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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20639
Experience:  As a veterinarian, I have been educated to treat all animals, big and small.
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Beef cattle - dead calf, about 4 months of age, no visible

Customer Question

Beef cattle - dead calf, about 4 months of age, no visible marks; slightly bloated abdomen, blood from nose and mouth. Died during the night.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your situation, and wanted to help.
Now I am sorry to hear that this calf has died so suddenly but I would say that there are a number of conditions we do have to consider in his sudden demise. Now first off, if we have a calf that suddenly died and is showing signs of unclotted blood leaving the carcass from orifices (rather then wounds), then we need to give serious consideration that this could be a sign of anthrax. And as this is a serious issue for both the remaining cattle and for the safety of people, as this is a zoonotic (contagious to people) and often notifiable disease. Therefore, it would be prudent to call your vet to check this calf immediately.
The problem with having a possible anthrax positive animal is that if it is buried or mishandled, then the spores can infect the area the body has been in. The spores are very resistant and will survive in the soil for a long period of time. And if cattle continue to graze in this area (or people come in contact with the spores) there will be a continued risk of disease and death.
Otherwise, we need to consider the more common causes for a situation of this nature. So, assuming he hasn't had any recent medications and has not been vaccinated or wormed before his sudden death; our other concerns would be based in infectious agents (ie bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc) and toxins. In regards ***** ***** further to anthrax, we’d also have to consider clostridial agents like those that cause bacillary hemoglobinuria, Black’s disease, black leg. Viruses that could trigger this type of issue would include bluetongue, BVDV, and rift valley fever. And the main parasitic worries would be severe liver fluke infestation or Ehrlichia. Of course, some of these are less likely then others depending on your locale. Finally, some toxins that could trigger this and thus to check for in your facility, we’d have to be wary of plants (ie bracken, oak, etc), food contamination (ie fungal toxins, moldy sweet clover), or chemicals (ie arsenic, chlorate, antifreeze, rat bait, etc). Snakes can also be a concern, but we’d expect to see a bite present.
Finally, to further narrow this differential list, consider having the vet rule out anthrax and if that is negative a post mortem can be safely undertaken. If you speak to the vet, they may be able to perform the autopsy for you. If they cannot find an obvious cause of his death, they can collect samples to submit to the lab for the pathologists to evaluate. The pathologists will be able to examine the tissues under the microscope and determine the causative agent that lead to his death. As well, if bacterial or viral causes are suspected, these can be cultured to determine what is present and what treatments will effectively clear them. This will both give you an answer for loss, but also help you know if this is something that threatens the whole herd.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
Dr. B.
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