Significant Disease Investigation Program

Page last updated: Friday, 14 October 2022 - 5:39pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Western Australia is free of most of the significant diseases that affect animals in other parts of the world. Ongoing surveillance is vital to ensure early detection of animal diseases that might impact on trade, regional or national animal health productivity, public health or the environment. The Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) Program boosts WA’s capacity for early detection of such diseases by subsidising the cost of investigating diseases with specific signs. This encourages veterinarians and producers to carry out a thorough investigation to obtain an early diagnosis.

Subsidies available for veterinarians

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD) provides a subsidy of $330 (GST inclusive) to private veterinarians for an initial field and laboratory investigation of significant disease incidents in livestock and wildlife approved under the SDI Program.

For disease investigations approved under the SDI Program, DPIRD waives all laboratory costs and provides a travel subsidy for a maximum of 200 kilometres.

What is a significant disease?

The SDI program has been introduced to increase the number of thorough disease investigation submissions where animals show signs of significant disease. DPIRD will not approve investigations for routine herd health checks that a private veterinarian would carry out as part of their normal service.

SDI criteria for livestock cases

For livestock cases to be eligible for the SDI Program, they must:

  • be cattle, sheep, goats or pigs
  • have multiple animals affected (but this is flexible in cases of potentially reportable diseases)
  • be from a commercial herd/flock (at least 50 sheep or goats; or at least 20 pigs; or at least 10 cattle, but there is flexibility in cases of potentially reportable diseases)
  • include the following characteristics:
    • an unusual disease incident, including high illness and death rates and/or rate of spread or
    • visible signs consistent with a reportable disease without a clear alternative diagnosis or
    • potential effect on trade, public health or the viability of a farm, industry or region.

SDI criteria for horse cases

  • incidents where horses are showing;

    • Neurologic disease characterised by ataxia (including stumbling, staggering, wobbly gait, or incoordination)
    • Neurologic disease without ataxia, characterised by two or more of the following: Facial paralysis, Muscle tremors/fasciculation, Hyperaesthesia, Circling, Blindness, Recumbency or inability to stand, Hind limb weakness, Multiple limb paralysis, Altered mental state, Hypermetria, Depression
    • Unexplained systemic illness with transient fever, anorexia, lethargy, and congested and jaundiced mucous membranes.

SDI criteria for wildlife cases

For wildlife cases to be considered for the SDI program, they must be:

  • an unusual disease incident, including high illness and death rates and/or rate of spread or
  • incidents where animals are showing neurological signs.

Note: where there is a high level suspicion of a reportable disease, DPIRD will lead the investigation. If you suspect a reportable disease, immediately contact your local DPIRD veterinary officer or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Procedure for significant disease investigations

When a case consistent with the significant disease investigation criteria occurs, the private veterinarian must contact their local DPIRD veterinary officer to seek approval to include the case in the SDI Program and discuss samples to submit for the investigation.

DPIRD can only pay for significant disease investigations when:

  • a DPIRD veterinarian authorised the investigation
  • the private veterinarian has submitted a fully completed laboratory submission form to DPIRD Diagnostic Laboratory Services (DDLS) - animal pathology, including the property identification code (PIC)
  • the private veterinarian has submitted a full or appropriate set of samples to DDLS - animal pathology.

To qualify for the subsidy, practitioners must have prior phone or email authorisation from their local DPIRD veterinary officer. In extenuating circumstances where a veterinarian was unable to gain authorisation before carrying out the investigation, they may contact their local DPIRD veterinarian to assess whether retrospective approval may be granted.

Laboratory submission

Thorough disease investigations are critical to the success of the SDI Program. The key mechanism for recording the investigations is the DDLS - animal pathology laboratory submission form. See the Document links at right to download a copy of the form.

Complete all sections of the laboratory submission form including the history and postmortem findings, and details of the specimens submitted. Provide the PIC and the owner’s full name, including the trading name if applicable, physical address and telephone contact details.

The completed laboratory submission form and SDI Program veterinarian claim form must be submitted to DDLS - animal pathology following completion of the field investigation.

Livestock Biosecurity contacts

See the Livestock Biosecurity program webpage for a list of contacts. 

Contact information

Anna Erickson
+61 (0)8 9881 0211