Vet on call: Understanding milk fever in cows

After infusing each 200ml of the solution, I would check the heart and rumen movements to gauge the response to treatment to avoid overdosing since the cow’s situation was not the typical milk fever. I would also monitor the wetting of the muzzle and the status of the eyes.

It is more of an individual cow problem and the disease is not an absolute lack of calcium in the body but the inability of the animal to manage and keep the balance of the blood calcium and the calcium in the bones. Medically, this is called calcium homeostasis.

When calcium levels lower in the blood because of increased demand like during pregnancy and heavy milking, the body releases calcium from the bones and returns it to the blood. In the meantime, the body also keeps absorbing calcium from the feed eaten and gets it into the blood.

Milk fever occurs when the feed does not have enough calcium or the body is not able to release enough of it into the blood from the bones. It is not well-known why the switching mechanism fails.

It is possible for a cow to go down because of both nerve damage and milk fever. A cow with milk fever can also damage its leg and hip nerves and muscles while attempting to stand. This happens mainly when the muscle paralysis is incomplete and the cow ends up spraying the legs.

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