Challenging cases in cattle medicine (Proceedings)


You are presented with a 9 day old Holstein-Friesian heifer calf with a chief complaint of diarrhea of four days duration.

This hour of lecture will focus on the art and science of veterinary practice in the context of clinical cases. The following cases will be "worked-up" throughout the hour discussion. Some case history, exam findings, and some of the relevant lab work is presented below.

Case 1

You are presented with a 9 day old Holstein-Friesian heifer calf with a chief complaint of diarrhea of four days duration. The owner reports that the animal is an embryo-transfer calf which was delivered by an Angus cow. Following birth, the calf was fed frozen colostrum and has been on milk replacer since. The owner began administered oral electrolytes twice a day a few hours after milk replacer feeding, beginning on day 1 of the diarrhea. No improvement was noted for the next 2 days. On day 3 the owner became concerned about pneumonia and administered enrofloxacin. Excenel was given on day 4 (this morning). The owner reports that the calf's stools are firmer, but it is more lethargic today.

The calf is depressed, but responsive. Her heart rate is 104 bpm, respiratory rate is 14, and temperature is 102.4F. On physical examination, yellow diarrhea staining was noted on the perineum and on the tail. Mildly harsh lung sounds were ausculted bilaterally. Dehydration was estimated to be 6-7%.

Case 2

You are presented with a 9 day old mixed breed calf with a chief complaint of severe watery diarrhea and weakness. The calf was purchased 2 days prior at a sale barn for $80. The calf was strong, suckling vigorously with no evidence of diarrhea at the time of purchase. Yesterday the calf had a weak suckle and loose stool. Today the feces is watery and the calf can't suckle or stand, even with assistance. This calf is one of 20 calves. The calves are group housed in 5 animal/pen groups. The calves are fed a milk based protein milk replacer (2 quarts BID) and ad lib calf starter. The calves are weaned at 8 weeks of age and fed out on the premises.

The calf is recumbent and nonresponsive. Temperature is 95.8F, respiratory rate is 20 bpm, and heart rate is 68 bpm. The heart rhythm is irregular and pauses are ausculted. Cervical skin tent is prolonged and the eyes are recessed approximately 4mm into the orbit. The umbilicus is enlarged and slightly painful on palpation. A severe watery yellow diarrhea is present.

Case 3

You are presented with an 8 year old beef bull with a history of chronic weight loss. Approximately 3 months prior the bull was down and unwilling/unable to rise. He was treated with oxytetracycline 9mg/lb under the skin every 3rd day for 4 treatments for suspected anaplasmosis. Since treatment he has slowly taken off weight despite intermittent antibiotic therapy with florfenicol, tilmicosin, and penicillin. His appetite seems decreased, but he does eat.

On physical examination the bull has a body condition score 2/9. Temperature is 100.4F, heart rate is 80 bpm, and respiratory rate is 24 bpm. Despite the poor body condition the bull has a full appearance to his abdomen. No intestinal pings are present and there is some mild secussable fluid present on the right side. No fluid wave is appreciated in the abdomen.

Case 4

You are presented with a 4 year old mixed breed bull for decreased feed intake of 3 days duration. The bull has been out on pasture with once daily grain supplementation (minimal amount). The bull was purchased 2 years previously and has been healthy since purchase. He is vaccinated annually with a modified live IBR/BVD/PI3/BRSV with lepto/vibrio, blackleg, and pinkeye.

On physical examination the bull is alert and responsive. His temperature is 102.7F, heart rate is 100 bpm, and respiratory rate is 36 bpm. His cervical skin tent is prolonged and his eyes are recessed 3 mm into the orbit. There is mild abdominal distention present. A ping can be heard on the right side under the ribs extending from the 13 rib to the 10th intercostal space. Secussable fluid is also present.

Suggested Reading

Russell KE and Roussel AJ. Evaluation of the ruminant serum chemistry profile. Vet Clin Food Anim 2007; 23(3):403-426.

Jones ML and Allison RW. Evaluation of the ruminant complete blood cell count. Vet Clin Food Anim 2007; 23(3):377-402.

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