Identifying and responding to an unusual animal health incident and initial actions

Initial recognition of a serious animal disease usually starts with a producer or staff member sensing that something is not right. This page contains information regarding indicators, initial response protocols and producer declaration responsibilities.

More information on understanding, preparing and responding to serious animal diseases can be found in the provincial species-specific AHEM producer handbooks.

Unusual Animal Health Event Indicators

Whether it is behavioural changes or physical symptoms, producers may get cues that their animals are unwell. Staff should be made aware of specific indicators within your operation that signal a cause for concern. Basic signs and symptoms of serious animal diseases specific to the livestock industry are set out in Schedule 2 of the producer handbooks and in the column to the right. This information will help improve awareness and early identification.

The following Indicator Protocol can be customized in consultation with your veterinarian and staff to suit the specific needs of your farm. When these indicators are observed in individual animals or the herd, notify your veterinarian immediately and take their direction.

Quick TIPS

    • Know indicators and initial response protocols
    • Recognize primary serious animal disease symptoms
    • Discuss concerns with your veterinarian


If any of the following indicators are observed, then the farm’s veterinarian will be contacted immediately to investigate further:

Unexplained or sharp increase in sickness, lameness, behavioural changes, death loss. Exceeds normal acceptable level of this many head per week/day: _____________ (head/%)
Animals backed off feed/water (daily intake is down for reasons not related to weather or seasonality)
Disease or symptoms not previously encountered
Typical disease or symptoms with abnormal severity or non-responsive to treatment
Rapid spread throughout herd
Reportable/notifiable disease suspected on farm
Any death of unknown cause
Other events, as determined with your veterinarian

Initial Response Protocol

The initial response for unusual animal health events cannot be stressed enough. An effective and rapid response can play a vital role in:

  • Limiting the possible spread of disease
  • Reducing staff and family member risk
  • Containing the incident
  • Decreasing the impact on your business and the industry as a whole

Prior to developing your Initial Response Protocol you will want to connect with your veterinarian and staff. Ensure that the steps you’ve collaboratively identified reflect the specific needs and features of your operation.

If these indicators are observed in any of the animals, notify your veterinarian and take their direction. If you are uncertain of what actions or precautions to take, seek clarification from your producer organization, provincial government, or CFIA.


1. Notify Staff and Family Members

Rapid spread throughout herd
An unusual animal health event exists on the farm
Review and strictly follow biosecurity protocols currently in place, or as established by management in consultation with veterinarian (e.g. Green, Amber and Red Biosecurity Protocols)
Minimize/avoid contact with other livestock, particularly other livestock

2. Call Veterinarian and Act on Advice, for example

Isolate sick animals
Submit samples for diagnosis
Stop livestock movements on/off the Infected Place
Limit and monitor other movements on/off (e.g. staff, equipment, manure spreading etc.)
Gather information/documentation as required (e.g. visitor log, livestock inventory, identification record including purchases/sales within the last 30 days, individual treatment log, herd health protocol)

3. Identify a Primary Contact within your organization. This will be the point person or coordinator to be available for key decisions

4. Contact External Stakeholders. External notifications may be made after consultation with your veterinarian

Farm veterinarian to notify regulatory authority as/if appropriate
• CFIA District Veterinarian called (suspect reportable disease*)
• Chief Provincial Veterinarian
Self-declaration by producer to industry association and neighbouring livestock producers (depending on suspected disease)
• Provincial association
• Neighbouring livestock producers
• Notify suppliers and other contracts (e.g. feed suppliers, livestock transporters, utility companies with access rights)

*Reportable Diseases (listed on the upper right of this page) are outlined in the Health of Animals Act and Reportable Diseases Regulations and are usually of significant importance to human or animal health or to the Canadian economy. Animal owners, veterinarians and laboratories are required to immediately report the presence of an animal that is contaminated or suspected of being contaminated with one of these diseases to a CFIA district veterinarian.