Deer Diseases 

Deer Diseases 

Hunters are becoming more conscious that they face health consequences associated with interacting with native animals, and that particular security precautions are required. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has issued the following recommendations regarding specific health issues associated with predation in North America and other parts of the world. This report is not intended to deter people from hunting; rather, it is intended to educate hunters about the dangers they face and the actions they can take to mitigate those risks.

Contagious diseases can be spread to hunters and their dogs not just by infected animals, but also through insect vectors and polluted soil and water. 

Zoonotic diseases (pronounced ZO-oh-NOT-ik or zoo-NOT-ik) are diseases which are transferred from animals to people via close interaction with a living creature or a polluted surface or water, consumption of animal foods (such as flesh and milk), or insect transfer from an animal. 

Vectors include insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, and mites, which are competent for transmitting infection out of an infected animal to another mammal or an individual.

White-tailed deer are prone to a wide range of infections, parasites, and injuries. Whereas these circumstances do not cause a significant portion of yearly nationwide deer death (usually below 5%), disease or parasite epidemics can have a local or national influence on a deer herd.

Pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and aberrant proteins such as pathogens can carry disease disorders in deer. In rare cases, these infections create disease outbreaks that cause high death in the native community. These breakouts are particularly prevalent in herds with a significant deer population, which could accelerate disease propagation.

Thankfully, illness and parasite breakouts rarely affect the quality of venison or render it unfit for human consumption.

This article provides a description of the illnesses, parasites, and injuries that could afflict free-roaming white-tailed deer.

Diseases of Deer 

Viral diseases

Hemorrhagic disease

Hemorrhagic disease is a contagious disease that affects white-tailed deer, with epidemics on a sporadic basis. Hemorrhagic disease (HD) is caused by the pathogens epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue (BTV). These diseases are quite comparable and cause symptoms related to deer.

Numerous deer life forms, such as the white-tailed, mule, and black-tailed deer, are vulnerable to HD viruses. When afflicted, regional ruminants like cattle and goats display hardly a or only minor illness. Domestic sheep, on the other hand, can become seriously ill if afflicted with the bluetongue virus.

Because HD is spread by biting midges of the belonging to the family Culicoides, epidemics generally happen between August and October, when moths are most prevalent. Even though deer carcasses break down rapidly and are ingested by foragers, the disease could go unobserved in the forest. 

Some afflicted deer don’t always exhibit any signs at all, while others could die within the first 3 days. Fever, excessive salivary flow, bulging neck, tongue, or eyelids, sloughed or interrupted hoof development, functional decline, and muscle atrophy are usual signs (significant weight loss). 

Sick deer are frequently found close to the water as they are sick. Even so, most deer that contract HD die instantly even though they lack the antibodies required to combat the illness, unlike deer in the southeast.

The intensity and dispersion of HD are extremely variable. Because of multiple connections among individuals, that enable diseased midges to spread from one deer to the other, rising deer herds may have higher rates of mortality. 

The disease’s occurrence has varied from a few isolated mild forms to large-scale outbreaks. Throughout these epidemics, fatality rates are typically less than 20%; even so, damages of up to 50% have been recorded.

Not all diseased deer will succumb to HD. The sluffing, or cast and new growth of the hoof is the primary classic symptom that a deer has lived the disease. 

These deer are free from disease, and the hoof’s sluffing is merely a symptom of the disease. Deer may create blisters on their mouths, dental pads, or the interiors of their face in some cases. Depending on the degree of the serious infection, their general fitness and situation will range from superb to poor.

Managing or ingesting deer meat from an afflicted deer poses no risk to humans. Eating deer meat that has been retrieved from the illness postures no health risk. Even so, deer may have established secondary infections with bacteria as a result of HD and therefore be unable to be eaten. If you come across a dead animal and the reason for its death is unknown, contact your local conservation agent.

Cutaneous fibromas

Cutaneous fibromas are blister masses due to a virus that typically enters deer via an infected sore or traumatic injury. These bumps can encompass huge areas of the body, although they are often tiny, happen as single or several expansions, and vary in size from a portion of an inch to a few inches. 

Fibromas are more prevalent in bucks due to their greater prone to get injuries during battling or scratching antlers.

While they may be hideous in look, fibromas are normally harmless to deer until they impede a deer’s vision or capacity to feed. Some feral or domesticated animals, as well as people, are not infected by the virus.

 Since fibromas are limited to the skin, they are eliminated when the deer is prepared for food. As a result, they have no effect on or influence on the superiority of the meat.

Bacterial diseases

Brain abscesses

Brain lesions are diseases caused by bacteria in the brain and head. Brain hematomas in white-tailed deer also are common in bucks (90 % of instances) and are frequently weather dependent, owing to a phase of antler growth and competing. 

Diseases on the skull close to the posterior aspect can grow throughout antler drop (casting) or seriously compete with other bucks, culminating in a cerebral haemorrhage.

Brain abscesses are believed to be responsible for almost 10 per cent of fully grown buck’s normal death rates in the southeastern states. Poor coordination, buzzing motions, loss of vision, tiredness (substantial low energy), and emaciation are all signs of illness.

Human ingestion is not permitted of the flesh of a deer with a brain abscess.

The Lyme disease

Lyme disease is triggered by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is dispersed by specific insect vectors. The black-legged tick (deer tick) seems to be the primary carrier of Lyme disease. Despite the fact that deer and other animals can represent hosts for these insect vectors, they would not spread the disease.

The disease life cycle and disease transfer path begins in the early summer, once tick eggs enclosure into larvae. The larvae feed on a variety of host organisms during warmer months, such as mice, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and white-tailed deer. 

The larvae develop into nymphs in the fall. The nymphs stay warm during the winter. During the summer months, the nymphs are energetic and chose to eat mice, that behave as the disease’s aquifer (an immunologic host).

There are currently no proven instances of humans procuring Lyme disease from controlling or eating deer meat. 

Chronic wasting disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is one of several diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs are responsible for brain degenerative changes in deer, elk, and moose. As of 1967, the disorder was already recorded in free-roaming and slave white-tailed deer, elk, and moose in many nations.

CWD-infected deer exhibit signs such as altered natural behaviour, anorexia, excessive salivation, tiredness, tripping, and muscle spasms. The disorder will always be life-threatening to the animal’s body, but signs may not seem to be for months or years. Just a lab investigation of an animal’s nervous system or lymph node tissue can verify the diagnosis.

The most dangerous health conditions for the dispersion of CWD into new places are the action and transit of held in captivity wildlife, hunter-harvested deer, or carcasses. Daily physical activity of free-roaming deer could also make a contribution to disease dispersal.

Once formed, CWD propagates via animal-to-animal or ground touch. Sadly, CWD can live for a long time in its environment. Eating and the placing of mineral resources or salt, for example, are actions that are frustrating even though either direct or indirect interaction at all these places can endorse the spread of the virus.

CWD has a clustered allocation on the terrain that is centred on the spot of advent. One strategic approach which may assist prevent the spread of CWD within a community is aimed at poaching deer near CWD-positive areas. Furthermore, reducing the unusual accumulation of deer at eating and nutrient locations can decrease the likelihood of CWD dispersion.

Chronic wasting disorder is not regarded as a public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is an indication that CWD can infect humans. There isn’t any indication that CWD can be transmitted with an animal’s body to farm animals including sheep or cattle. 


Arterial worms

White-tailed deer arteries are home to aortic worms. When diseased horseflies bite deer, they contract arterial worms. Infections may cause food to become lodged under the tongue, exacerbating enlarged lymph nodes, loss of teeth, and lower jaw deterioration.

Deer afflicted with a limited number of worms, on the other hand, will not display signs. Arterial worms are not dangerous to humans, and afflicted deer meat is safe for eating.


Lungworms, as the names imply, contaminate the lungs. Just deer to serious lungworm illnesses display signs such as anorexia, breathing difficulties (difficulty breathing), and tiredness. In rising deer-dense areas, lungworm infection is common in fawns. 

The existence of this pathogen adds to the case for keeping deer population levels under a region’s biomedical capacity. Lungworms pose no danger to humans, and diseased deer meat is harmless to consume.



White-tailed deer have been infected by 18 different insect vectors. The lone star, black-legged (deer tick), and American dog ticks are the three most prevalent species of deer.

Like most instances, tick-infected deer cause no symptoms, and tick diseases very seldom are fatal. Deer with serious tick pathogens, in contrast, hand, may encounter itchy skin all around the tick site, loss of weight, and nosocomial infection. Serious tick diseases can also cause dehydration.

Ticks can also harm another biodiversity, domestic farm animals, and humans. People are vulnerable to tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. Utilize the following preventive measures once managing and handling diseased deer to reduce your tick visibility:

  • Enable the deer carcass to hold for day 3 to permit the ticks to fall off.
  • Put on latex gloves.
  • To reduce your visibility, apply tick bug spray to your attire.
  • From being outside, take a bath and inspect your skin for ticks.

Mange (Demodectic)

The mange mite causes white-tailed deer demodectic scabies. Whereas most deer will not display mange signs, the few that do will display baldness, epidermis bulging, and tiny mucus lesions. 

Mange is mainly transmitted via interaction with an infected deer or its surroundings. Mange, on the other hand, has no effect on herd health and isn’t a problem for humans. Because mange infections are restricted to the surface, afflicted deer meat is safe to consume by humans.

Nasal bots

Nasal bot flies (Cephenemyia spp.) are prevalent parasites found in deer nasal cavities. Squirrels and rabbits are also infected. These pathogens are most commonly discovered by taxidermists whereas gearing up heads for mounting, but hunters may also come across them.

Adult female creatures lay small larvae in deer nasal passages. The larvae access the nasal cavity and develop and mature thru many phases. When the deer sneezes, they are released from the nasal cavity. They then develop into a pupa before emerging as adult flies.

Nasal bots, despite being quite huge (up to 11/2 inches in length) and unsightly in their ultimate levels of growth, induce slight harm to deer and don’t infect people. They also have no effect on meat freshness.

Deer Injuries

Hunters will sometimes reap injured deer. Injuries can occur as a result of hunter-inflicted injuries, deer-vehicle collisions, or events involving fences or agricultural implements. The majority of these injury problems recover without complications, but they can every so often cause inflammation that results in dead cells and pus within and around the scar.

Even though localised diseases or abscesses resulting from an accident do not affect overall deer well-being, they can compromise local meat safeness. If an abscess is found, it must be removed. If it was cut or omitted by mishap and matter disclosed onto healthy skin and meat, which is deemed hazardous and must be cut out too.


Infections caused by infections and pathogens account for a small portion of yearly deer deaths. Predators and landholders, on the other hand, must be aware of the potential signs, and hunters who eat deer meat must be capable of recognizing symptoms of disease when field-dressing and handling deer. If you come across a deer with an obvious illness or that appears abnormal, contact your Department of Conservation.

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