Nurse Cow Staggering,Drooling,Seems Blind etc.

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Feb 7, 2009
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She was running into the fence, couldn't find feed, wasn't really aware of anything. We figured she had some kind of poisoning. We drenched her with Cal-Mag, gave LA-200 and Ivomec. Kept her in pen to watch and feed. She ate, but very slow and sloppy. Walked around in daze. 2nd day after we RX'ed her, I went to check on her and she had a premature baby that night. She hadn't cleaned it up and wouldn't stand still for it to nurse. I took it to the Farm House and gave it colosturm. 4 days later I called my Vet. He said to give her a shot of B-1, Decomethizone and another round of antibiotics. It seemed my Cow was getting better. She could see, ate better, stopped drooling and staggering so bad. Today, I noticed that she was standing with her back left leg stretched out behind her. She walked a lot. Restless. I never saw her lay down. Tonight, she was still standing, with her leg stretched out. She's responsive to me when I feed her, but still has has a wobbly walk and dazed look. I never noticed her kidneys or bowels today. I will check her for that tomorrow. Any ideas? My Vet hasn't returned my call yet. Oh Yes....Her baby is doing well and gaining weight. She's up to drinking 2 qts. at a time with a goat nipple on her bottle. She was tiny & completely formed outside, but I wasn't sure if her lungs were. I kept her warm & out of the weather and fed her small amounts, several times a day. I wasn't sure she was going to make it the first night. Now she is spoiled.
Only thing I can think of is milk fever but that's more common post calving.
If it was milk fever the cow wouldn't be up, and dun is right, that happens after calving. I think you may be on the right track with some sort of poisoning...have you checked around for anything that could have caused it? Try the vet again or call another one. Glad the calf seems to be OK so far.
Sounds a lot like ketosis, other than that I'm not accustomed to seeing it before calving.

What are/were you feeding her and what is she eating? any weight loss on the cow's part?

Drench her with a pop bottle full of propylene glycol (any feed store would have it), give her another shot of vitamin B and dexamethasone, and if she's showing improvement within 12 hours then you've found the problem. 500mLs of 50% dextrose IV would do the same thing as the propylene glycol if you have that on hand and the ability for it.
Could be MM, and if it is ketosis you should be able to smell it a mile a way..

Does her breath smell like nail polish remover???

I would do the treatment anyways as like MM said it won't hurt her, and may just solve you problems..
milkmaid, yes she is loosing weight quickly, especially noticeable in hind quarters. She always has access to hay and we supplement her with some 20% Range Cubes almost daily. She will raise 3 calves at a time. We sold the last one's in November, a week later our neighbor gave us an orphan and she has been raising it. We didn't know she was pregnant. She didn't look like it and we didn't remember her being accessable to a bull. I had noticed she seemed like she was trying to wean the calf, but didn't think much about it because he was eating feed with her, and was doing good. We didn't notice an odor when we medicated her, but she is slobbering more again, and had thick white mucus hanging from her nose this A.M. She isn't coughing. She was laying down. When she started getting up, she stood on her back legs & kept kneeling on her front legs, long enough to urinate and have a bowel movement, then she came on up. She seemed real stiff and had trouble walking at first, but walked across the pasture after she got going. I have called the vet back, but he has gone on a hunting trip. We appreciate your input and we will try your suggestions, and hopefully they will help her. I sure hate seeing her so miserable and sick, and really would hate loosing her. She has really got us stumped.
did she show improvement after the magnesium? how is her mineral situation?
Yes, there was a little improvement the next day. She seemed to see her food and she responded to me a little more each day. She just seems to get a little better, but isn't getting a lot better or getting rid of symptoms. They may slow down, but come back. We keep 12-12 sack minerals and salt blocks available. No the Vet didn't see her. We discussed her symptoms on the phone. I knew he was getting to go on a trip, but didn't know when. We are friends and he communicates with me pretty well. I left word with his wife to call me when he returns, because he may need to come check her for me. We took her baby calf to her, to see what she would do, and she has no idea she had it.
What's her rectal temperature?

HD -- unfortunately I've never been able to detect the smell of a ketotic cow, even when I've got my face inches from theirs. My sense of smell just isn't that good. :?
We haven't taken her temp. We will have to purchase a themomenter and check her temp. tomorrow.
This is a tough one, especially without diagnostic tools. If you plan on continuing to have dairy nurse cows have your vet friend get you some ketosis strips for the urine. More accurate. I can't smell the ketones unless it's really bad.

The fact that she had a premie but viable calf concerns me. She must have been stressed for a sufficient amount of time to elevate cortisol in the bloodstream which induced labor but also, if given about 48 hours, induces the calf to produce the surfactant it needs to keep the lungs from collapsing.

By the way, milk fever is usually a peri-partum , not post-partum problem. They can indeed go down before calving. But this doesn't sound like milk fever to me. If she can swallow no harm in giving her calcium drench but I would give her a propylene glycol chaser. If she can't swallow reliably I'm afraid you need to IV; cows with calcium in their lungs die from chemical pneumonia.

Nervous ketosis is a possibility but I have concerns about either toxic or infectious causes.

It would be helpful to know her diet, where you live, and where you get your water and feed from.

Potential problems:
1. "Polio" (polioecephalomalacia) usually caused by sulfur (not selenium toxicity or Thiamine deficiency
2. Listeriosis
3. Rabies

It is very importantto have this cow necrospied at a labif her symptoms persist and she dies as if she has rabies you will not live unless you get treatment. I do not want to scare you but any animal that dies with neurologic signs should be tested. Cows get the "dumb" form usually.

I would consider trying to get a vet's hands-on opinion in this case. Your friend shouldn't take offense as your friend is not there to help.
I'm just wondering if you are in an area with very rish fast growing forage at this time of year. If so I'm wondering about a mild case of grass tetany. Year before last there was a lot of it happening in late fall because the grass came on so well. As you can guess, I'm just spit wading ideas that can cause the coordination problems.
thats what i was thinking too dun. i had a cow a few years back that acted similar. dumb, blind, drooling, couldnt find food,disoriented, just out of it in general, would get down on her front knees.. i got some hi mag minerals in her and was able to save her. this particular acted like she was searching for something...kept trying to wrap her tongue around something but she was staggering so that i didnt want her to fall on me and she was so out of it i wasnt sure how she would react to me being near her. so i took a cane fishing pole and she wrapped her tongue around it, and then i stuck in in some minerals and put it back in front of her and she latched on again and i led her to a pile of minerals with that fishing pole (lol). and she tore em up when she found them.

and you dont necessarily have to have fast growing grass for tetany either.
Well, I made a post reply earlier but it must not have posted. If it comes up, I didn't mean to do it twice. I read the article about Rabies and it was pretty scary. She hasn't been agitated or agressive. Actually I think she is getting better. She was laying down this A.M. and seemed to be resting better. She got up and started walking a lot better. She came to her feed and started eating and was more aware of her suroundings. She's still slow, but not drooling and walking. We thought "grass tetany" at first, but grass is still pretty short and sparse. We have some Rye grass, but we feed her 20% Range Cubes along with hay most every day, and she stays pretty close to headquarters. She has access to minerals & salt but don't know if she has been getting what she should. We raise Beef Cattle. She is my only Nurse Cow. She was an orphan I raised and she has always been a calm, laid back, gental cow. She would let any hungry calf nurse her, so we penned her and her calf away from the herd. If we got an orphan, she had plenty of milk, so we made her our Nurse Cow. We forgot a thermomenter this A.M. but her nose had water beads on it. I got real close to her while she was eating and couldn't smell an odor. We will pick up the propylene glycol and drench her with it and cal-mag in the morning. I'm thinking - something to do with her pregnancy, (toxemia) or the hay we have been feeding is stored outside, and where it sits on the ground is wet and moldy. Could that possibly have made her sick if she ate the mold? Although none of the other cows have been sick. I'll let you know how she is doing. I really appreciate all your comments and suggestions.
Hey, Sorry I missed a few days up-dating. We've been busy shipping calves and weather has been wet and windy and I came home and rested. Up-date on my cow: She was walking the fence, mooing, to meet me with her feed, 2 days ago. I was so glad. She's eating good, a lot more alert, moving about much better, (still slow, but not staggering). I think she's recovering from..... whatever? She was getting more alert a few days ago, when we drenched her again, because she knew we were driving her into the chute and she did not want to go. I'm still watching her closely and will let you know if anything changes. I feel it was something to do with her pregnacy (toxemia) or something poison to her. We put minerals, high in Mag, salt & protein lick with her today. Your suggestions and comments helped a lot. Thank you all.

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