Kidney disease in cattle, often referred to as pulpy kidney disease (enterotoxaemia), occurs from the toxin known as clostridium perfringens type D. The bacteria exists naturally in the stomachs of cattle. Unfortunately, the toxic bacteria can multiply quickly and be absorbed through the cow's intestinal tract. Common in cattle, goats and sheep, pulpy kidney disease tends to strike healthy animals quickly. Prompt treatment is mandatory to prevent death.
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The food moving through the intestine of the cow at a normal rate keeps the toxic bacteria in check. If the animal's digestion is slowed down or stalled the bacteria begins to multiply quickly, which causes toxins to increase and be absorbed into the cow's bloodstream. As the toxins build up in the cow's bloodstream, widespread damage to blood vessels results and death can result from the vessels suffering damage within the cow's brain, according to the Smallstock in Development website. Upon necropsy, the kidneys appear pale and lumpy with blood clots. The kidneys suffer widespread damage as they work to clear the toxins from the bloodstream.
The digestion of cows is normally slowed when the animal suffers a sudden change in diet. Young calves appear to be the most susceptible due to their rapid intake of food. Improved pasture also causes the conditions to occur. A grain-based diet can also cause the cow's digestion to slow.
The cow will often die suddenly with no symptoms. If the infected animal does exhibit symptoms it will normally suffer from an unsteady gait and convulsions, according to the Agricultural Research and Development of South Africa. The animal also may appear overly excited and uncoordinated.
Diagnosis of pulpy kidney disease is difficult. A veterinarian will evaluate the sick animal with a complete physical to determine if it shows signs of the disease. A necropsy is strongly suggested for any cattle that die suddenly with no symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment can prove expensive, so often only valuable animals are saved if symptoms are caught early. Administering pulpy kidney antitoxin and antibiotics will normally save the cow. Prevention of pulpy kidney disease can be obtained through vaccinations. Two doses of vaccine in cattle will help to provide immunity. Injections of the vaccine should be spaced four to six weeks apart. A booster to maintain immunity will be needed in three months, according to the Pfizer Animal Health website.
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- Smallstock in Development: Enterotoxaemia, Clostridial Diseases of the Stomach and Intestines
- Queensland Government: Livestock Health: Pulpy Kidney in Sheeps and Goats
- Pfizer Animal Health: FAQs: Pulpy Kidney Disease
- Pulpy Kidney (Enterotoxaemia); Pfizer Animal Health; July 2009
- Agricultural Research Council: Common Diseases and Conditions