VVV Episode 6: Mystery Cow Case

We were called out to visit a cow that was suddenly found down on pasture.

From taking a thorough history, we found out that she was 3 weeks postpartum with no previous medical history or any suspicions of illness. The pasture the herd is currently grazing on was seeded 3 years ago with a mixed grass seed and was not grazed on last year. Therefore, grass was overgrown from the last year as well as lush new spring growth from this year following a period of wet, cool weather.   The cow presented with the following clinical signs:

  • recumbent
  • rigid muscle tone with clonic spasms and twitching
  • opisthotonos (posturing with head and neck rigidly extended backwards)
After doing a complete physical exam, the following was noted:
  • tachycardia (fast heart rate) with loud heart sounds upon auscultation (listening with a stethoscope)
  • tachypnea (fast respiratory rate)
  • temperature and abdominal auscultations were unremarkable

As part of a complete physical exam, a rectal palpation was performed. Since this cow calved three weeks ago, we are checking for things such as metritis or abnormal uterine involution. Also, any sort of intestinal accident, such as a right displaced abomasum or torsion, can be felt through the rectum.

In this case, the rectal examination was unremarkable with no abnormalities.   Based on the signs observed a tentative diagnosis was formulated and we took a blood sample to send for laboratory diagnostics to confirm. The cow was then given an IV treatment of 500 mL of Cal-Plus– a 23% Calcium and 4.5% Magnesium solution. This seemed to stabilize her cardiovascular system.

Then, once stabilized, another  dose of 500 mL of Cal-Plus was given subcutaneously for slower release.

The lab results arrived the next morning:

Based on the relevant history, clinical findings and lab results, do you have an idea of what the diagnosis is?

Find out if you are right on the next page!


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