top of page

Moos News

Ketosis Diagnosis and Treatment

Every so often, it is good to review the treatment of common diseases. Ketosis has now become the #1 metabolic disease of dairy cattle, far surpassing milk fever and acidosis. In fact, an Ontario study found that 43% of cows were affected by ketosis in early lactation.


The earlier you find a cow with ketosis, the more likely she is to be cured and to remain in the herd. There are only two good ways to easily and reliably find cows with ketosis. The first is with the milk Keto-Test strips that we have been using for many years. The second is with the blood ketone test, called the Precision Xtra. If you are only using:

  • the smell of the breath, 

  • decreased milk production,

  • or the cow’s lack of appetite

to find ketotic cows, you are diagnosing a large proportion of cows much too late and only after they have “clinical” ketosis.


Subclinical ketosis still has significant effects on milk production and reproduction.


The treatment of ketosis has been the subject of a review by a University of Guelph researcher, Jessica Gordon. Through her review of all the studies that have ever assessed ketosis treatment, she has given her verdict on the value of the following treatments:

  • Glycol – YES

  • Vitamin B12 – YES



Glycol should be given orally, once a day for a minimum of 3 days. We would recommend treatment until the Keto-test strip is no longer positive. It is good to test the cow again once or twice a week until you are sure she no longer has the disease. If she remains ketotic for more than 3 days, remember to examine her for other diseases such as a displaced abomasum (LDA), metritis, or pneumonia.


Vitamin B12 is also recommended for a period of 3-5 days. It serves as both an appetite stimulant and as a cofactor in glucose production by the liver.


Dextrose is not necessary in most cases of ketosis. In fact, it may cause further appetite depression by tricking the brain into thinking blood glucose levels are normal. However, it may be a useful treatment for cows which are very purple on the Keto-test strip or cows which test over 3.0 umol/L on the Precision Xtra. In these situations, it should only be given once, on the first day of treatment.


Ketosis No No’s!

  • Moving cows within 3-9 days of calving

  • Mixing heifers and cows in the close up group

  • Bunk space < 30 inches per cow in dry pen

  • High protein diets in the fresh period

  • Fresh cow pen the same as the sick pen

  • Using smelly breath or decreased milk production to detect ketosis cases

  • Dry matter intakes less than 12 kg the week before calving

bottom of page