Rehydration important for scouring calves – AHI

Animal Health Ireland’s (AHI) latest bulletin is focused on the management of scour in young calves.

AHI says that scour in young calves is mainly caused by viruses and parasites and these infectious agents damage the lining of the intestines, so that water and electrolytes cannot be absorbed effectively.

“The calf will have loose faeces for as long as it takes for the intestinal lining to heal and the most important treatment for the calf is the replacement of those fluids and electrolytes that are lost while the calf has diarrhoea,” the organisation says.

In order to replace the fluids lost AHI says that the calf needs to be fed with additional feeds of oral rehydration solutions (2 litres at lunchtime, and 2 litres overnight). The organisation says that if the calf refuses to drink, oral rehydration solutions can be fed by stomach tube

“Continuing to feed with milk or good quality milk replacer does not cause, worsen or prolong scour; in fact, the milk actually helps the healing of the intestine.

“Scouring calves should be offered normal amounts of milk or milk replacer as long as they want to drink,” it says.

AHI also says that suckler calves should be left with their dams.

On the topic of antibiotics for the scouring calf AHI says that antibiotics do not work against the parasites and viruses that are the most common causes of calf scour.

“Thus it makes no sense to treat calves with antibiotics just because they are scouring, unless there is an accompanying fever or the calf looks very sick. If antibiotics are used when they are not needed, there is a good chance that they won’t work when they are really needed,” the organisation advises. 

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