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Dr Chris
Dr Chris, Veterinarian
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 49
Experience:  Registered General Practioner
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My neighbor (the ) has a cow who tried to have her first

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My neighbor (the idiot) has a cow who tried to have her first calf 3 days ago. It was a breech presentation, and he let her have it that way(again, he's and idiot)(sorry, I'm furious with the man). the calf was born dead. The cow did not at the time of the birth completely evacuate the afterbirth sac. He left her there from mid afternoon until the next morning (we are in Alabama, about 3 miles from the Tennessee River. It's been in the 90's, the willow flies are hatching, and there are mosquitoes that can carry off a goat).
She won't get up. He's moved her-we roll her a couple of times a day. she IS laying on her stomach. she has had water and hay and electrolyte supplement for goats(It was what he could get). Her eyes are clear and she does prefer one side to the other and she doesn't like us pushing her about, but she's not been handled much. She has had bowel movements close to normal color and consistency.
Her back legs don't seem to want to work right. Her anus is swollen and her vagina needs the grass and such at least rinsed off, but she's not prolapsed and there isn't any blood apparent in either. I couldn't tell about her urine.
I'm certain she could stand a shot of penicillin. I think I remember that sometimes after calving, the cow requires a shot of calcium or something like that if she won't get up, especially if she loses the calf, but I'm not certain I'm remembering right, I've no idea how I'd check, and honestly, he nor any of us can afford a vet bill right now. He's applying for disability and has no income (he's in his early 50's and was a Union Boilermaker and ruined his back and neck; I've seen the MRI and X-rays), his mother is 74, I'm on disability and a single mom.
What do we do? What CAN we do?(Besides stripe HIM with a hickory switch for pure stupidity-the first time I helped turn a calf I was 11 years old, and I've worked for 2 veterinarians, and the Idiot didn't ask for help then, NO, and don't listen to the 74 year old woman who was farm raised also for advice.... I'm mad at him).
We can't even get a vet to her until Monday and its twice as much when they have to come out. what do we do?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Hi there. My name is***** to hear that your neighbour's cow is in such a sticky situation. I will do my best to help with your question. I fully sense your frustrations with your neighbour and the cow's management so far. I am currently typing up my thoughts for you, but you should expect my response in the next 5-10 minutes.

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

First I have a few questions to help me better understand your situation.

1) Do you know if the cow has been showing​ any signs of nervousness, unusual excitement or twitching?
2) Is she currently appearing depressed, dull or weak? Or is her mentation seemingly normal?
3) Has she been making efforts to rise and having difficulty, or is she not trying at all?
4) Has she been keen to eat the hay offered to her, or does she seem inappetant?

5) Do you know if the afterbirth was ever evacuated since the birth? Is there any discharge from her vulva?
6) Was this her first calving?

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

You are remembering your calving days with some accuracy. :)

There are a number of different possible disease syndrome that immediately come to mind based on your description of her presentation. The treatments for each vary significantly so, as I'm sure you'll understand having worked for vets, it is difficult to say exactly what treatment is required without a accurate diagnosis. It is also tricky to make a diagnosis over this format, without being able to examine the animal.

The short answer is that the cow needs the local vet soon (or 3 days ago), but I know you have your hands tied there. I will try to cover the most likely and common problems that might be affecting this cow. I hope it will at least help you convince your neighbour of the urgency of the situation.

The first condition is retained foetal membranes (RFM), which is when the placenta does not pass, or pass completely. When his occurs, the uterus is at great risk of becoming infected as the membranes become putrid and allow bacteria to grow inside her. In most cases, the membranes are passed in the first 8-12hrs. So anything longer than that is considered to be RFM. The inflammation and infection of the uterus that results from RFM is called metritis. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications are usually required. In severe cases, the uterine infection spreads to other parts of the body once it enters the bloodstream. This is sepsis, or septicaemia (bacteria in the blood).

The second possibility is that the breach birthing has resulted in some injury to the cow herself. Sometimes, when the calf is either large, or presented in an unusual direction, it (particularly its legs) can damage the birth canal. In the worse cases, the calf can kick through the wall of the uterus and/or the rectus, creating a hole that communicates with the rest of the abdomen. This type of injury requires surgical intervention, pain relief, and usually antibiotics.

If the cow is unable to rise, and is showing any unusually neurological signs such as twitching, tremoring or weird behaviour, there may be a metabolic imbalance in play. The most common two problems that occur at this time (around calving) are low blood calcium (hypocalcemia), and low blood magnesium (hypomagnesemia). Both of these result in weakness, since they are required for nerves and muscles to function properly. Be careful if you see signs of aggression. This can be seen with low magnesium, and can make the cow very dangerous. Treatment is through IV administration of calcium and/or magnesium to replenish what is critically low (through a drip together with IV fluids). It may be possible to obtain calcium (as calcium gluconate) for subcutaneous injection in feed stores, but it is usually not effective due to poor absorption.

Glucose may also be low if she has endured a long, tiring birthing, or has not been willing/able to eat since. Treatment may therefore also include IV glucose in the drip. If you can get her to keep eating, this will likely help with restoring blood glucose levels.

Lastly, it would be ideal to have a vet perform a rectal exam to rule out the possibility that there is another calf that she has not been able to pass. If there is a second calf, it will be dead by now, but it still needs to come out. This would cause illness in a similar way to RFM (but with some 40-50kg more "material" inside to cause a problem as it putrifies inside). Unfortunately, there is no way to know if it is there without an exam.

I sincerely ***** ***** neighbour gets his cow seen to sooner rather than later. If he ends up deciding not to have her seen for whatever reason, it might be worthwhile discussing with him the possibility of putting her down to end her suffering. You might be able to find a vet or local animal welfare officer, that can come out and put her to sleep for relatively little cost (possibly no cost). Or some farmers would do this themselves with a shotgun, which is not unkind if done properly.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear Dr,Thank you. I am just about to walk out there and see how she is. My daughter and I just got home last night from spending the weekend with relatives.I'm amazed i remembered so much lol. The first time I to help turn a breech calf, it was pouring rain in late March, about 2-3 am, and I was 11 years old. I got the flu, a broken rib and 2 cracked spare ribs, and a lovely white face heifer.I can scrub and do a general exam-check for another calf, and for certain injuries. I can put an IV in a cat's paw, I reckon I can find a vein on a cow. One of the vets I worked for no longer does large animal, but he knows me and he does still keep certain supplies for the large animals.
She was eating and had drunk water. She was alert although not very pleased with our rolling her onto her other side. She's not aggressive, but I'm the only one who's petted her at all and the bull is young and still wants to play so I'm having to teach him how and I haven't been able to do much with them, but she was rolling eyes and threw her head up and butted her head up at my hand when I scratched her poll like she usually does.
It was her hind legs she didn't seem to want to use. She wasn't pawing with the front ones, but she'd push herself onto her stomach and back onto her other side twice, but I wasn't watching she did it.
I know she needs cleaned up and likely out. But I'm not sure about how to do that to her, especially if she's up now.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She's not up. The afterbirth did come out like it should within the time but she's having trouble urinating from what he said. He has given her penicillin.
I told him to make her some oatmeal with honey and start pouring water in her, and to keep moving each of her limbs Everytime he makes her move.
There wasn't any blood in her feces and her uterus is in place. I reminded him to check for another calf and to holler if he needs help.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Farm life, hey! You just don't forget.

Usually, for hypoglycaemia, 400 ml of 40% sterile calcium borogluconate solution is given into the vein slowly.

Another possibly is that one of the nerves that sits in the birth canal has been compressed or damaged during the difficult calving. The nerves most common affected are the obturator nerve (which allows her to stand and hold her legs together at the normal distance), the sciatic nerves (which control flexion and extension in each leg) or the spinal origin of the sciatic nerves. Usually, this is seen as a cow that cannot rise at all, or frogsits, or stands with the hindlimbs too far apart. The management is a combination of medical treatment with anti-inflammatories, and physical support (including slings to lift her and hobbles to help keep the hindlegs from slipping apart).

​It would really be worthwhile getting a cattle vet out to have a look at this point. A few more days have gone past and I'm afraid that her prognosis is not looking too good. It's good that you are helping her muscles by rolling her, but with a 400kg+ animal, there's a high risk of severe muscle damage after being down for so long.

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

I hope I’ve provided the information you were seeking. If not, please let me know so l can continue to help you.

If you are happy with my service, please provide a rating at the top of this page. Otherwise the website will not reimburse me for my time, and will keep your full payment. Thank you.

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?


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