Question for Vicki the Vet

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We are half way through our calving season. This is the worst year for continued cold wet weather...-10C at night and +1or 2 occasionally during the day... Lots of snow and ice and lots of puddles and mud during the day. Putting out fresh bedding is a daily chore. Despite that we have only treated 2 calves for fever.

So last night we go out and feed the cows as usual, and then we do a calf check. We tend to ignore the ones peeling around and focus on the ones laying down. We approached one calf and he lurched to his feet, hips wavering and we attempted to catch him. Being 3 weeks old he got away on us but its how he got away that was disturbing. He was absolutley uncoordinated .... throwing his front legs up and appeared as though he may have had twine tying his limbs together. He was taking great leaps and doing his best to remain upright. Then we lost sight of him in the herd.

When we found him the second time he was in a corner of a fence floundering in a 6 inch deep puddle of water. It was obvious that he was trying to get out of the puddle but kept floundering in it. Falling down, lunging again, Its like he could not get his legs to work. We rescued him from drowning and put him on the back of the truck. I was holding him down and it was fairly easy to do. His breathing was fast and had a 'catch' at the end of each inhale and I'm thinking.... pneumonia, diptheria? I had never seen diptheria before. Is his spasicity due to high fever? Could this be Meningitis? The most puzzling thing is that he is alert and normal appearing from his neck up. All these maladies are going through my head but the calf is soaking wet from an icy puddle and first and foremost needs drying.

We put him in the hotbox and I give him a dose of Nuflor and a dose of Banamine. His temp is 100.1

We return 2 hours later, and find him crashing around in the hotbox. He is dried off so we put him in a bedded stall for the night. If he stood still he looks perfectly normal..... His eyes are bright, ears perky..his breathing is now silent.. certainly not dull in any way. But still he flounders in the stall and falls down several times. As he walks he picks up each front leg bending at the knee enough to bring his hoof to his elbow, then throws it way out front. When he tries to back up, his hind end sinks, then he falls on his butt.

We have had cattle all of our lives and had never seen anything like this. I get out the Merck manual and look up everything I can think of... Nervous system anomalies, Rabies, Encehalomyeltis, toxicities, a host of other things that don't even come close and come up empty. Most puzzling.

This morning he is fine... Walking normal... bawling for mom. You would never know he went through such a crisis last night.

Do you have any idea what just happened here? Any insight would be most appreciated.

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Oops, my better half was the one who checked him early on (3 hours ago)... He is not any better and is somewhat worse. The only direction he can seem to travel is diagonal, with legs going in every direction. We got his mother in and have them isolated from the herd. His other functions... mother seeking, nursing, eliminating, all seem to be normal. Any ideas?

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To be honest, it sounds like you need more diagnostics done than just verbal...I have lots of ideas but I sure can't just say "it's _____" Check for navel infection (it can spread everywhere), meningitis is a long shot, more of something like ITEME (hemophilus somnus)which can cause paresis/attack the spinal cord, also can cause pneumonia. Check for trauma ie to spine. Vitamin deficiency--vit A comes to mind, as does thiamin (Polioencephalomalacia), both of which can cause blindness and odd neural behaviour. The other things which run through my mind are toxins (either mycotoxins from moldy feed or enterotoxins from bacteria such as e-coli or clostridium perfringens) because they can do lots of wierd things. Frankly, I'd want to examine the calf, esp a neuro exam (reflexes, cranial nerves, vision etc) before I hazarded a guess. It could even be white muscle! (selenium deficiency) For ITEME, the nuflor is great, as for the other bacterial infections. Banamine can cause abomasal ulceration, so watch it, but it does bind toxins (for this I use at 1cc per 200lbs or 1/2 regular dose) Vit A is treated with ADE injection (excess is toxic), Thiamin is also injected. It'd be best to consult your vet--you may have some neat disease there which I'm not thinking of because it's not endemic here--and there are some out there!!
It turns out that my better half was in fact not seeing things as later that day the calf was again 'perfectly normal', and remained that way for the rest of the day.

The day of the 'incedent' I did go to see our vet and he suggested that the problem with the calf could be a neurological syndrome similar to having episodes of epilepsy. He compared it to the fainting goat that when startled, falls over and loses conscienseness. In a similar fate, my calf loses motor coordination.

Despite that hypothetical diagnosis, I did give the calf a dose of E and Selenium and a multivitamin shot with thiamine.

Vicki, Thanks kindly for your prompt answer. You certainly do provide a much valued service. My veterinarian was actually in our yard yesterday morning and was not interested in examining the calf in its "normal" state.

Thanks again.

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