The Basic Clinical Exam: Key to Early Identification of Sick Animals




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TitleThe Basic Clinical Exam: Key to Early Identification of Sick Animals
Date01.09.2013
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The Basic Clinical Exam: Key to Early Identification of Sick Animals

Ralph Bruno, DVM, MS; Ellen Jordan, PhD; Juan Hernandez-Rivera, PhD; and Kevin Lager, MS -

Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Mireille Chahine, PhD – University of Idaho

Robert Hagevoort, PhD – New Mexico State University

The entities involved in the development of this material do not support one product over another and any mention herein is meant as an example, not an endorsement.

Physical Exam of the Dairy Cow



Goals of a Physical Exam Program

  • Identify sick cows early

  • Treat sick cows early

  • Prevent spread of diseases

  • Protect the food supply

  • Improve animal welfare



The Normal Cow Parameters



Potential Disorders

  • Ketosis (urine or milk)

  • Displaced abomasum (DA)

  • Mastitis

  • Metritis and endometritis

  • Lymph nodes

  • Lameness – feet and legs

  • Lesions – mouth, feet, teats

  • Endemic diseases

  • Unusual symptoms that could indicate a Foreign or Emerging Disease



Groups of Animals

  • Recently calved or “fresh” cows

  • Non-stressed animals

  • Recently purchased

  • Stressed animals

    • Weaning
    • Environmental
    • Management Change
    • Transportation


Multiple Stressors Build



… until They Reach the Breaking Point for the System





Immune Suppression in Fresh Cows Makes Them Susceptible

  • Salmonella

  • Clostridium

  • Pneumonia



How to Identify Disease in Fresh Cows: Four Areas of Focus

  • Temperature

  • Appetite

  • Uterine Discharge

  • Hydration Status



Develop a Systematic Approach

  • Attitude

    • eyes and ears
  • Appetite

  • Hydration

  • Temperature

  • Feet and Legs



Start with Attitude



Monitor - Appetite



Hydration Status

Different levels of dehydration
  • Skin test (skin elasticity)

  • Eyes

sunken eyes = severe dehydration



Record Diseases and Treatments for Each Cow



Check the Heart

  • Use stethoscope

(both sides)

Check for:
  • Heart Rate

  • Different Sounds

  • Murmurs



Check the Rumen

  • Sounds

  • Number of Contractions

  • Displacement

  • Rumen Distension (Bloat)



Check the Lungs

Listen to:
  • Lung sounds

  • Respiration rate

Observe for:
  • Nasal discharges

  • Congestion

  • Coughing



Look Beyond Typical Symptoms

  • International travel increases the potential to bring in foreign animal diseases

    • Example: Foot and Mouth Disease
  • Early detection of any disease can prevent its spread and minimizes the impact on the herd



Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

  • Impacts cows, sheep, pigs, deer and other cloven footed animals

  • Very contagious virus

  • Fever and blister-like lesions on teats, tongue, lips, and between hooves

  • Lost milk production



Foot and Mouth Disease

  • Last reported cases in North America

    • U.S., 1929
    • Canada, 1952
    • Mexico, 1954
  • Must maintain vigilance to prevent reintroduction



Foot and Mouth Disease

  • 2001 Major Outbreak in United Kingdom

    • 6 million animals slaughtered
    • Estimated cost of 17 billion dollars


Reasons for Losses

  • Very contagious, so many animals affected

  • Eradication programs based on slaughter and destroying carcass

  • Lose international market – quarantine

  • Lose market nationally, scares consumer



Visual Evaluation of Udder and Teats

Does she have mastitis?

Check the Feet and Legs

Normal Stance

Identify Something Wrong

  • FMD confused with several other diseases:



Take the Temperature

  • Digital thermometers

  • Record daily results on cow with chalk for “cow side” record



Interpreting Cow Temperature

Particularly important the first 10 days after calving.
  • Normal temperature 101.5-102 °F (Normal can range up to 103 ºF if during the heat of the summer)

  • Elevated temperature > 103 °F = indicates an infection (metritis, mastitis, pneumonia, etc.)

  • Low temperature < 101 °F = may mean the cow has milk fever, DA, ketosis, or indigestion



Can Fever Be the First Sign of Infection?



Reasons to Check the Temperature



Check the Uterus

  • Note normal or abnormal discharge

  • Varies by day after calving



Maintain Records

  • Date

  • Cow ID

  • Symptoms

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment

  • Withdrawal



Determine if Antibiotic Treatment Is Necessary



Before Selecting a Treatment

  • Do not stop the clinical exam at the first findings – you can miss other signs of disease!!

  • Try to associate all normal and abnormal signs found during the exam with common diseases

  • If you don’t recognize something talk to your supervisor and/or herd veterinarian immediately!

  • Follow the treatment indicated in the dairy’s protocols for each specific illness

  • In case of no response to treatment – contact your supervisor immediately



Other Disease Considerations

  • Nutrition from close-up to freshening

  • Early assistance in calving if needed

  • Clean, comfortable bedding

  • Feed waiting in bunk when cows return from the parlor





A Collaborative Effort: Texas AgriLife Extension Service, New Mexico State University and University of Idaho Funding provided by the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence.

Ellen Jordan, PhD; Ralph Bruno, DVM, MS; Juan A. Hernandez-Rivera, PhD; and Kevin Lager, MS-

Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Mireille Chahine, PhD – University of Idaho

Robert Hagevoort, PhD – New Mexico State University

The entities involved in the development of this material do not support one product over another and any mention herein is meant as an example, not an endorsement.


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