United States. Bureau of Animal Industry.

Special report on diseases of cattle and on cattle feeding online

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occurs with the first parturition, and rarely with the second. It appears
with the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth, after the growth of the cow has
ceased, and when all her powers are devoted to the production of milk.

Calving is an essential condition, as the disturbance of the circulation,
consequent on the contraction of the womb and the expulsion into the
general circulation of the enormous mass of blood hitherto circulating
in the walls of the womb, fills to repletion the vessels of the rest of the
body, and very greatly intensifies the already existing plethora. If
this is not speedily counterbalanced by a free secretion from the udder,
kidneys, bowels, and other excretory organs, the most dire results may
ensue. Calving may thus be held to be an exciting cause, and yet the
labor and fatigue of the act are not active factors. It is after the easy
calving, when there has been little expenditure of muscular or nervous
energy, and no loss of blood, that this malady is seen. Difficult par-
turitions may be followed by metritis, but they are rarely connected
with parturition fever.

All these factors coincide in intensifying the one condition of ple-
thora, and point to that as the most essential cause of this affection.
It is needless to enter here into the much-debated question as to the
mode ill which the plethora brings about the characteristic symptoms
and results. As the results show disorder or suspension of the nerv-
ous functions mainly, it may suffice to say that this condition of the
blood and blood-vessels is incompatible with the normal functional
activity of the nerve centers. How much is due to congestion of the
brain and how much to bloodlessness may well be debated, yet in a
closed box like the cranium, in which the absolute contents can not be
appreciably increased or diminished, it is evident that apart from drop-
sical effusion or inflammatory exudation, there can only be a given
amount of blood; therefore, if one portion of the brain is congested
another must be proportionately bloodless, and as congestion of the
eyes and head generally, and great heat of the head are most promi-
nent features of the disease, congestion of the brain must be accepted.
This, of course, implies a lack of blood in certain other parts or blood-

Symptoms. There may be said to be two extreme types of this dis-
ease with intervening grades. In both forms there is the characteris-
tic plethora, and more or less sudden loss ot voluntary movement and
sensation indicating a sudden collapse of nervous poAver, but in one
there is such prominent evidence of congestion of head and brain that
it may be called the congestive form, par excellence, without thereby
intimating that the torpid form is independent of congestion.

In the congestive form there is sudden dullness, languor, hanging back
in the stall, or drooping the head, uneasy movements of the hind limbs
or tail; if the cow is moved she steps unsteadily or even staggers; she
no longer notices her calf or her food; the eyes appear red and their


pupils dilated ; the weakness increases aud the cow lies down or falls
and is thenceforward unable to rise. At this time the pulse is usually
full and bounding and the temperature raised ; the head, horns, and ears
being especially hot and the veins of the head full, while the visible
mucous membranes of nose and eyes are deeply congested. The cow
may lie on her breastbone with her feet beneath the body and her head
turned sleepily round, with the nose resting on the right flank ; or, if
worse, she may be stretched full on her side, with even the head,
extended, though at times it is suddenly raised and again dashed back
on the ground. At such times the legs, fore and hind, struggle con-
vulsively, evidently through unconscious nervous spasm. By this time
the unconsciousness is usually complete; the eyes are glazed, their
pupils widely dilated, and their lids are not moved when the ball of the
eye is touched with the finger. Pricking the skin with a pin also fails
to bring any wincing or other response. The pulse, at first from 50 to
70 per minute, becomes more accelerated and weaker as the disease
advances. The breathing is quickened, becoming more and more so
with the violence of the symptoms, and at first associated with moan-
ing (in exceptional cases bellowing), it may, before death, become slow,
deep, sighing, or rattling (stertorous). The temperature, at first usu-
ally raised, tends to become lower as stupor and utter insensibility and
coma supervene. The bowels, which may have moved at the onset of
the attack, become torpid or completely paralyzed, and, unless in case of
improvement, they are not likely to operate again. Yet this is the result
of paralysis and not of induration of the feces, as often shown by the
semiliquid ptiltaceous condition of the contents after death. The blad-
der, too, is paralyzed and fails to expel its contents. A free action of
either bladder or bowels or of both is always a favorable symptom.
The milk secretion may fail, yet often the udder continues to yield its
product for a considerable time, and to draw off this and encourage free
secretion by rubbing is always indicated.

In nearly all cases the torpor of the digestive organs results in gas-
tric disorder; the paunch becomes the seat of fermentation, producing
gas which causes it to bloat up like a drum. There arc frequent eruc-
tations of gas and liquid and solid food, which, reaching the paralyzed
throat, puss in part into the windpipe and cause inilninmations of the
air passages and lungs.

In the torpid form of the disease there is much less indication of
fever or violence. There may be no special heat about the horns, cars,
or forehead, nor any marked redness or congestion of the eyes or nose,
nor engorgement of the veins of the head. The attack comes on more
slowly, with apparent weakness of the hind limbs, dullness, drowsiness,
suspension of rumination and appetite, and a general indifference to
Hurroundinj;- objects. Soon the cow lies down, or falls and is unable to
rise, but for one or two days she may rest on the breastbone and hold
the head in the ilank without showing any disorderly movements.


Meanwhile there is not only loss of muscular power and inability to
stand, but also considerable dullness of sensation, pricking the skin
producing no quick response, and even touching the edge of the eye-
lids causing no very prompt winking. Unless she gets relief, however,
the case develops all the advanced symptoms of the more violent form
and the animal perishes.

In advanced and fatal cases of either form the insensibility becomes
complete; no irritation of skin or eye meets any response; the eye
becomes more dull and glassy; the head rests on the ground or other
object; unless prevented the cow lies stretched fully on her side; the
pulse is small, rapid, and finally imperceptible; the breathing is slow,
deep, stertorous, and the expirations accompanied by puffing out of the
cheeks, and death comes quietly or with accompanying struggles.

For such fatal disease prevention is of far more consequence than
treatment. Among the most efficient preventives may be named a spare
diet (amounting to actual starvation in very plethoric, heavy-milking
cows), for a week before calving and at least four days after. A free
access to salt and water is most important, as the salt favors drinking
and the water serves to dilute the rich and dense blood. Iced water,
however, is undesirable, as a chill may favor the onset of fever. A dose
of Epsom salts (1 to 2 pounds) should be given twelve to twenty -four
hours before calving is due, so that it may operate at or just before that
act. In case calving has occurred unexpectedly in the heavy milker,
lose no time in giving the purgative thereafter. If Epsom salts are not
at hand use saltpeter (1 ounce) for several days. If the udder is greatly
engorged before calving it may be milked for several days before, and
should be not less than thrice a day after. A hungry calf is a good
auxiliary, but for a very heavy milker the new-born calf gives but a
very imperfect relief, and must be supplemented by the hand of the
milker. Daily exercise is also of importance, and excepting in mid-
summer, when the heat of the sun may be injurious, the value of open
air is unquestionable. Even in summer an open shed or shady grove is
incomparably better than a close, stuffy stall. A rich pasture (clover
especially), in late May, June, or July, when at its best, is to be care-
fully avoided. Better keep the cow indoors on dry straw with plenty
of salt and water than to have access to such pastures. It is safest to
avoid breeding again from a cow that has once suffered.

Treatment of the most varied kind has succeeded in particular cases
and failed in others. Cows attacked in the first two days after calving
usually die, but not always ; those attacked at the end of a week nearly
all recover. In those attacked from the third to the seventh day the
mortality steadily decreases. In the following suggestions for treat-
orient a distinction is made between the two extreme types of the dis-
ease the congestive and the pareiic, or tvrpid.

If the cow is seen before she goes down the abstraction of blood is
demanded, and may usually be carried to the extent of 4 or even C


quarts. The fullness and force of the pulse must determine the amount :
if it is weak and rapid or scarcely perceptible the vein must be instantly
closed, and it may even be necessary to give ammoniacal stimulants.
If the cow is lying down, unable to rise, and above all if no winking is
caused by touching the eyeball, bleeding must be done, if at all, with
great precaution. A pint or a quart may be all that can be safely taken,
and in case the pulse has been small and weak no more should be drawn
unless the pulse-beat strengthens. The fatal collapse already threat-
ening is often precipitated by unguarded bleeding. The jugular vein
may be opened as coming directly from the brain, and as the object is
to lessen the density of the blood and the tension in the Jt>lood vessels
without shock, it is not so essential to draw it in a full stream as in
other cases of blood-letting. As the blood is withdrawn the place is
speedily taken by liquids (mainly water), absorbed from all available
parts of the body, and thus the blood is helpfully diluted.

It is a good practice to give a dose of purgative medicine (Epsom
salts 2 pounds, carbonate of ammonia ounce, nux vomica i dram). II
it is absorbed it will find its way to the bowels and start active secretion,
thereby relieving the plethora ; if it is not absorbed it will do no harm.
Enemas of warm water and soap or oil may be beneficially employed.

Iced water or bags of ice to the head (tied around the horns and
covering the forehead and upper part of the neck), are of the very
greatest value in cases in which the heat of the horns, ears, and head,
the redness of the eyes and fixed dilatation of the pupils, are marked
features. Like bleeding, it may be uncalled for in those cases in which
the heat and general congestion of the head are absent.

In these congestive cases, too, benefit is often derived from large and
frequent doses (20- drops every four hours) of tincture of aconite. It
acts not alone as a sedative to the heat and circulation, but by
favoring a free circulation in the skin. In what may be called the non
congestive cases it is of little avail.

Harms claims excellent results from large doses of tartar emetic, 1
ounce for the first dose, 3 drams more after four hours, and 2 drams
after four hours. If absorbed it will act after the manner of aconite
as a sedative by causing a free circulation in the skin.

This increased circulation in the skin servos to draw away bhxxl
from the internal organs, and thus to relieve the brain, and to secure
the same result a variety of resorts are had with varying success in
different cases. The application of hot (almost scalding) water to tlu
back and loins, or to the limbs, acts in this way. So do mustard pi. is
tors, frictions with oil of turpentine, the prolonged movement over tin-
part of a hot smoothing iron with a thin cloth between it and the skin,
or finally the application of strong liquor ammonia, covered up foi
fifteen minutes with a close rug.

In cases with a high Ixxly temperature an excellent plan is to wrap
the whole Ixxly in a blanket slightly wrung out of cold water, and cover


this closely at all points with dry blankets to exclude the air and pre-
vent evaporation and cooling. In fifteen or twenty minutes a reaction
will have taken place, the whole body will have been cooled somewhat
by the blood returning from the skin since the blanket was applied, and
the free perspiration will now serve to relieve both by cooling and by
carrying off waste matters from the blood. This may be repeated sev-
eral times a day if the temperature rises again. In cold weather the
skin should be rubbed dry on each occasion.

A similar method of drawing off the blood from the brain is by fre-
quent rubbing of the udder and drawing off the milk.

In case of, extreme prostration and weak pulse one-half ounce car-
bonate of ammonia may be given and repeated at the end of an hour
or two if needed. It may be given as a roller-formed bolus made up
with a very little flour to give it consistency, or if the cow can not
swallow it may be dissolved in water and poured through a probang
(Plate in. Fig. 2), or tube introduced into the stomach.

Bloating of the left side (paunch) is a common and dangerous com-
plication of the disease, as it at once aggravates the pressure on the
brain, partly by expression of blood from the abdominal organs and
partly by nervous action through the vagus and sympathetic nerves.
It may often be checked by the use of carbonate of ammonia; or hypo-
sulphite of soda ( ounce) may be substituted; or oil of turpentine
(1 ounce). In obstinate cases the paunch should be punctured in the
upper part of the left flank by a trocar and canula (Plate in, Figs. 5a
and 56), and the latter left in place until it is no longer needed.

Another most important precaution is to draw off the urine from
the bladder several times a day, as a full bladder greatly aggravates
the case.

A weak induction current of electricity may be sent through the
brain for ten minutes at a time in cases of extreme insensibility, and
through the affected limb in case of remaining paralysis.

In the torpid or noncongestive form of the disease, the treatment is
the same as regards purgatives, stimulants, nux vomica, antiseptics
for bloating, attention to the bladder and udder, counterirritants to
spine or limbs, and even bleeding. The cold, wet sheets, and even the
ice to the head, may often be dispensed with.

One other precaution maybe named applicable to all cases, but espe-
cially so to the more distinctly congestive ones. This is to keep the
head above the level of the body and prevent injury from the striking
of it on the ground or other hard body. The cow is to be packed up
with bundles or bags of straw against the shoulders and hips, so as to
let her rest on her breast and belly with her limbs under her. Then
the head and neck are to be similarly supported, so as to keep them
elevated and give them a soft yielding cushion if dashed from side to
side. It may be even desirable to support the head by a rope round
the horns, or a halter, the end of which is passed over a beam above.


This serves to unload the head, by favoring the gravitation backward
of its blood, and protects the brain against injurious shocks.

Cases often recover very quickly. A cow is found up and eating
which was down utterly insensible a few hours before. Others recover
more slowly, and require careful, restricted feeding and a daily dose of
saltpeter and nux vomica for several days. Other complications must
be met according to their nature.


This consists in a more or less complete loss of control of the hind
limbs occurring after calving, and duo either to low condition, weak-
ness and exposure to cold, or to injurious compression of the nerves of
the hind limbs by a large calf passing through the pelvis. Its symp-
toms do not diflTer from those of palsy of the hind limbs, occurring at
other times, and it may be treated in the same way, excepting so far
as bruises of the vagina may demand special soothing treatment.


In heavy milkers, -before and just after calving, it is the rule that the
mammary gland is enlarged, hot, tense and tender, and that a slight
exudation or pasty swelling extends forward from the gland on tho
lower surface of the abdomen. This physiological congestion is looked
upon as a matter of course, and disappears in two or three days when
the secretion of milk has been fully established. This breaking up of
the bag may be greatly hastened by the sucking of a hungry calf, and
the kneading it gives the udder with its nose, by stripping the glands
clean thrice daily, and by active rubbing at each milking witli the
palm of the hand, with or without lard, or, better, with camphorated

The congestion may be at times aggravated by standing in a draft of
cold air, or by neglect to milk for an entire day or more (overstocking,
hefting) with the view of making a great show of udder for purposes of
sale. In such cases the surface of the bag pits on pressure, and the
milk has a reddish tinge or even streaks of blood, or it is partially or
fully clotted and i.s drawn with difficulty, mixed, it may l>e, with a yel-
lowish serum (whey) which has separated from the casein. This should
be treated like the above, though it may sometimes demand fomenta-
tions with warm water to ward oft' inflammation, ami it may be a woek
before the natural condition of the gland i.s restored.


Congestion may merge into active inflammation, or it may arise
direct, in connection with exposure to cold or wot, with standing in a
cold draft, with blows on the udder with Hubs, stones, horns, or feet,
with injury from a sharp or eold stone, or the projecting edge of a board


01- end of a nail in the floor, with sudden and extreme changes of
weather, with overfeeding on rich albuminous food like cotton-seed,
beans, or peas, with indigestions, with sores on the teats, or with insuf-
ficient stripping of the udder in milking. In the period of full milk the
organ is so susceptible that any serious disturbance of the general
health is liable to fall upon the udder.

The symptoms and mode of onset vary in different cases. When fol-
lowing exposure there is usually a violent shivering fit, with cold horns,
ears, tail, and limbs, and general_ereetion of the hair. This is succeeded
by a flush of heat (reaction) in which the horns, ears, and limbs become
unnaturally warm, and the gland swells up and becomes firm and solid
in one, two, three, or all four quarters. There is hot, dry muzzle, ele-
vated temperature, full, accelerated pulse, and excited breathing,
impaired or suspended appetite, and rumination with more or less cos-
tiveuess, suppression of urine, and a lessened yield of inilk, which may
be entirely suppressed in the affected quarter.

In other cases the shivering escapes notice, the general disorder of
the system is little marked or conies on late, and the first observed sign
of illness is the firm swelling, heat, and tenderness of the bag. As the
inflammation increases and extends the hot, tender udder causes the
animal to straddle with its hind limbs, and when walking to halt on the
limb on that side. If the cow lies down it is on the unaffected side.
With the increase in intensity and the extension of the inflammation
the general fever manifests itself more prominently. In some instances
the connective tissue beneath the skin and between the lobules of the
gland is affected, and then the swelling is uniformly rounded and of
nearly the same consistency, pitting everywhere on pressure. In other
cases it primarily attacks the secreting tissue of the gland, and then
the swelling is more localized, and appears as hard, nodular masses in
the interior of the gland. This last is the usual form of inflammation
occurring from infection entering by the teats.

In all cases, but especially in the last-named form, thennilk is sup-
pressed and replaced by a watery fluid colored with blood (sometimes
deeply), and mingled with masses of clotted casein. Later it becomes
white and purulent, and in many cases of an offensive odor.

The course of the disease is sometimes so rapid and at others so slow
that no definite rule can be laid down. In two or three days, or from
that to the end of the week, the bag may soften, lose its heat and ten-
derness, and subside into the healthy condition, even resuming the
secretion of milk. The longer the inflammatory hardness continues
the greater the probability that its complete restoration will not be
effected. When a portion of the gland fails to be restored in this Avay,
and has its secretion arrested, it usually shrinks to a smaller size.
More commonly a greater amount of the inflammatory product remains
in the gland and develops into a solid fibrous mass, causing permanent
hardening (induration). In other cases, in place of the product of


inflammation developing into a fibrous mass, it softens and breaks
down into the white creamy liquid pus (abscess). This abscess may
make its way to the surface and escape externally, or it may burst into
a milk duct and discharge through the teat. It may break into both
and establish a channel for the escape of milk (fistula). In the worst
types of the disease gangrene may ensue, a quarter or half, or even the
whole udder, losing its vitality and sloughing off, if the cow can bear
up against the depressing influence. These gangrenous cases are prob-
ably always the result of infection and sometimes run a very rapidly
fatal course. I recall one to which I was called as soon as the owner
noticed it, yet I found one quarter dark blue, cold, and showing a ten-
dency to the formation of blebs containing a bloody secretion. The
cow. which had waded through a depth of semiliquid manure to reach
her stall, died within twenty-four hours.

Treatment will vary with the type and the stage of the disease. If
is seen in the shivering fit, every effort should be made to cut
that short, as the inflammation may be thereby greatly moderated if not
cheeked. Copious drinks of warm water thrown in from horn or bottle;
equally copious warm injections; the application of heat in some form
to the surface of the body (by a rug wrung out of hot water; by hanging
over the back and loins bags loosely filled with bran, sand, salt, chaff,
or other agent previously heated iu a stove; by the use of a flatiron or
the wanning of the surface by a hot-air bath), or by active friction with
straw wisp.s by two or more persons; the administration of a pint of
strong alcoholic liquor, or of 1 ounce of ground ginger, may serve to cut
short i lie attack. After half an hour's sweat, rub dry and cover with a
dry blanket.

I f. on the other hand, there is little or no fever, and only a slight
inflammation, rub well with camphorated ointment or a weak iodine
ointment, and milk three, four, or six times a day, rubbing the bag
thoroughly each time. Milking must be done with great gentleness,
squeezing the teat in place of pulling and stripping it, and if this causes
too much pain, the teat tube (Plate xxiv. Fig. 4), or the spring teat-
dilator (Plato, xxiv, Fig. 3) may be employed.

In cases in which the fever has set in and the inflammation is more
advanced, a dose of laxative medicine is desirable (Epsom sails. 1 to 2
pounds, ginger, 1 ounce), which may be followed after the purging haa
censed by daily doses of saltpeter, 1 ounce. Many rely on cooling and
astringent applications to the inflamed quarter (vinegar, sugar of lead
lotion, cold water, ice, etc.), but a safer and better resort is continued
fomentation with warm water. A bucket of warm water replenished
as it cools, may be set beneath the udder and two IMTSOIIS can raise a
rug out of this and hold it against the udder, dipping it anew whenever
the i- somewhat lost. Or a .sheet may be passed around the Imdy
with four holes cut for the teats and soft rags packed between it and

Online LibraryUnited States. Bureau of Animal IndustrySpecial report on diseases of cattle and on cattle feeding → online text (page 29 of 56)