ABOMASAL ULCERS

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Willunga Vet Services
37 Main Rd
Willunga
SA 5172

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Phone:
8556 2075
Fax:
8556 2654

Aldinga Vet Services
16 Heathersay Ave
Aldinga Beach
SA 5173

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Phone:
8556 5498

We have recently seen a number of abomasal ulcers in dairy cows. This is a disorder best treated early for good outcomes. If you have a cow showing signs of an ulcer please give us a call as soon as possible so we can discuss options with you. The faster these are treated the more chance the cow has of surviving.

WHAT IS IT?

Abomasal ulcers are an erosion of the lining of the abomasum that can result in a variety of clinical signs. While abomasal ulcers occur in cattle of all ages, the most commonly affected group is the cow in the first 6 weeks of  lactation and occasionally just before calving.

Normally the lining of the abomasum is protected by a mucous barrier, bicarbonate and a high rate of blood flow. If these mechanisms are interrupted, the acidic contents of the abomasum can damage the lining and cause ulcers. Metritis, mastitis, ketosis and LDA/RDA’s are often seen concurrently with abomasal ulcers.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Ulcers are generally caused by a decrease in abomasal pH. This can occur through:

Poor quality silage or hay that physically damages the lining of the abomasum

Low protein diets can decrease the amount of protective mucous that lines the abomasum

Stress – stress stimulates the production of acid in the abomasum. Stress can be caused by any change in environment (ie change in weather, management, diet, social structure etc), by increased production demands or by disease.

 

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

Signs of abomasal ulcers depend on the severity of the ulceration

Mild – mildly off food, slight to moderate production drop

Moderate – off food, dark almost black sticky faeces, significant production drop, mild fever, can have arched back due to abdominal pain, cows may also grind their teeth. Gums are often pale

Severe – complete loss of appetite, very pale gums, low body temperature, often black faeces with fresh blood, cow can be down and will grunt or groan.

 

HOW TO WE TREAT IT?

The key to treating ulcers to to start treatment as early as possible. The early stages of ulceration can be hard to pick, so once signs become obvious the ulcer has often progressed, so the sooner we see these cows for treatment, the better.

If you suspect an ulcer:

  • Stop all grain feeding
  • Stop all silage feeding
  • Drench with mag hydroxide if you have some
  • Start a broad spectrum antibiotic such as Tribactril, Excenel or Betamox
  • Call us for advice ASAP

Please do not give an anti-inflammatory injection. Anti inflamatories such as Flunixin or Tolfijec will make ulcers worse.

HOW DO WE PREVENT IT?

  • Avoid sudden changes in diet
  • Ensure calving cows receive a good quality transition diet in the 3 weeks leading up to calving – this reduces the risk of post calving problems and also helps avoid any changes in food intake
  • Treat underlying conditions such as metritis, ketosis, mastitis quickly
  • There is some research that suggest clostridial infections can predispose to ulcers – ensure your cows receive 7 in 1 boosters every year
  • There is also some research to suggest copper deficiency may also be associated with ulcer disease – if you have had mineral problems in the past or are concerned this might be a problem please give us call to discuss options.