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CountryDoc
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A 6-month old Brangus heifer calf initially was frothing at

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A 6-month old Brangus heifer calf initially was frothing at the mouth and throwing up light greenish colored rumen fluid through its nostrils and mouth. It had been left behind by the herd and was not eating when we noticed it and took it for diagnosis. The veterinarian with at least 35 years experience could not diagnose the illness. He determined there was no twine in the feces which by now was small hard pellets. He asked whether there were any old lead/acid batteries on our place- no; and whether I had been spraying with GrazonNext- yes, spot spraying individual weeds on drought stressed bermudagrass. He mentioned the possibility of rabies, but one week later the calf has not changed its disposition that is lethargic and usually holding its head in a drooping position when standing. He indicated that his machine could not do this type of blood test, but that a blood sample would have to be sent to the Vet Diagnostic Lab in College Station.

The vet treated her with a solution containing bicarbonate (Resorb, I think) into the rumen, thinking the pH might be off normal. The rectal temperature was about 1.5 degrees above normal. He injected her with 5 cc of Excenel and sent two 5 cc syringes of Excenel with me for injection over the next two days. He also gave her 25 gm Probios and sent the rest (45 gm) with me for treating her over the next 2 days. The calf improved somewhat in that she was not discharging rumen fluid, but she still would not eat. We offered her fresh hand-cut grass tips, 20% cubes, 9% CP sweet feed with additional ribbon cane syrup in it, rolled oats with ribbon cane syrup mixed into it, and several changes of fresh water in a bucket each day. On some days she drinks a bit of water, but the most liquid that she intakes is what we force feed her each evening when we attempt to give her milk replacer using a short tube and a squeeze bottle. We usually can get about a gallon of liquid into her with about one cup of milk replacer in each one-half quart of water. She has survived now for 9 days, but last evening when we walked her to the squeeze chute, she vomited several times but did not throw up the milk replacer that we gave her.

Three days ago I initiated injecting her with 20 cc doses of Dura-Pen. I reported to the vet after the first injection, and he asked me to continue this for two more days, while having me give the calf more Probios and 2 injections of 10 cc of Dexasone (2mg/ml). Today, the calf is still not interested in eating and still coughs up sputum. Its nostrils and eyes contain puss and the eyes, which appear somewhat sunken, drip water.

Do you have any idea what might be wrong with this calf and how we should treat her to get her over this sickness.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  CountryDoc replied 4 years ago.
Chat Conversation Started
CountryDoc :

Welcome to JustAnswer, this is Dr. Christie.

CountryDoc :

I would be very suspicious that the calf could have a foreign body in one of her lower stomachs.

CountryDoc :

This is one of the most common causes of vomiting in cows

CountryDoc :

Many times it is not a complete obstruction and so liquids and some materials can usually pass.

CountryDoc :

I agree with your vet about Rabies, but at 9 days, she should be practically dead!

CountryDoc :

There are also some toxic weeds that can cause vomiting

CountryDoc :

One last possibility I can think of would be a type of tumor/mass/abscess affecting the rumen and reticulum that would initiate vomiting

CountryDoc :

It could mess up the nerves affecting motility as well cause her to not to want to eat

CountryDoc :

Certainly the next best step would be to have an ultrasound done (if possible) or xray, these are the least invasive manners to see if there might be something there

CountryDoc :

If that is not available, a rumenotomy can be done to explore the rumen and see if there might be a foreign body or mass present.

CountryDoc :

I would be very suspicious of an outflow obstruction especially since she initially responded.

CountryDoc :

You can also ask your vet to run some bloodwork to check for any obvious abnormalities with the internal organs. Also the bloodwork could inidicate a possible outflow obstruction with certain values (Na, K, etc)

CountryDoc :

Hope this helps!

Customer :

The possibilities that you mention are mostly physical. Would any of these cause the puss in the eyes and nostrils? Do not these symptoms indicate some type of respiratory (virus like) problem.

Customer :

Thanks Dr. Christie! This heifer calf, if healthy and sold at an auction might bring $500. What should I be willing to spend on ultrasound, rumenotomy, blood work, etc. to determine the problem; with the chance that these might not find the answer?

Customer :

We fed milk replacer to the heifer calf earlier today than normal and the puss was gone from the eyes. The left side was extended (bloated) slightly so we gave her only one cup of milk replacer in two quarts of water, and followed with two quarts of water. This afternoon she took all this solution, although not willingly. She has still not eaten any sweet feed or rolled oats with ribbon cane syrup in it- haven't seen her eat grass, but only sniff at it. She did willingly sip a bit of water as I walked her past the trough where we were running fresh water into it.

CountryDoc :

Dehydration and fever can definitely cause mucus in the eyes and mucus in the nostrils, espcially devoid of any coughing, sneezing, etc. Also, her nose and throat are likely irritated from the vomiting she has been doing as well-it is very acidic!!

CountryDoc :

I would recommend staying away from the sweet feed and rolled oats right now!! This can certainly cause rumen acidosis especially when she is already having digestive problems. Some rolled oats is not bad, but definitely try and push roughage to get her rumen moving again

CountryDoc :

It is hard to say how much your vete will charge, each clinic has a different price range

CountryDoc :

I can tell you at the clinic I work at bloodwork is about 65, an ultrasound would be around 50-125 (depending how long ,etc), and a rumenotomy would be anywhere from 200-400 (again depending on how long it took, what we found ,etc)

CountryDoc :

If you vet has the capability, I would consider bloodwork or ultrasound, these are least invasive and less expensive than surgery for sure.

CountryDoc :

From everything you describe, it sounds like a possible foreign body to me, especially with the continued vomiting, though a toxic plant could have set it off, but should be out of her system by now. I would give your vet a call and see about running some bloodwork (make sure it includes sodium, chloride, calcium, etc) or possibly an ultrasound.

Customer :

The heifer now, for a day or so, has labored breathing with a rattle on exhalation. Does this sound like pneumonia?From about 10:30 AM Sunday morning to about 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon, she drank a two gallon bucket full of water and over Saturday night she drank almost a bucket full. However, she still is not interested in eating. Hay is available and there is plenty of green grass in the pens area that she is free to roam. She wants to lie down and does, but then a short time later is standing up like it hurts to lie on the ground.

Customer :

Before she became sick, she was nursing her mother and eating bermudagrasses and Bahia grass. She is not interested in the bermudagrass hay that I presented to her. What do you suggest that I try feeding her as a roughage?

Customer :

When I exit this chat now, I will click "Accept" and will call my vet tomorrow to discuss her condition and see if he is interested in doing further testing.

CountryDoc :

It sounds as if she may have pneumonia now, and it certainly could be secondary to aspiration of vomit.

CountryDoc :

Certainly her belly may be hurting and her chest now that it sounds like she may have pneumonia.

CountryDoc :

If it is an outflow obstruction in one of her stomachs, certainly that stomach can rupture at some point.

CountryDoc :

This can lead to peritonitis (inflammation and infection in the belly).

Customer :

Thanks for the advice. I realize that it would be much easier for you to handle this problem in person.

CountryDoc :

:-) I know! I would love to examine her myself!!

CountryDoc :

She is lucky to have someone as dedicated as you to keep her going.

CountryDoc :

You can try watering down her hay to see if it might help.

CountryDoc :

Or taking alfalfa cubes or hay cubes and soaking them to see if she would be interested.

Customer :

If her situation gets much worse and she gets even weaker, would continued testing be worth doing? An animal scientist former co-worker of mine (Ph.D. reproductive physiologist) visited yesterday and he advised putting her down and cut our losses if she isn't better in a couple of days.

CountryDoc :

I think it is realistic to consider putting her down.

CountryDoc :

Unfortunately testing may find a problem, but then we still need to rectify the problem and there is no guarantee to her getting better still.

CountryDoc :

I think if she is holding her own right now, there is no rush. Certainly if she is painful or just wasting away, then I would definitely just put her down.

CountryDoc :

We could also do the testing and still find no answer.

CountryDoc :

Like I said, I honestly would consider the bloodwork or ultrasound, they are the least expensive and least invasive and may get an answer.

CountryDoc :

Her case is a very strange and interesting one. Does she continue to vomit?

Customer :

I haven't seen her vomit in the past couple of days.

Customer :

How bad is pneumonia in cattle? Contagious to other cattle? Humans? I have been wearing nearly elbow length latex gloves and a poncho whenever we force feed her; then I come in and shower immediately, not knowing about what she has, contagious or not.

CountryDoc :

Well depending on what causes it, it can be mild to very bad. In her case, I would suspect bacterial, so getting her on strong antibiotics such as Naxcel or Nuflor would be recommended.

Customer :

Should we continue force feeding some milk replacer each evening?

CountryDoc :

In her case, I suspect secondary to aspiration from her vomit, so likely not contagious to other cattle. There are types of pneumonia that are contagious to other cattle though. Not contagious to humans.

CountryDoc :

Are you tube feeding her the replacer or how are you giving it to her?

Customer :

We are using a 2-qt squeeze bottle with a hose about 18 inches long. I hold her head up, insert the tube until I hear chewing on the hard plastic ball on the end, then try to move it away from her teeth and my wife upends the bottle and we let it drain into her mouth. With her head held up in the squeeze chute head gate, she seems to readily swallow the liquid. I have wondered about mixing some of the milk replacer in her water bucket to see if she will take it that way. By the way, she is not much bloated today. Maybe all the water she is drinking helps eliminate the bloat???

Customer :

Thanks again for your assiatance, suggestions, etc.

CountryDoc, Veterinarian
Satisfied Customers: 1494
Experience: Experienced mixed animal veterinarian
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