COLLEGE STATION, TX – Imagine how you would feel if there were no medicine to help your sick puppy get well? This is how the majority of deer breeders feel as there is currently no approved medicine for diseased deer. The deer industry is growing rapidly, but sadly the right medicine and treatment that cervids (the group that deer belong to) need is not available. Even veterinary knowledge on deer treatments is not widely disseminated as there are less than a dozen veterinarians in Texas with extensive cervid medicine experience. In a continuing working relationship with Texas A&M University, the Texas Deer Association (TDA) has given a second gift to Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) in order to further stimulate research and development of treatments, vaccinations and an overall better understanding of antibiotics, drugs and dewormers for the white tailed deer. Last year two gifts totaling $45,000 were given to initiate disease research trials.
There are several reasons why the TDA chose Texas A&M for this $50,000 gift. Dr. Dick Cain, TDA representative and former professor at TAMU, and Dr. Don Davis, Associate Professor at the CVM, have held a close relationship for years. Texas A&M has been involved in deer research since the 1980’s, as well as being the only veterinary medical college in the state, which makes them a prime choice for the TDA’s research gift.
When asked how the TDA wanted the money to be used, Dr. Cain enthusiastically replied, “effectively!”
“Treatment protocols for white tailed deer are needed, since there is very little of that information published for disease prevention and treatment” continued Cain. “Medicine and treatment protocols developed for other livestock, such as sheep and goats, are used for treatment in white tailed deer because there are currently no medications or treatments that have been approved for them.”
“The two most devastating diseases for white tailed deer are the EHD and Blue Tongue virus which are spread by gnats” said Cain. “Many other animals carry the EHD virus without any harmful effect, but EHD is fatal for white-tailed deer and mule deer. Blue Tongue is a disease that affects sheep and other ruminant animals. Approximately 80,000 white tailed deer died nationwide in 2007 because of Blue Tongue and EHD.”
Currently, the initial research focus at CVM is on treatment and preventions for the EHD/Blue Tongue viruses.
“There are no developed diagnostic tests or vaccines for EHD. The only Blue Tongue vaccines that exist right now are for sheep” said Dr. Davis. “Diagnostic tests must be validated in every particular species and this has not yet been done for deer.”
Dr. Davis’s graduate student, Melanie Smith, has already begun making progress in blood range research, which is a test called a “blood chemistry panel” that is a basis check on the overall physiologic condition of the individual animal.
Smith has collected 450 blood samples from white tailed deer in 17 different counties with money from the previous TDA donations. All of these samples have been sent to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab. By using special software that looks at age, gender, whether the deer are fawns or adults, captive or have been put through physical restraint, Smith is able to figure out what stresses affect the blood values for deer.
“The TDA needs to be able to know what affects the blood ranges in a particular deer, because the normal values found in a blood sample for 14 different parameters including levels of serum protein, calcium, phosphorus, liver enzymes and hemoglobin have not been established and documented for white tailed deer” said Davis. “In other words, we need to be able to figure the blood count of a deer by knowing that he is captive, has been physically restrained and is two years old. This study is another dire need in the white tailed deer industry that has been made possible through support from the TDA.”
“The deer industry has been growing so rapidly that it now makes an economic impact of $700 million in the State of Texas, and two and-a-half billion dollars of economic impact to the United States” said Davis. “Texas A&M needs to be at the forefront in vaccination development for this booming industry.”
Even though it seems as if there is a great deal to be accomplished in the area of cervid medicine, there have been some recent breakthroughs. The TVMDL, with the help of funding from the TDA, has just developed a technique to identify individual strains of EHD and Blue Tongue from samples that were submitted to the laboratory.
They have also begun making strides in cervid education for future veterinarians.
“From the cooperation between the CVM and the Texas Deer Association, we were able to develop a program on deer medicine,” said Cain. “Dr. Davis started the first class last year. The class is on cervid medicine, which includes white tailed deer, moose, and mule deer, currently is available for third year veterinary students.”
“So far, the Texas Deer Association has been very happy with the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine as they have done what they said they would do within less than a year,” said Dr. Davis.
This is the third gift that the Texas Deer Association has given to Texas A&M for research in deer medicine. Last December the TDA gave the CVM $39,000 dollars to improve Blue Tongue diagnostics and to begin finding ways to make vaccines. In March the TDA gave another $6,500, followed by the most recent gift of $50,000.
“The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is honored to receive this continued support from the Texas Deer Association,” said Dean Eleanor M. Green. “The money will be used to open new doors in research for improving diagnostic tests for white tailed deer. The faculty and staff of the CVM are truly grateful for the opportunity to help shape the future of cervid medicine.”