Spotted something unusual?

If you see any unusual symptoms in your fish, birds or livestock play it safe and report it immediately. Don’t worry about how insignificant it may be—small signs may be an early indication of a serious disease problem.

Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline - 1800 675 888


Report pests and diseases

photo of someone reporting a disease outbreak by phone

If you've spotted something unusual in your animals you can report it to: 

  • the 24 hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on freecall 1800 675 888
  • your local veterinarian
  • the nearest Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture.

Remember – the sooner we can contain an outbreak, the less chance it has to spread.

What information will I need to provide?

Upon contacting your vet or Department of Primary Industries, you will need to provide some basic information that will assist in determining the most appropriate course of action - this could include:

  • what pest or disease is suspected on the property?
  • (if not you) the name of the owner and/or farm manager
  • full address and telephone number of the property
  • types (eg. sheep and cattle) and approximate numbers of animals on the property (including feral animals)
  • the type of animals that are affected (eg. only cattle?)
  • brief description of clinical signs and any lesions observed
  • date when you first noticed these signs
  • approximate numbers of sick or dead animals
  • whether any susceptible animals have recently left or been brought onto the property.

What to look for in animals

Always keep an eye out for unusual symptoms that can include:


Graphic: Spot the risk - piglet ad

Graphic: Look. Check. Ask a Vet. Hotline logo

  • unexplained deaths
  • sores or ulcers on the feet or in the mouth (a reluctance to eat or move)
  • excessive salivation (drooling should always be treated suspiciously)
  • reduction in the in the yield of milk from cows, and eggs from chickens
  • any kind of discharge - diarrhoea - especially if it has blood in it.  Excessive nasal discharge is also something you should report unless you know what has caused it.

Look out for staggering or head drooping or severe lameness, especially if it's more than one animal at the same time.

Less dramatic signs should also be watched such as animals not eating properly and animals that are depressed and don’t respond the way they should. 

Poultry and other birds

  • swollen heads
  • dullness
  • drop in egg production, increase in percentage of thin-shelled eggs
  • respiratory distress
  • diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite (reduced feed consumption)
  • sudden death or increase in mortality rate.

Aquatic animals

  • unexplained mortality
  • decreased feeding
  • gathering at water edge or surface
  • scraping against rocks, jumping into the air
  • whirling or corkscrew swimming
  • molluscs gaping
  • physical abnormalities

What to do during an animal disease outbreak

In the event of an outbreak (sometimes referred to as an incursion) remember to cooperate with your local Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture—they are there to help you and have well-tested response plans in place to deal with such incursions.

If there is a suspected or confirmed disease outbreak the following biosecurity measures should be adhered to:

  • do not move fish, livestock or birds onto, or off the property (apply a stock standstill)
  • isolate suspected fish, livestock or birds in well fenced paddocks, yards, buildings, pens, aquaria or cages
  • some diseases are air-borne so keep your stock away from the boundary of your property
  • avoid the unnecessary movement of people and vehicles on and off the farm
  • clean and disinfect any gear or equipment that has been in contact with suspect animals.

Some diseases can be easily carried on people's clothing, hats, hair and footwear. Before having contact with other animals outside your property, change into clean clothes and footwear; wash your hands with soap and water; and blow your nose. Sometimes it may be necessary to have a shower and wash your hair before leaving the property. 

Related links

List of notifiable diseases (diseases you must report)
Biosecurity (protect your animals and plants from pests and disease)
Outbreak website - national pest and disease outbreaks