News Article

February Newsletter

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 - 6:53pm

Calf Scour - Dehydration and Rehydration

Scour accounts for around 50% of all UK calf deaths and causes significant financial losses to both beef and dairy enterprises.

The age at which the calf is affected will give an idea of the likely pathogen and therefore appropriate treatment;

  • 1-3 days old is commonly bacterial in origin, therefore antibiotics may be appropriate
  • 7-14 days are more likely to be affected by viruses and/or protozoa
  • Mixed infections, for example with both rotavirus and cryptosporidia, are common

All of the agents that cause calf scour affect the flow of fluids into and out of the gut. Therefore, the end result is a calf that becomes dehydrated, acidotic (in other words the pH of its blood falls) and that suffers from loss of electrolytes, particularly sodium. The symptoms of dehydration are;

  • Sunken eyes
  • Increased skin-tent time
  • Lack of a suck reflex.

Although it was previously thought that milk feeding should be stopped while a calf is scouring, it has since been proved that feeding milk alongside electrolytes helps in the healing of the intestinal wall and avoids excessive weight loss. Scoured calves should receive at least 2x2 litres of electrolytes daily in addition to milk feeding.

However, if a calf either has no suckle reflex and/or cannot stand, it will generally require dripping to survive. Despite appearances, calves treated at this stage still have a strong chance of survival. Unlike other calf diseases, scour does not tend to affect long term growth and productivity and therefore should be worth treating.

In an ideal situation a calf would be dripped using sterile fluids to treat the dehydration, electrolyte balance and acidosis. However, due to financial constraints this is not always viable. We a proposing a service where non-sterile fluids are used and electrolytes are added in accordance with recent literature. In this case we could offer to drip your calves at the practice for £40 and give them a real fighting chance.

Please give us a call to discuss any concerns you have 01363 772860, or email us here.