Bleeding Emergencies in Cattle

Bleeding Emergencies in Cattle

 (4)    0

  Cattle DehorningCattle CastrationCattle General Health Care  

Bleeding Emergencies in Cattle

Dr. Colleen Lewis / January 5, 2017

Many years ago, I received a phone call to examine a Holstein steer as he lay with his head curled back in a sleeping position, unfortunately, dead. As I began my case investigation, I gathered a history and started through the hide to expose the underlying tissues and the muscles beneath. The tissues were extremely pale; the steer had bled out. But what he didn’t have, was evidence of a major, life threatening bleed. Where had all of his blood gone? The only external wound the steer had was on his ear. Evidently, he had caught his ear tag on something and it had accidently tore out, creating a swallow fork. The injury at first glance was minor as the raw edges had produced a little puddle of blood beneath his head before he passed. Gathering more information, the owner proceeded to tell me that the tag was purported missing about four days ago. The bleeding was small but steady, at a rate of roughly one to two drops per second. On further examination, we were finding similar puddles of blood around his loafing area. Over the course of four days, the blood loss was enough to prove fatal. Be aware that even a slow blood loss over a series of days can add up to be very serious. At least it was for one fat steer. Most bleeding injuries are a lot more noticeable.

A veterinarian can provide surgical repair, thermal cautery and packing when needed for a bleeding emergency. There are a few things you can do to reduce blood loss until help arrives. An arterial bleed that involves bright red pumping, squirting or non-stop stream of blood needs immediate attention. At the site of any bleeding injury apply firm pressure using gauze or something made of fabric. Materials with texture will facilitate clotting by providing a little lattice to build on. Keep the first layer of material that you apply firmly in place as the blood begins to form a soft clot. DO NOT REMOVE THE FIRST LAYER. Leaving the first layer in place allows the network of clotting ample time to build and take hold. If your first layer becomes soaked with blood, you can add another layer of absorbent material on top of your original layer. Pulling the first layer off will start the clotting system all over again, losing any ground you may have made. If direct pressure isn’t enough, look for a way to slow or stop the blood from getting to the site by either applying a tourniquet or applying immediate pressure to the artery or vein supplying the injured area. Limb bandaging, and ice packs can be added as well to constrict the blood vessels and decrease the bleed.

The blood supply to and from the udder is formidable. The milk vein is often readily recognizable externally as it leaves the fore udders and disappears through the body wall toward the liver. The fact that the milk vein is so exposed with only the hide and hair to protect it makes it vulnerable to injury. Injuries to the milk vein can be abruptly life threatening. Since the direction of the venous blood flow is from the udder, apply firm pressure along the entire route of the vein until help arrives.

Not all bleeding is from an obvious, external injury. Factor XI deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder (Kumar et al. 2011c), recognized in Holsteins. The inherited, defective gene creates a type of hemophilia. Affected calves may fail to stop bleeding from the umbilicus after birth, or may have prolonged bleeding from dehorning or castration sites. Affected cows often exhibit a pink colored colostrum. Bleeding episodes can be catastrophic; for example, the steer with the torn ear may have had the genetic deficiency. An affected cow reportedly died after calving due to fatally hemorrhaging into the lungs. Luckily, some affected cattle never succumb to a fatal bleed. The dairy industry is working hard to eliminate the factor deficiency from the gene pool.

Bleeding ulcers can occur in cattle, especially in intensive feeding and management systems. Ulcers typically occur high in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. As the partially digested blood travels down the tract, it causes the fecal material to become darker and discolored. Seeing a dark green to black colored stool can be a tip-off that bleeding is occurring. Ulcers can also rupture, causing death through septic infection. Another serious bleeding disease in cattle is caused by Clostridium perfringens type A: jejunal hemorrhage syndrome. I started seeing cows that died from C. perfringens type A in the dairy industry back in 2000. The bacteria causes so much damage that often the cow shows no clinical signs except sudden death. A post mortem (necropsy) reveals extensive hemorrhaging of the GI tract.

Prevention of blood loss requires quick thinking. Prepare your farm for any emergencies with appropriate first aid supplies. Diagnosing sudden death is an important management tool and begins with a thorough history and a post mortem examination. If it is determined that the animal died of an individual animal problem, like a bleeding injury, you may find solace in hopes that the rest of your animals are safe. However, if something contagious or preventable is occurring, you can make the necessary management changes immediately to protect the rest of the herd.

About the Author
Dr. Colleen Lewis is a 1996 graduate of Kansas State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Her career has taken her to many places as a practice owner, consultant, embryologist, and mentor. She enjoys mixed animal practice, teaching, traveling, farming and high school sports with her husband, Andrew and their three boys.

 (4)    0

Your comment has been sent successfully. Thanks for comment!
Leave a Comment
Captcha