Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bloat in a pregnant cow

So today, I was relaxing at home when I got a knock on the door about 2:15pm.  A guy was standing there and told me that one of my cows was hung up on the fence, and he was worried it was hanging itself, and in really bad shape. Uh oh. He lives in the property behind mine and actually hopped in his car to come knock on my door because he thought it would be quicker.  I thanked the guy for telling me, pulled on my boots and ran back there.

As I went, I called KC, telling him what had been reported. If I could free it myself I would, but odds are I'd need him to come over. I would call him right back.

When I got back there, I could immediately see that it was not hanging itself on fencing. It was a cow (as in, female cow), and she looked like she'd had the bloating that had killed a steer a couple months ago. She was laying on her side, moaning. From the look of the feces around her, I bet she'd been that way several hours. KC had mentioned in conversation that most of his adult cows were pregnant, so I figured this one was pregnant too. So, it either had bloat, or it had some pregnancy related complication.  KC had better get over here.  I was quite proud of myself that 1- I recognized it was a cow (as opposed to steer) and 2- that it probably had bloat. My knowledge of cows was increasing!

As usual, he was here within 5 minutes, and he agreed that it was bloat. Because she was in fact pregnant, he was afraid to cut into her upper abdomen (kind of by the spine) to relieve the bloat as he normally would. He called the vet. His favorite vet was unavailable, so the back up vet promised to come right over, but their office was about 20 minutes away.  Several times he actually picked up the knife. The cow was obviously suffering, and he felt like he could relieve her pain quickly, but was afraid of complicating things.  Usually the vet will stick a tube down their throat and get the gas out that way, which is obviously the more hygienic way to do things. We tried to move her legs and massage her belly, hoping to get her to burp or fart. She did burp a few times, but her stomach was getting bigger, and it felt like a drum to the touch.

While we waited for the vet, he flipped the cow over a few times with my help. Flipped a very bloated, pregnant, 1200 lb animal is not easy. Not very clean either- she was in a pool of feces. So gross!

Vet finally got there about 3:20 or so, and with one look, she felt like cutting into the cow was the best route because of the emergent nature of the situation. The cow's breathing was getting more labored, and she seemed really in distress. So, she shaved a section of the cow, towards the top near the spine, about the midpoint of the left flank. She then sterilized the area as best she could, and then did what I guess is called an emergency rumenotomy. She then put a valve sort of thing on it. It looked an awful lot like a giant red corkscrew. She even screwed it in. As soon as it was screwed in, a sound like air escaping a tire sounded.  We could actually watch her belly go down. She still seemed a bit swollen, but a lot better.

The vet then gave her some antibiotics, and then a shot of something else that I guess gives them energy and makes them feel better.  The vet expected the cow to jump right up, but she didn't. She continued to lay on her side and moan. She wished us the best of luck and then left.  Honestly, I expected her to stick around until the cow was standing up again, but this was the first time I've ever actually seen a vet around a large animal, so what did I know? KC later confirmed he would've liked that better too.

After an hour of turning her occasionally, massaging her belly, and generally harassing her, trying to get her to stand up, or at least lay on her stomach instead of her side, we FINALLY got her standing. Her front legs were very very wobbly, but she was up!!

She only stayed up about 2 minutes and then laid back down, but at least she was laying in proper, healthy cow position. She was breathing much better, much more quietly. She also looked very angry and irritated. I'd been petting her and comforting her the whole time, and she seemed to like it. But now she really didn't want us touching her.

Finally, about 5:15 or so, two of KC's friends showed, really cowboys who definitely knew their way around cows. So, I left the cow and KC in their capable hands and went inside to shower because OH MY GOSH I stunk!!!!

She is 7 or so months along, and the vet did check on the baby while she was there. Baby was doing well, amazingly enough. I told KC that I'd love to watch her calve when the time came.

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