Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Sudden Death




Sudden death syndrome includes those cases found dead with no premonitory signs at last inspection, and those being treated and expected to recover that die unexpectedly. 

Isolated cases of sudden death may occur as a result of a range of sporadic conditions that may be present at low levels in any population of animals. Sudden deaths in multiple animals at the same time is of great concern and may indicate point exposure to a poison or toxin, or an outbreak of a severe infectious disease.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Determining cause requires necropsy examination. 

Diseases and conditions to be considered include hypocalcaemia, clostridial diseases (enterotoxaemia, blackleg, malignant oedema), electrocution, asphyxiation, monensin poisoning, smothering, ruminal acidosis, chronic copper poisoning, pneumonia, and bloat.


Not applicable.


There are numerous potential causes of sudden death. However, the current processes of sourcing and transporting livestock for export provide a well-established and consistent approach to ensuring that exported animals are healthy and at low risk of unexpected or sudden death.