Signs of Good Health and Ill in Farm Animals

Producers must observe animals closely to keep individual animals and the whole herd or flock healthy and productive.

A sound management program to keep animals healthy is basic to production of any livestock. Producers must observe animals closely to keep individual animals and the whole herd or flock healthy and productive. If the health status of a herd is compromised, that operation will not be as efficient as possible. To recognize clinical signs of diseases common to livestock, it is important to be familiar with what is normal or healthy. Producers should assess the herd or flock’s general health, on a regular basis, including vital signs, body condition and coat.

When you have a farm animal and you don’t know what causes it to get sick all the time then here are some signs you need to take notice of if it is in good health or ill health. The health of the animal shows whether if you are feeding it well enough and keeping its feed and environment clean. Or if you are giving it less feed which is deficient in certain nutrient and might have been contaminated with foreign materials which is causing the dysfunction of its internal organs and external organs

Signs of good health and ill health in farm animals

Appearance and behavior:

  • The healthy animal is alert and aware of its surroundings. It is active and holds its head up watching what is happening around it.
  • It should stand on all of its feet. The separation of an animal from the others in its group is often a sign of a health problem.
  • An animal which is not interested in its surroundings and does not want to move has health problems.

Healthy animals exhibit normal posture. They are alert, having clear eyes and response to touch. Any abnormal running nose and dull eyes may indicate ill health

Movement (GAIT) :

  • The healthy animal will walk easily and steadily with all of its feet taking its weight.
  • Steps should be regular. Irregular movement results from pain in the feet or limbs.
  • Horses normally stand during the day.
  • If you go near an animal that is lying down it should stand up quickly otherwise it has health problems.

Any animal that cannot walk or stand properly must be closely watched since something might be wrong with it. When you notice that the animal is walking and favoring on leg. It will be very advisable if you restrain that animal and find out what is causing it to do so.


The eyes should be bright and alert with no discharge at the corners.


  • Most animals have erect ears which move in the direction of any sound.
  • Ear movements will also be quick to get rid of flies, he body temperature of the pig can be checked by touching the ear when an unusually high temperature will be noticed.

Nose and muzzle:

  • The nose should be clean with no discharge.
  • In cattle and buffalo the muzzle should be moist not dry.
  • In sheep and goats, the nose should be cool and dry.
  • Healthy animals frequently lick their noses with their tongues.


There should be no saliva dripping from the mouth. If chewing is slow or incomplete there must be a problem with the teeth.

Appetite and feeding:

Healthy animals have good appetite for food and generally like to feed to their satisfaction. Sick animals have no appetite for food. When you notice that your animal suddenly lose appetite for food you give it. You shouldn’t take it that it is normal because it may be a sign of it beginning to fall ill.

The coat:

The coat of healthy animals should be clean, smooth and shiny and show complete cover. Signs of ill health are; the coat looks dull and hairs fall out. Cold, dry and scary skin signifies diseases. When you see your animal suddenly show symptoms of skin disorder, immediate attention should be given to the animal because when you don’t your animal hide reduces in value.

  • In short-haired animals, e.g. goat and cattle, the hair or coat of the healthy animal will be smooth and shiny.
  • Healthy cattle, buffalo and their calves lick their coat and the lick marks will show.
  • Horses should not sweat when resting.
  • In poultry, the feathers should be smooth and glossy and not ruffled.
  • In pigs a curly tail is a sign of good health while a scaly skin points to health problems.


If a horse, cow or buffalo keeps looking at its flanks or kicks at its belly it has a pain in the stomach.

Temperature, pulse rate and respiratory rate:

Every breed of farm has a specific range of body temperature, pule rate and respiratory rate that considered normal for the healthy animals. Radical deviation from these values signifies ill health. You will have to check these of your farm animal to ensure that it is physically, mentally and psychologically fit. Any deviations in these shows that your farm animal is ill.


  • Breathing should be smooth and regular at rest. Remember that movement and hot weather will increase the rate of breathing.
  • If the animal is resting in the shade it should be difficult to notice the chest moving as it breathes.


Taking the pulse is important when examining an animal. In man the pulse can be easily taken but in animals it is more difficult and requires practice.

  1. In sheep and goats, you can feel the pulse on the inside of the top of the back leg. The rate of the pulse is 70 – 130 per minute in the adult.
  2. The pulse of cattle is taken at a point on the underside of the base of the tail, the normal rate is 40 – 80 per minute in the adult. In buffalo the pulse rate is 40 – 60 per minute.
  3. The pulse of the horse is taken on the inside of the cheek. The normal rate is 35 – 40 per minute.
  4. The pulse of the camel is taken at a point on the underside of the root of the tail. The normal rate is 35 – 45 beats per minute.

Remember that the pulse will be higher in the young animal. To take the pulse you should feel for it with the first two fingers of the hand. In the llama, alpaca and the pig there is no point at which the pulse can be taken. In these animals, the beat of the heart itself must be felt for.

Droppings or Dung:

Any deviation of the faces i.e. too hard, too watery or stained with blood. Contaminated with worm segments, is an indication of ill health. When you see that your animal begins to defecate on its body it is an indication that it has a problem in its alimentary canal and immediate attention need to be given to the animal.

  • The droppings of the healthy animal will be firm. Very soft droppings (diarrhea) is a sign of ill health.
  • If the animal has difficulty in defecating (constipation) this is also a bad health sign.


The normal colour of urine is pale yellow. Much deviation like deep yellow, blood stained or cloudy urine shows ill health. When your animal show pain urinating shows that there is something wrong with its urinal system and any other colour a part from pale yellow is a sign of ill health

  • The urine should be clear and the animal show no signs of pain or difficulty in urinating.
  • Horses, mules and donkeys can have thick yellow urine which is normal.

Appetite and Rumination:

  • If feed is available, the healthy animal will have a full belly.
  • Pigs will naturally rush at their feed, if they do not something is wrong.
  • Sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and camels chew the cud (ruminate) for 6 to 8 hours each day. It is a sign of ill health when these animals stop ruminating.


  • In the milking animal, a sudden change in the amount of milk produced can mean a health problem.
  • Any sign of blood or other matter in the milk points to infection in the udder.
  • There should be no swelling of the udder and no sign of pain when it is touched. There should be no injury to the teat.


when an animal cough continuously, it shows that something is irritating its throat and you need to find out why that keeps happening. Coughing is a good sign of good health but it shouldn’t be continues cough.


Healthy animals do not show any sign of pain but when animals begins to show signs of pain by grinding of teeth, groaning. It is an indication that something is wrong with it and need to be examined immediately.

Mucous membrane:

These are the lining of various system and organs of the body, e.g. eyes, nose, anus etc. The mucous lining of healthy animals is moist. When all these places become dry the animal experiences discomfort and when noticed immediate attention should be given to the animal before it becomes very severe.

Appearance of the animal

Signs that Indicate Healthy or Unhealthy Animals

Healthy LivestockUnhealthy Livestock
Chewing cudRuminants not chewing their cud
Sleek coatRough hair coat
Bright eyes and pinkeye membrane Dull eyes
Normal feces and urineAbnormal feces and Discolored urine
Normal temperatureHigh temperature
Gait steady, no limpingLimping
Normal respirationLabored breathing/coughing
Stays in herd or flockSeparates self from herd or flock
Eats and drinks normallyLoss of appetite
ContentmentRunny nose
Normal pulse rateSwelling on any body part


Dr. Rajesh Kumar Singh

Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India
Mob No: 9431309542
Email ID: [email protected]

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