Recognizing dehydration in calves
Heading into the full swing of this winter season, it is important that growers to keep the basics in mind. Dehydration can take place during any time of the year and it is important to recognize these signs and know how to handle these cases.
Signs of dehydration: General, clinical signs of dehydration in cattle include: eyes sunken into the orbits, skin remains tented indefinitely, dry mucus membranes and the animal's attitude and disposition. Since the degree of dehydration can be potentially life threatening, it should be handled in a timely manner.
Levels of dehydration:
--Cattle with 2 to 4 percent dehydration or less will have minimal observable signs but physical activity can be reduced.
--Cattle with dehydration of 5 to 10 percent of their body weight will exhibit partial sunken eyes into the orbit; skin tenting that is 4 to 8 seconds in duration; tacky mucus membranes; and reduced dry matter intake with a corresponding decrease in productivity.
--Studies indicate that cattle with 7 to 8 percent dehydration levels have impaired immune response.
--Parental through intravenous or subcutaneous administration.
--Oral rumen supplementation with large volumes or a combination of parental.
--Oral supplementation. It is important for replacement fluids calculations to consider both maintenance requirements and compensatory fluid losses.
Calves that are alert and able to stand, if dehydrated less than 8 percent can be replenished with subcutaneous or oral fluids. Calves less than 5 days old typically are not severely acidotic and an alkalinizing solution is not mandatory. Oral fluids with energy sources and electrolytes are commonly used and can be fed in water or administered with an esophageal feeder.
Calves that are dehydrated more than 8 percent, recumbent, or entering hypovolemic shock, need IV fluid therapy. Saline or Ringer's solution are recommended for this age group. Older calves will need an alkalizing agent added to therapeutic fluids to correct systemic acidosis.
Oral re-hydration of adult cattle may be sufficient where dehydration is less than 8 percent of body weight and the animal is not toxic. Non-chilled water when mixed with electrolytes is the chosen fluid choice and will replace the need for intravenous isotonic fluids for all but the severely dehydrated or toxic animal.
For adult cattle dehydrated 10 percent or more, and compromised toxic cows, IV isotonic fluids are necessary. Adding 5 percent glucose per liter will also supply energy. Quantities of fluid administered are dependent on the level of dehydration and degree of vascular expansion needed to maintain cell perfusion.