BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle, and has been called “mad cow disease.” Its symptoms are similar to “scrapie,” a brain disease that occurs in sheep.

Cattle affected by BSE experience progressive degeneration of the nervous system. Affected animals may display changes in temperament, such as nervousness or aggression, abnormal posture, incoordination and difficulty in rising, decreased milk production, or loss of body weight despite continued appetite. Affected cattle die. There is neither any treatment nor a vaccine to prevent the disease.

The incubation period (the time from when an animal becomes infected until it first shows disease signs) is from 2 to 8 years. Following the onset of clinical signs, the animal’s condition deteriorates until it either dies or is destroyed. This process usually takes from 2 weeks to 6 months. Most cases in Great Britain have occurred in dairy cows between 3 and 6 years of age.

Learn more about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopahty.