Eligible Conditions for the Canada and Alberta BSE Surveillance Program

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The Canada and Alberta Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance Program (CABSESP) tests cattle from 30 months of age and older that meet the Program Conditions assessed by a certified veterinarian, based on a clinical examination, history and producer records. On July 1, 2008 the CABSESP implemented a number of changes to improve its efficiency and to align with the guidelines of the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) for BSE surveillance.

Certified Veterinarians

The CABSESP requires that a clinical examination be performed in live animals and a postmortem be conducted on all dead animals before eligible samples are collected. This task, therefore, requires veterinary involvement. As a result, only veterinarians that are certified by the CABSESP can examine the animal and assess the animal/herd/producer for eligibility. In order to have consistent and clear standards within the veterinary community, the CABSESP has implemented a certification program with licensed veterinarians who signed to participate in the program. The intent of the certification program is to train veterinarians in the current eligibility criteria for the CABSESP and to implement consistently the existing rules and regulations in different situations.

Eligible Cattle

Cattle are eligible under the CABSESP, if they are located in the province of Alberta. Animals with ages equal to or greater than 30 months are eligible if the age can be verified either by credible records or by dentition, and if they fit within any of the five risk categories. For animals between 60 to 107 months, the age may be determined either by farm records, ear tags, tattoos or by the degree of wear of the incisors, which should agree with the information provided by the owner/farmer. Animals older than 107 months could be categorized as such by dentition (absence of one or more dental pieces, or wearing to the gum) consistent with the producer’s information, and/or by records.

Cattle coming from herds/farms where starvation, mismanagement or animal welfare situations are occurring are not eligible for the program. Cattle dying in groups due to management-associated reasons (3 or more animals over a period of 30 days) and other reasons not involving welfare, are also not eligible. Also, accidental deaths of animals occurring simultaneously are not eligible. The following are five (5) clinical categories that may be associated with BSE and are accepted for the CABSESP:

Animal that is 30 months or older (without upper age limit), of anybody condition score (BCS), exhibiting abnormalities in at least one of the following categories: locomotion (weakness, ataxia, change in gait, abnormal head carriage, and circling), sensation (hypersensitivity, kicking, head shyness, and blindness), or mentation (apprehension, nervousness, aggressiveness, teeth grinding, and change in behavior) that a veterinarian could directly attribute to a central nervous system (CNS) abnormality, or

Animal that is 30 months or older (without upper age limit) that would likely be deemed unfit for human consumption and/or transportation, that exhibit and/or have a history of a chronic and progressive disturbance in at least one of the following: locomotion, sensation, or mentation; has not, or is not likely to respond to treatment and the disease not been directly attributed to a CNS abnormality by a veterinarian, or

Animal that is 30 months or older (without upper age limit) and is acutely ill or injured presented for on farm emergency slaughter. Must be examined by a veterinarian, before euthanasia, or

Animal that is 30 months or older (without upper age limit) and is down or disabled, and is not likely to respond to therapy, and is unable to get up and/or walk without assistance, or

Animal that is 30 months or older (without upper age limit) and is found dead.

Rabies and Classical BSE Suspects

  • Rabies suspects are now to be reported to the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian at 1-844-427-6847.
  • A Rabies Veterinarian will take the case, will fill in a rabies submission form and send it back to the private veterinarian. The Private veterinary practitioner should fill in a provincial BSE surveillance (CABSESP) application form and have it signed off by the producer. Also, the private veterinarian should contact a CFIA District Veterinarian, who will fill in a national BSE surveillance form. Then, the private veterinarian will collect the whole head and will deliver it for testing to the CFIA laboratory in Lethbridge, accompanied by the rabies form, and the provincial and national BSE surveillance forms. If the sample tests negative for rabies, then it qualifies to be tested under the CABSESP and the producer and veterinarian will be reimbursed.
  • Classical BSE suspects (cattle showing three or more different neurological signs), independent of age, must be referred to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for testing under the National BSE Surveillance Program by contacting a CFIA District Veterinarian, who will fill in a national BSE surveillance form. Certified veterinarians must fill in a Non-Submission form and send it back to the CABSESP to be reimbursed for the farm visit and mileage.
  • Not eligible are cattle affected by starvation, malnutrition due to neglect or mismanagement. Also, not eligible are those cattle that are subject of an animal welfare investigation, or were euthanized directly by the owner without allowing a previous assessment by a certified veterinarian.
  • Not eligible: Animals dying in groups as a result of an obvious or known cause.
Eligible Sample

An eligible sample is the brainstem; the sample may be moderately decomposed as long as its morphology allows for identification of the obex by laboratory personnel, and must not be damaged by the euthanasia, or the collection process.

Eligible Applicant

An eligible applicant is an Alberta taxpayer having lawful possession of the animal and providing adequate food, water, shelter, and veterinary care (if required) to the animal. The applicant is not eligible if he/she is under investigation for animal welfare issues, or has used the carcass for human or animal food.

The following table lists some examples of common conditions presented to veterinarians and information about whether or not they qualify under the CABSESP.

Does it Qualify? Qualify or Not?

ConditionCriteria for Eligibility
Post-surgical deathAre now eligible if they qualify within any of the 5 categories
Obstetrical conditions and calving injuries leading to sick, downer or dead animals
  • Prolapsed uterus
  • Dystocia
  • Retained placenta
  • Vaginal or rectal prolapse
  • Emphysematous fetus
  • Uterine tear/rupture
  • Hydropic fetus
  • Non deliverable calf
These conditions are now eligible providing that they qualify within any of the 5 categories.
General conditions
  • Cancer eye
  • Foot rot
  • Lump jaw
Might be eligible depending on the history and clinical signs as per the certified veterinarian assessment.
DownersDowners may be eligible immediately if in the opinion of the certified veterinarian, they are not responding, or not likely to respond to therapy.
Unexpected massive deaths
  • Poisoning Disease outbreak
  • Starvation
  • Lightning
  • Drowning
  • Car/barn accidents, etc
Do not qualify. When a larger than usual number of, otherwise healthy animals, die in a short period of time by accidental, nutritional, toxic or infectious causes.
Herd conditions
  • Johne’s disease
  • Mastitis
  • Lameness/arthritis
  • Grass tetany
  • Bloat
When the animal, or group of animals, come from a herd that has a recognized ongoing problem as main cause of its clinical condition, such as Johne's or continuous mastitis episodes due to management issues, then the animal/herd does not qualify. An exception to this rule occurs when an animal is not affected by the herd condition, but it has signs suggesting BSE, then it is eligible.

Individual cases coming from herds that have not been previously recognized with this condition are eligible.
EmaciationThis condition, in the absence of any other sign, does not qualify.

This list will be amended as other conditions are brought to our attention. If you would like to suggest a condition, please contact Dr. Hernan Ortegon, Program Veterinarian with the Animal Health Branch.


Food Safety and Animal Health Division
Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Hernan Ortegon.
This document is maintained by Sandra Clarke.
This information published to the web on January 20, 2010.
Last Reviewed/Revised on August 18, 2014.