Calf down, paralysis... Botulism possibly? HELP PLEASE ASAP

Help Support CattleToday:

Moo Cow

New member
Mar 24, 2009
Reaction score
I'm new here and hoping someone can help me out. I have a bottle calf that is 2 months old. He was born blind but his eyes cleared and he was getting along famously with a tremendous appetite and everything was fine... until tonight.

He didn't come up for his evening feeding, and I found him laying on his side in his sleeping hut, where he was unable to get up. He's urinated, but no bowel movement that I can see. I carried him up closer to the house and put him on a blanket, and covered him trying to retain body heat. I'm in FL and it was breezy but in the 70's here today. I attempted to give him a bottle (I'm using calf replacer) but he won't drink. He's able to scramble his legs in a weak fashion, but cannot attempt to stand and cannot raise his head. He's not starved. He can't blink, and I see when I hold his head up to that his eyes flicker/twitch in their sockets. This has all transpired in the last 12 hours.

I read quickly on the net that cattle can pick up a botulism form from poultry, I do raise poultry and the calf has had access to the poultry areas. I have no toxic plants on the place where I keep him (there are 35 other head of cattle from calves to old cows here and none of them are affected. Those cattle and my calf are separated by fence only). I cannot think of anything else that could be affecting this calf with the exception of I removed a fat tick from his anus last week, but checked the area where I removed it and it is fine, no indication of any problems where the tick was latched on.

Am I likely going to loose this calf tonight, or is there something I can try? I know of no cattle vets out here where I am that I can contact at this hour, let alone get one to come out here tonight. Any suggestions please? I'd had to loose this calf.

Julie in Florida
I managed to get this calf to drink a bottle just now. And since his body temp was dropping and the quilt I covered him in didn't seem to help, I brought him into my foyer. He's resting quietly right now. I'll check back here in the morning and hope someone has been able to help me out, and that I still need a reason to seek help for this calf. But I am fairly convinced that this is botulism. So if it is, is there hope for recovery without ICU care for him?
Julie, I have a couple of observations from your post 1. a 2 month old calf that you can carry is not right .2. the fact that it is blind is another . My thinking would be some form of Encephalitis, rather than Botulism . At any rate it does not sound good when we add it all up . I think this is the end of the road for a calf that has had a lot of problems . Sounds like you've given him the best care that you could give, sometimes they just don't make it .

If he sucked the bottle down on his own it's a very good sign.
Get some electrolytes in him right away 2 quarts if he sucks on his own great, may have to tube him. Then Oxytetracyline oral or injection. Botulism? doubtful.
That,s about all you can do. Might be an advanced case of coccidiosis. If that's the case he'll die in a few hours.
Botulism will cause paralysis of muscles,especially of the legs, jaw, and throat. It's caused by eating decomposing plant material or animal material. Will stumble and fall and be unable to raise its head and neck due to total paralysis in later stages of development. The tongue and jaw become paralyzed, and they will drool saliva uncontrollably. Constipation, as opposed to diarrhea in many other diseases, is common. Death occurs due to paralysis of respiratory muscle. Treatment is usually ineffective, but two methods are commonly attempted. An antitoxin is given by some vets, whereas others prescribe various types of enemas to try and flush the toxins from the digestive system. Since the disease takes 3 to 7 days to incubate, but is rapidly fatal once signs are seen, the treatment is usually a disappointment. But since it drank a bottle its throat muscles must not be paralyzed. Did you by chance have a dead chicken laying a around that it could have partially eaten?
Long jump to Botulism- can't do anything for that anyhow, so no point in going there.
what is its temp?
Selenium deficiency?
Thiamine/Vit B deficiency?
Calcium/Mag imbalance?

Are you sure its not starvation? What are you feeding it- some milk re placers are junk.
Are you feeding anything to go along with the milk?
Is it dehydrated?
If it was already blind- it may have gotten into a toxic substance and this is just the final result.
Another one that hasn;t been back online since they posted the question

Latest posts