In this article, we are going to present a medical case that highlights the importance of a stethoscope in diagnosing digestive disorders in dairy cattle. First, we will review the case and the medical care provided. Next, we will present some anatomic diagrams that may help producers to make a more informed diagnosis with their stethoscopes. In our opinion, a stethoscope is a valuable tool in any farm medicine kit. With a bit of instruction from your herd health vet, soon you will gain the confidence to make a better diagnosis.
The Case of Cow #193
On a recent farm visit, one of our veterinarians was presented with a fresh, 3rd lactation, dairy cow off feed. This well prepared producer had a stethoscope that she kept in her medicine cupboard. Upon arrival, the producer told the vet that she believed the cow had a right “twist”, or right displaced abomasum (RDA). Knowing that a RDA can be a more serious, life threatening condition, she had called the vet immediately.
Our veterinarian confirmed exactly what the producer had suspected! The cow did, in fact, have a large RDA, in the classic location over the right ribcage. The cow was also completely off feed, was quite dehydrated, and had very loose, scant manure. While it is sometimes possible to resolve a mild RDA with medical treatment, in this case, the deteriorating condition of the cow warranted immediate surgery.
When flicking or smacking the side of your cow, make sure you are a hands-width away from the head of the stethoscope. If you are too close, all you will hear is the flicking or smacking sound, not the pings from inside.
After surgery, she received 10 Liters of IV fluids to correct her dehydration. She also received an anti-inflammatory (Metacam) and penicillin. A blood sample showed the cow also had mild ketosis, requiring treatment with Vitamin B12 and glycol. Since she was an older cow, the odds of having a calcium deficiency was also considered. Therefore, the vet decided to treat with 1/2 a bottle of Cal-Mag-Phos IV (with the IV fluids). The vet poured the other half of the bottle into a bucket with the glycol and one of the clinic’s electrolyte milkshakes, which were then pumped into the cow.
The producer was instructed to follow up with a calcium bolus, once a day for the next 2-3 days.
We are happy to report, that cow #193 made a full recovery, and will now be doing her part to fill those fall incentives.