacillosis. Veterinary Record 148, 273-274 PubMed.
  • Rycroft A N & Garside L H (2000) Actinobacillus species and their role in animal disease. Veterinary Journal 159, 18-36.
  • De Kruif A, Mijten P, Haesebrouck F, Hoorens J & Devriese L (1992) Actinobacillosis in bovine caesarean sections. Veterinary Record 131, 414-415 PubMed.
  • Anderson K I, Fairley R A & Duncan D (1990) Suspected actinobacillosis manifested by facial enlargement in a heifer. JAVMA 197, 1359-1360 PubMed.
  • Buttenschon J (1989) The occurrence of lesions in the tongue of adult cattle and their implications for the development of actinobacillosis. JAVMA 36, 393-400 PubMed.
  • Rebhun W C, King J M & Hillman R B (1988) Atypical actinobacillosis granulomas in cattle. Cornell Veterinarian 78, 125-130 PubMed.
  • Baum K H, Shin S J, Rebhun W C & Patten V H (1984) Isolation of Actinobacillus lignieresii from enlarged tongue of a horse. JAVMA 185, 792-793 PubMed.
  • Fubini S L & Campbell S G (1983) External lumps on sheep and goats. Veterinary Clinics of North America - Large animal practice 5, 457-476 PubMed.
  • Arora B M, Parihar N S & Bhargava A K (1980) Treatment of a case of cutaneous actinobacillosis in cattle. Indian Veterinary Journal 57, 771-772 PubMed.
  • Campbell S G, Whitlock R H & Timoney J F (1975) An unusual epizootic of actinobacillosis in dairy herds. JAVMA 166, 604-606 PubMed.
  • Swarbrick O (1967) Atypical actinobacillosis in three cows. British Veterinary Journal 123, 70-75.
  • Hebeler H F, Linton A H & Osborne A D (1961) Atypical actinobacillosis in a dairy herd. Veterinary Record 73, 517-521.
  • Tomas J W & Moore L A (1953) Thyroproteinfeeding to dairy cows during successive lactations. J dairy sci 36, 657–662.
  • Palotay J L (1951) Actinobacillosis in cattle. Veterinary Medicine 2, 52-54.

Other sources of information

  • Radostits O M, Gay C C, Hinchcliff K W & Constable P D (2006) Diseases caused by bacteria - IV. In: Veterinary Medicine. 10th edition. London, W.B. Saunders.
  • Rebhun W C (1995) Actinobacillosis. In: Diseases of Dairy Cattle. London, Williams and Wilkins. pp 184-186.
  • Prescott J E & Baggot J D (1993) Aminoglycosides and aminocyclitols. In: Antimicrobial Therapy in Veterinary Medicine. 2nd edition. Ames, Iowa State University Press. pp. 144-178.