Why would a heifer have pneumonia?

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My son has 4 beef cattle and little to NO knowledge about them, except that he's practically made pets of them, and feeds them very well.

He noticed that one of the heifers (a milking shorthorn), about 7 days ago, was off her feed, and just a little listless. He'd fed them a lot of ground-up apples and pumpkins lately, so he thought he'd just watch her.

He told me about it when I went to see him, and we went out to look at her in the dark. She was lying down, and let us walk right up and listen to her stomach - it was completely silent. Not, I understand, a good sign, and she wasn't chewing her cud.

He called the vet, and the vet came out and said she had pneumonia. How? Why would one cow get it and none of the others? What causes it?

The reason I'm asking is that he also told me that just before she went off her feed, she'd gotten out. While he was chasing her, she ran up a pile of hay, lost her footing, and fell over on her back. I'm wondering if perhaps she twisted her intestine, and that's causing her stomach distress. The vet said cows don't get twisted intestines, but I'm believe I've read where horses have and do - why not cows?

To me, not eating much, not chewing her cud, and eliminating very little are signs of some sort of stomach upset. The vet said her temp. was about 104 (should be about 101?), and she was panting slightly, so that showed pneumonia.

I'm not too knowledgeable about cows either, so I thought I'd ask the experts! Thanks for any and all of your experienced input.

-- Bonnie (chilton@stateline-isp.com), December 07, 2001


If she hasn't passed any manure in 24 hours, your right, something is amiss with her digestion, even if she is eating very little, she should be passing maure and have some gut sounds. My opinion is to get another large animal vet to come out and look at her, especially if she is a pet to your son.

She would be panting slightly if in pain, bad pain causes all types of animals to pant, just like women do in labor.

The vet is wrong about cattle not being able to twist a gut, any animal or human can have a twisted gut, if it has long intestines, as all herbivores do, they can twist a gut. Hopefully, she did not, as the prognosis is not good in that event, but you need to know for sure because it is a slow, painful way to die.

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (annie@1st.net), December 07, 2001.

If she doesn't have a cud going, I would give her some Probois or try to get a cud out of someone else to give to her. Vit. B would help also. You can get one animal that will come down with something and everyone else's system can fight it off. With the weather that we've been having it would be very easy for someone to get pneumonia. I don't know about cows, but goats can get a twisted gut.

-- Leslie in Western WA (sundaycreek@gnrac.net), December 07, 2001.

I would be inclined to go with what the vet said. I have seen baby calves with pneumonia and goats also. The symptoms are as you describe. Pneumonia is fluid on the lungs. It can be bacterial or mechanical. Mechanical is usually if they accidently inhaled something and it is causing irritation. Since there is a fever, it is probably bacterial or viral. If it has been going on so long that she is down, she hasn't eaten or drunk anything substantial for a couple of days. If the vet said to use antibiotics, I sure would do it, the sooner the better.

-- Dianne Wood (woodgoat@pacifier.com), December 07, 2001.

Cows can most definetly have a twisted stomache. They have 4 stomaches and the rumen can and does twist. We've had it happen in our herd twice and the first sign is no stomache sounds, sud chewing, and little elimination. A fall over on the back could cause it as can difficult calving or other things. Our vet is a large animal vet and sees alot of cows daily and is very good. To correct a twisted stomache, the vet will cut into the side of the cow where the part of the stomache is twisted(could be either side, the vet will know) and reach inside(really!!!) and untwist it. then He'll put a tack stitch to hold it in the right place and sew the skin back up. Our cows stood right there thru the whole thing and started eating almost right away and milked good. Pretty amazing. It costed about 150.00 and was well worth it. the cows would have died otherwise. Also 104 fever is not too high. When our whoke herd came down with pnemonia. they would run between 104-106. I would get a 2nd opinion from a differnt vet,Did the vet listen to her stomache?

-- Jeni Springer (jeni@dwave.net), December 07, 2001.

Betcha a nickle all the fruit has caused rumen acidosis. Killed the bacteria/flora in her rumen, and a dead rumen is a dead ruminant. Now that she is down and not moving fluid has indeed entered her lungs, but the pnemoina she now has was caused from being down. Now she will have swelling of her lower legs as her liver stops functioning, and she dies from dehydration and fluid buildup in her lungs and around her heart. Get that rumen working now! Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), December 07, 2001.

Vickie, that's it exactly, I re-read the whole question again, and I had missed "the feeding of a whole lot of ground up apples" significance!

You are the ruminate expert girl!!!!

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (annie@1st.net), December 08, 2001.

Thanks so much, everyone!! What you've said makes sense to me, especially the part about pneumonia being caused by being "down" for a little while. Bless you all for your help.

-- Bonnie (chilton@stateline-isp.com), December 08, 2001.

I would just like to thank others who responded to this problem. I learned a lot just from reading your responses, which, I realize, is what this forum is all about.

-- Dianne Wood (woodgoat@pacifier.com), December 08, 2001.

Going back to the answer about Probias: Right idea, wrong way...Probias has lactobaccilus which produces lactic acid. Acidosis in a cow can be caused by too much fruit and is an over-abundance of lactic acid. Vitacharge paste, put out by vitaferm, has Aspergillus Oriza. (Amaferm) This stimulates the bacterial growth and balances the PH. It will also stimulate fiber digestion which will start the rumenating process. High levels of vitamins and minerals will help the animal absorb the antibiotic. I agree that the heifer being down probably caused the pneumonia.(normal temp. is between 101 to 102 1/2) Also about the twisted gut....they can have an RDA or an LDA. These are right or left displaced abomasum. Usually lethal if not treated. Surgery can sometimes fix it. I don't think that this is the problem. Most likely the accidosis is the trouble. Check the manure, and if it is fresh rub your foot over it, (with a boot:~)) and see if it has bubbles in it. Bubbles are a sign of acidosis.

-- David (davidl41@ipa.net), December 08, 2001.

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