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What should we do? The pain of Downer Cow

Posted on: July 25, 2019, by Eleanor
The pain of downer cow
The pain of downer cow

For any experienced cow veterinarian in the world, lying down is not a good sign, which can make us a headache, and it is a challenge to professional accomplishment. I always feel guilty and defeated when I look at the cows being pulled away to slaughter. When I visit more than 100 dairy farms, someone always raises the question of how to effectively prevent and cure the cows lying down after delivery. Given this, combined with my experience in diagnosis and treatment of dairy cow insomnia over the years and the latest relevant literature reports abroad, the following is written to share the same experience.

1. What is Downer Cow?

The term "Downer Cow" refers to any unexplained cause of lying-in sickness for more than three hours. Lie on the ground, but can creep, it is very likely to recover naturally, commonly known as "Creepers". In the past 25 years, a survey of more than 3000 dairy farms in the United States about 200,000 multiparous cattle showed that the incidence of lying-in disease in dairy cows ranged from 1.2% to 2.1%, the cure rate was 33%, the elimination rate was 23%, and the mortality rate was 44%. 58% occurred on the first day of postpartum; 24% was related to dystocia. In short, the prognosis of lying-in cows is poor, and most of them will eventually be eliminated or died. At the same time, a lot of manpower, material resources and medicines will be spent during the treatment period.

2. Downer Cow should not be confused with the following diseases

The following diseases are often confused with downer cow:

(1)Postpartum hypocalcemia

(2)Postpartum hypocalcemia postpartum acute septic uteritis

(3)Perinatal acute toxic mastitis

(4)Skeletal muscle dysfunction

3. General steps for the treatment of downer cow

Although the prognosis of most cases of a cow lying down is poor, the following steps should be followed in the treatment of these cases:

  1. To inquire about the history of the disease, observe and check the lying posture, appearance of the affected cattle and their surroundings.

(1)Mainly ask whether give birth recently, how long have them gave birth, is the firstborn or delivered cow,whether the birth is normal or not, Whether to use midwifery during midwifery, how many people pulled out the calf forcefully if there is no midwifery during midwifery, is there a slip phenomenon, etc.

(2)Has it sided lying? If you are lying on the side, you must try to correct your chest position. Otherwise, it will cause rumen gas, rumen fluid being swallowed into the trachea to cause foreign body pneumonia, compression of the transverse septum to cause chest pressure too high and dyspnea, and so on. Calcium preparations are also very dangerous when lying on the side, often leading to cardiac arrest and death.

(3)Are cattle suffering from mental fatigue, indifference, drooping head and ears, eyelids semi-closed, tachycardia, and weakness? If these symptoms occur, attention should be paid to distinguishing them from hypocalcemia, which often indicates that cattle suffer from acute septic uteritis or acute toxic mastitis.

(4)Is there no hope of trying to stand? If the ground slips or lies in the restricted area of the forwarding rush, the affected cow tries to stand several times more.

2. Failure can cause psychological fear and reluctance to try to stand again. It is necessary to move the affected cattle to an open area where the ground is not slippery and soft.

3. If the cattle have recently given birth, give calcium preparations first, and then supplemented with phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium as appropriate.

4. If the cow has recently given birth, a vaginal examination is required to determine whether another calf has remained in the uterus without discharging corruption.

5. If a cow has recently given birth, a rectal examination is required to determine whether there is a pelvic fracture or acute septic uterine inflammation.

6. If cattle are in the perinatal period, breast examination is necessary, which can determine whether there is acute toxic mastitis.

To avoid the occurrence of fascial compartment syndrome, cattle should be bedded with mattresses over 15 cm thick and rolled over from side to side every 2 hours.

4. Common cow bedridden syndrome

Hypocalcemia not treated in time(See Figure 1)

Figure 1. If the postpartum hypocalcemia is not treated in time, it will change from chest position to lateral position. If it develops into fascial septal syndrome after more than 6 hours, it will be difficult to stand even with calcium supplements. Hypomagnesemia or tetanus should be suspected if the hind limbs are paddling and fear.
Figure 1. If the postpartum hypocalcemia is not treated in time, it will change from chest position to lateral position. If it develops into fascial septal syndrome after more than 6 hours, it will be difficult to stand even with calcium supplements. Hypomagnesemia or tetanus should be suspected if the hind limbs are paddling and fear.

2. Acute venomous mastitis(See Figures 2, 3 and 4.)

Figure2.It is easy to mix with hypocalcemia, but when examined carefully, it can be found to be acute toxic mastitis. Pay attention to cyanosis in the lower part of the breast
Figure2.It is easy to mix with hypocalcemia, but when examined carefully, it can be found to be acute toxic mastitis. Pay attention to cyanosis in the lower part of the breast
Figure3.Check the breast and squeeze out the milk
Figure3.Check the breast and squeeze out the milk
Figure4.Milk is light brown, suggesting a high risk of E. coli mastitis.
Figure4.Milk is light brown, suggesting a high risk of E. coli mastitis.

3. Sciatic nerve injury(See Figures 5 and 6)

Figure5.The anterior branch of the sciatic nerve is peroneal nerve and the posterior branch is tibial nerve. Sciatic nerve vulnerability: point A-fetal calf through pelvic cavity; point C-tarsal joint external surface in hard; ground repeated friction; point D-hind limb deep muscle injection.
Figure5.The anterior branch of the sciatic nerve is peroneal nerve and the posterior branch is tibial nerve. Sciatic nerve vulnerability: point A-fetal calf through pelvic cavity; point C-tarsal joint external surface in hard; ground repeated friction; point D-hind limb deep muscle injection.
Figure6. Sciatic nerve injury caused by delivery on hard ground in a tied cowshed
Figure6. Sciatic nerve injury caused by delivery on hard ground in a tied cowshed

The sciatic nerve originates from the sixth lumbar spine and the first and second sacrum, which controls the flexion of the knee joint, the extension of the tarsal joint, and the flexion and extension of the toe joint. Sciatic nerve injury may occur during childbirth, such as excessive calf size, hard ground without a mattress, strong pull-out of the calf, confined posture (such as tethered cowshed). Deep intramuscular injection in the posterior part of the hind limb can also damage the sciatic nerve. The design of bed rest is unreasonable and the surface is too hard. The sciatic nerve can also be damaged if the cows lie down and rest too long, stand up repeatedly unsuccessfully and rub the outer surface of the tarsal joint.

4. Obturator nerve injury( See figure7)

Figure7.The typical recumbent posture of obturator nerve injury
Figure7.The typical recumbent posture of obturator nerve injury

Obturator nerve injury is often associated with dystocia, which is mainly caused by the strong pull-out of fetal calves. The cattle lie in a frog-like position, and the hind limbs can be extended flat to the wrist joint of the forelimbs.

5. Recurrent injection of steroid anti-inflammatory drugs resulted in recumbency(See figure 8)

Figure 8. Recurrent injection of steroid anti-inflammatory drugs resulted in recumbency
Figure 8. Recurrent injection of steroid anti-inflammatory drugs resulted in recumbency

Steroid anti-inflammatory drugs are often used in cows during childbirth because of inflammation, but more than two times are strictly prohibited. If repeated injection can often cause hypokalemia and make cattle unable to lie on the ground, even oral or intravenous potassium supplements are difficult to work, and finally have to be eliminated. There are already non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the market. Repeated injections of these drugs will not cause hypokalemia. Readers should actively adopt them.

6. The splitting of hind limbs caused by ground slippage is adductor muscle injury or femoral head dislocation and fracture. (See Figure9)

Figure 9. Adductor injury or dislocation of the femoral head. Pay attention to the creases in the thighs above the tarsal joint
Figure 9. Adductor injury or dislocation of the femoral head. Pay attention to the creases in the thighs above the tarsal joint

This kind of cattle is common in cowshed where the slip-proof groove cement floor is not well made. For adductor injuries, intensive nursing may be cured. However, there is little hope for the treatment of dislocation of the femoral head (because the circular ligament has been broken) or fracture of the femoral head.

7. Long bone fracture(See figure 10)

Figure10. Long bone fracture, pay attention to swelling is very obvious
Figure10. Long bone fracture, pay attention to swelling is very obvious

8. No forward zone to stand up

Figure11. No forward zone to stand up
Figure11. No forward zone to stand up

Sometimes the cow is placed in the corner or too close to the wall to stand because of the lack of forwarding rush area. At this time, even if the mattress is thick, it is difficult to solve the problem.

9. Compartment Syndrome(See figure12)

Figure12.Fascial septal syndrome. Note that the upper muscles are normal flesh red; the lower muscles are unusually pale.
Figure12.Fascial septal syndrome. Note that the upper muscles are normal flesh red; the lower muscles are unusually pale.

When the cow is lying on the ground, if it turns upside down from time to time, it will only take about 6 hours to cure it. Otherwise, the fascial septal syndrome will follow. The syndrome refers to insufficient local arterial congestion and venous reflux caused by long-term lying and compression, resulting in muscle and nerve ischemia, hypoxia and nutrients, and ultimately leading to complete loss of function. Touching the affected area can feel the muscles very hard. If the treatment can not stand for some time, we should consider early elimination. If standing, necrotic muscles, and tissues should be removed by the open wound method.

5.Auxiliary Standing

If the cattle want to stand up, you should take the initiative to help them stand. In this case, about 71% of auxiliary standing is effective. There are three common auxiliary station cube methods: using hip nodule suspension rings (see Fig. 13); using an abdominal floor inflatable bag (see Fig. 14); using a water tank to float. Among the three methods, the ventral inflatable sac is the best. Its auxiliary standing is indeed less stressful and cleaner.

Figure13.Use of Hip Nodule Suspension Rings to Assist Standing Cattle
Figure13. Use of Hip Nodule Suspension Rings to Assist Standing Cattle
Figure14.Standing of cattle assisted by abdominal floor balloon inflation
Figure14.Standing of cattle assisted by abdominal floor balloon inflation

6.How to Nursing

(1)Correct lateral decubitus as early as possible

(2)Keep in mind six hours of "golden time"!

After the cow is lying on the ground, only 6 hours can be left for effective treatment.

(3)Reasonable use of drugs in time!

Systemic administration of antibiotics for more than 3 days, and timely injection of energy drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; use of steroids should not exceed 2 times.

(4)Move into a soft area with strong friction on the surface (see Figure 15)

Figure15. Cattle with sciatic nerve injury attempt to stand immediately after being moved to the
Figure15. Cattle with sciatic nerve injury attempt to stand immediately after being moved to the

(5)Provide adequate fresh feed and drinking water (see Figure 16)

Figure16.Adequate fresh drinking water and feed for affected cattle
Figure16.Adequate fresh drinking water and feed for affected cattle

7.Other causes of downer cow

There are many other reasons for cow sleeping sickness. The following table is for readers'reference.

 1. Fracture

(1) Fracture of left/right hind leg.

(2) Fractures of tarsal joint and knee joint.

(3) Femoral fracture.

(4) Fracture of carpal bone.

(5) Fracture of the ulna.

(6) Fracture of the left/right foreleg.

(7) Tibial fracture.

(8) Spinal fracture.

(9) Fracture of the sternum.

(10) Lumbar vertebral fracture.

(11)Pelvic fracture.

2. Nerve injury

(1) Circumferential nerve paralysis.

(2) Peroneal nerve paralysis.

(3)Tibial nerve paralysis.

3.Diseases

(1) Prolapse of uterus.

(2) Uterine volvulus.

(3) Postpartum vaginal and rectal prolapse.

(4) uterine laceration.

(5) uterine rupture.

(6) Peritonitis.

(7) Toxemia.

(8) Intestinal volvulus.

(9) Intestinal rupture.

(10) Right, true stomach displacement.

(11) Liver abscess.

(12) Inguinal rupture.

(13) Traumatic reticulitis and pericarditis.

(14) Clostridium infection.

(15) Pleurisy.

(16) Acute pneumonia.

(17) Urinary calculi.

(18) Uremia.

(19) Extremely high fever.

(20) Multiple lymphomas.

(21) Excessive intake of concentrate.

(22) sepsis.

(23) Septic arthritis.

(24) bacteremia.

(25) Spinal abscess.

(26) Cecal volvulus and displacement.

(27) Pyelonephritis.

(28) Renal abscess.

(29) Vagus nerve injury.

(30) Actinomycosis.

(31) rupture of the true stomach.

(32) Too much fetal fluid.

(33) rupture of the pulmonary abscess.

(34) Anemia.

(35) Dislocation of the femoral head.

(36) rupture of knee cruciate ligament.

(37)rupture of the anterior pubic tendon.

8.Prevention

It is almost impossible to completely avoid cow lying-in disorder, but it can be effectively reduced by the following preventive measures.

1. The anti-skid groove of cement ground must be made according to the correct standard and ground edges and corners.

2. The bars are relatively spacious, the mattress is thick and soft, and the ground should be skid-proof.

3. Midwifery efforts should be moderate, not too strong, generally no more than 4 people.

4. Any lying-in disorder must be treated immediately after it occurs, and must not be delayed to 6 hours to avoid fascial space syndrome.

5. Use steroid anti-inflammatory drugs cautiously.

9.Conclusion

For downer cow, because of its complicated causes and limited treatment measures, I hope you will remember the following 24 words: severe test, poor prognosis; accurate diagnosis, timely nursing, rational medication, to help stand

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