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Review Calf health from birth to weaning. II. Management of diarrhoea in pre-weaned calves
Ingrid Lorenz a,*, John Fagan b, Simon J. More a,c a Herd Health and Animal Husbandry, UCD School Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
b Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Coosan, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
c Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +353 1 7166083. E-mail addresses: IL: Ingrid.Lorenz@ucd.ie JF: John.Fagan@agriculture.gov.ie SJM: Simon.More@ucd.ie
Calfhood diseases have a major impact on the economic viability of cattle operations.
The second of this three part review series considers the management of diarrhoeic diseases in
pre-weaned calves. In neonatal calf diarrhoea, oral rehydration therapy is the single most
important therapeutic measure to be carried out by the farmer and is usually successful if
instigated immediately after diarrhoea has developed. Continued feeding of milk or milk
replacer to diarrhoeic calves is important, to prevent malnourishment and weight loss in
affected calves. Indiscriminative antibiotic treatment of uncomplicated diarrhoea is
discouraged, whereas systemically ill calves can benefit from systemic antibiotic treatment for
the prevention of septicaemia or concurrent diseases. Ancillary treatments and specific
preventive measures are discussed. Eimeriosis has a high economic impact on the farming
industries due to direct cost of treatment and calf losses, but especially due to decreased
performance of clinically as well as sub-clinically affected animals. Emphasis lies on
prophylactic or metaphylactic treatment, since the degree of damage to the intestinal mucosa
once diarrhoea has developed, makes therapeutic intervention unrewarding.
Keywords: Calf health; Disease management; Neonatal diarrhoea; Oral rehydration;
Continued feeding; Prevention; Eimeriosis
Calfhood diseases have a major impact on the economic viability of cattle operations,
due to the direct costs of calf losses and treatment and the long term effects on performance
. Further, calf health was prioritised as one of the most important animal health issues
facing the Irish livestock industry in a recent expert Policy Delphi study conducted on behalf
of Animal Health Ireland (AHI) . As part of ongoing AHI work, a group of experts was
commissioned to provide evidence-based advice on calf health and disease management to
Irish farmers, agricultural advisers and veterinary practitioners. As an initial step, a three-part
review series on calf health from birth to weaning has been generated, specifically to provide
a scientific evidence base for the development of advisory tools on calf health, and to identify
gaps in current knowledge to be filled with targeted research. Even though the envisaged
output will be specific for Irish husbandry systems, the scope of the reviews should make
them useful for the same purpose elsewhere. The reviews cover both suckler and dairy calf
management. However, due to the differences in the nature of these systems, some topics will
deal mainly or exclusively with either dairy or suckler calves.
Neonatal calf diarrhoea is recognised worldwide as one of the biggest challenges for
both the beef and dairy industries. About one third of US beef cow-calf owners agree that it
has an economic impact on their operations  and it has constantly accounted for more than
50 % of unweaned dairy heifer deaths since 1991 . In Ireland, diarrhoea is the most
common cause of death in calves from birth to one month of age submitted for post mortem
examination (Regional Veterinary Laboratories - Surveillance Report 2009). Disease
prevention, though preferable, is not always possible in intensive calf rearing systems.
Appropriate calf management, once diarrhoea has developed, is crucial to avoid further
economic losses, animal welfare impact and farmer distress.
The second part of this three part review series concentrates on the management of
diarrhoea in pre-weaned calves. The first and third parts focus on general aspects of disease
prevention in pre-weaned calves  and disease prevention and management with particular
reference to calf pneumonia , respectively.
Neonatal calf diarrhoea
Enterotoxic Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium parvum, rotavirus and coronavirus are
usually seen as the most common infectious causes of neonatal calf diarrhoea . These
infectious agents can also be found in faecal samples from healthy calves and in calves from
farms without diarrhoea problem [8-11]. Clinical disease develops due to an unfavourable
relation between the resistance of the calf and the infectious pressure. The main management
factors with impact on the resistance of the calf are calving management to prevent dystocia,
timely provision of adequate amounts of colostrum and appropriate diet thereafter, as
previously discussed . The infectious pressure can be lowered through general hygiene in
the areas of calving, feeding, housing and in general calf handling.
Enterotoxic E. coli usually only cause secretory diarrhoea in the first four days of life.
The other common infectious agents involved in neonatal calf diarrhoea cause damage to the
intestinal mucosa resulting in mixed malabsorptive and secretory diarrhoea. Even if therapy
against the causal pathogens was available this pathophysiological mechanism would make it
unlikely that the duration of diarrhoea could be significantly influenced . For this reason
replacement of fluid and electrolyte losses remains the single most important treatment
measure in uncomplicated calf diarrhoea.
Oral rehydration therapy, originally developed in human medicine for the treatment of
cholera, is generally recognised as one of the most significant medical advances of the 20th
century . The general requirements for an efficient oral rehydration solution (ORS) are
that it should be efficiently absorbed, normalise the extracellular fluid volume and correct
There are several factors to consider while choosing an appropriate ORS. Since
sodium is the osmotic skeleton of the extracellular fluid, it must be present in adequate
concentration in ORS. A study comparing three ORS with different sodium concentrations in
calves found that the solution with a sodium content of 120 mmol/L corrected dehydration,
whereas solutions with much lower concentrations did not . Even though there is little
evidence that solutions with sodium concentrations >130 mmol/L are harmful, it is generally
suggested that the sodium concentration for ORS should be between 90 and 130 mmol/L .
The critical scientific step facilitating the development of oral rehydration therapy was the
discovery of the coupled transport of sodium and glucose . Besides glucose, neutral
amino acids (e.g. glycine or glutamine) and volatile fatty acids (e.g. acetate or propionate)
have been shown to enhance sodium absorption in the intestines [17, 18]. Glucose-to-sodium
ratios of 1:1 to 3:1 have been recommended [16, 19].
Metabolic acidosis is known as a frequent and potentially severe complication of
neonatal calf diarrhoea. Diarrhoea leads to loss of bicarbonate via the faeces, decrease of
glomerular filtration of hydrogen ions and accumulation of L-lactate in case of severe
dehydration. In addition, the production and absorption of D-lactic acid plays a major role in
diarrhoeic calves . This pathophysiological abnormality appears to be more common in
ruminants than in other domestic species or in infants [20-24], which suggests that newborn
ruminants are more prone to developing severe metabolic acidosis than infants during
diarrhoea. This is most probably the reason why the current recommendation on the
alkalinising capacity for ORS used in calves (60-80 mmol/L ) is considerably higher than
that of the current WHO-ORS formula (30 mmol/L . Alkalinising agents commonly used
in commercial ORS are bicarbonate and bicarbonate precursors, mainly acetate and
propionate. Bicarbonate alkalinises the abomasum to a higher degree than propionate and
acetate, thus lowering the non-specific resistance of the calves against bacterial infection [25,
26]. The impact of bicarbonate in ORS on milk clotting and calf performance is controversial
[26-30]. However, in the absence of contrary evidence, it seems reasonable to avoid the use of
bicarbonate-containing ORS less than 2 to 4 hours following milk feeding.
As in humans, the purpose of ORS in diarrhoeic calves is to replace electrolytes and
fluids that are lost via the intestines. Therefore, ORS should be given to calves as an extra
feed (that is, in addition to each normal milk meal) as soon as diarrhoea is observed . The
efficiency of this measure relies on early detection, through thorough observation, of
diarrhoeic calves. Oesophageal intubation of ORS produces similar, albeit slightly delayed,
resuscitative effects compared to ORS that is suckled. Therefore, oesophageal intubation is
recommended for calves that are either anorexic or otherwise not likely to drink from an
artificial teat . Milk should not be force-fed to calves that are depressed and not interested
in drinking. Force-feeding always leads to dysfunction of the oesophageal groove, so that
milk fermented in the reticulorumen can further contribute to metabolic acidosis . Even
though there is little experimental evidence about limits for oral rehydration therapy, it is
generally accepted that intravenous fluid therapy is indicated in severely depressed,
recumbent, severely dehydrated (>8%) and prolonged anorexic (>24 h) calves. The principles
and techniques of intravenous fluid therapy in calves have recently been reviewed .
Continued milk feeding of the diarrhoeic calf
It has traditionally been recommended that milk feeding is withdrawn from diarrhoeic
calves, either for a defined period of time or for as long as diarrhoea persists . However,
no scientific evidence is available to suggest that starvation of diarrhoeic calves leads to
improved clinical outcomes. Indeed, it is now recognised that milk feeding does not worsen or
prolong the course of diarrhoea, despite a somewhat lowered digestive capacity. Rather,
withdrawal of milk rapidly results in malnourishment and weight loss [27, 34]. Continued
milk feeding not only provides the energy required for weight gain and growth throughout the
period of diarrhoea, but also provides the nutrients that are necessary for the recovery of the
intestinal mucosa . A similar scientific evolution in human medicine led to the inclusion
of continued feeding into the standard management protocols for diarrhoea by the WHO in
The reluctance of veterinarians and farmers to adopt the principle of continued feeding
of the diarrhoeic calf led to diverging developments in osmolality of ORS for calves and
humans. Commercially available ORS for calves range from isotonic to highly hypertonic,
whereas WHO recently changed their recommendation towards a hypotonic formula .
Higher osmolality ORS for calves is a reflection of a higher concentration of glucose which is
added to provide additional nutritional support. Nonetheless, the provision of high-energy
ORS cannot prevent negative energy balance in calves  and hypertonic solutions are
known to slow abomasal emptying rates compared with isotonic solutions, thereby delaying
There is increasing pressure on the veterinary profession to promote prudent use of
antibiotics, noting that indiscriminate use of antibiotics promotes the selection and subsequent
proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria . In this context, the benefit of
antimicrobial treatment in neonatal calf diarrhoea has been reviewed by Constable , who
• Routine use of oral or injectable antibiotics cannot be recommended in calves without
• In calves with diarrhoea and systemic involvement (marked depression, anorexia,
fever), the risk of bacteraemia or septicaemia as well as bacterial overgrowth of the
small intestine is increased. In such circumstances, administration of broad-spectrum
beta-lactam antimicrobials (ceftiofur, amoxicillin or ampicillin), potentiated
sulphonamides, or fluoroquinolones (where permitted) is recommended.
• Susceptibility tests of bacteria cultured from faecal samples do not reliably predict
treatment outcomes in diarrhoeic calves .
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy with meloxicam has proven effective in
improving food intake and weight gain in diarrhoeic calves [38, 39]. Flunixin meglumine
showed some beneficial effect in experimental calves orally challenged with heat-stable
Escherichia coli enterotoxin  and in calves with naturally acquired bloody diarrhoea, but
not in calves without faecal blood .
Additional ancillary treatment has been either suggested or used to treat diarrhoeic
calves in the past, but is now either contraindicated (glucocorticoids, motility modifiers) or
cannot be supported due to insufficient evidence of efficacy (intestinal protectants, probiotics)
Diagnostic and specific prevention
For the management of the individual diarrhoeic calf, the knowledge of infectious
agents involved is of little value. If specific preventive measures are considered, faecal
samples from untreated calves early in the course of clinical disease can be submitted for
laboratory analyses . Care has to be taken with the interpretation of results, since the
enteropathogens most commonly implicated in calf diarrhoea outbreaks (rotavirus,
coronavirus, pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, cryptosporidia, Salmonella spp.) can also
be found in faecal samples from healthy calves and in calves from farms without diarrhoea
problem [8-11]. Postmortem examination of calves dying or euthanased in the acute stage of
disease can be beneficial especially for the diagnosis of outbreaks of salmonellosis .
Rotavirus and cryptosporidia are the most frequently identified infectious agents in
faecal samples from diarrhoeic calves in Ireland  and elsewhere . Vaccination is the
only prophylactic measure available against rotavirus infection. Vaccination of the dam
before calving has been used to enhance the content of rotavirus specific antibodies in
colostrum . Commercially available vaccines usually also contain coronavirus and E. coli
F5 antigen. There is no doubt that modern vaccines are able to increase the level of specific
antibodies in serum and milk of vaccinated cows as well as in serum of calves that have
ingested colostrum from vaccinated dams [47-49]. However, evidence as to clinical efficacy
in naturally acquired diarrhoea is either not available for all vaccines or is conflicting. Using
the same vaccine, LeRousic et al.  found a reduction in severity of diarrhoea in calves
born from vaccinated cows, whereas Kohara et al.  failed to find any clinical effect. In
either case, available data are not sufficient to assess the economic benefit associated with
vaccine usage. Oral vaccination of newborn calves is not effective . In herds endemically
infected with Salmonella spp., vaccination of the dams prior to calving can be considered
Halofuginone has a demonstrated cryptosporidiostatic effect and is licensed for
prevention and treatment of cryptosporidiosis in calves. In a recent review, this substance was
found to be beneficial for prophylactic use in cases with severe cryptosporidium-associated
diarrhoea. However, data were insufficient to evaluate therapeutic efficacy . In a study on
an Irish farm, halofuginone was effective in reducing clinical signs of cryptosporidiosis and
environmental contamination . However, it did not delay the onset of diarrhoea or reduce
the risk of infection in group-housed calves. The use of halofuginone should be combined
with hygienic measures and improvement of the husbandry management system.
Infection with Eimeria spp. has a high prevalence in cattle, especially calves and
yearlings. . Clinical coccidiosis is most often caused by infection with E. zuernii or E. bovis, generally linked with conditions of high infectious pressure [56, 57]. In contrast,
infection with other Eimeria spp., as well as more pathogenic species but under conditions of
low infectious pressure, lead to subclinical coccidiosis . E. alabamensis has been reported
in outbreaks of watery diarrhoea in calves on pasture in northern Europe [58, 59]. The
economic impact of clinical, but also subclinical, coccidiosis on the farming industry is
considerable, due to both the cost of treatment and impaired performance of affected animals
. The general conditions of animal husbandry discussed previously (e.g. housing hygiene,
ventilation, immunocompromising factors) each contribute to infection risk and should be
critically assessed during coccidiosis outbreaks .
Individual animal testing is of limited value because Eimeria spp. are frequently found
in the faeces of healthy calves [9, 55]. To relate clinical observations of diarrhoea to infection
with Eimeria spp., it is recommended that faecal samples are collected and examined from
several animals in a clinically affected group, followed by differentiation of oocysts to the
In clinical coccidiosis, the development of diarrhoea is caused by the late stages of the
life cycle (second merogony and especially gamogony . Therapeutic intervention at this
stage is of limited value and therefore emphasis should be given to metaphylactic treatment in
outbreak situations or prophylactic treatment of at-risk groups [63, 64].
Diarrhoea is generally the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in pre-
weaned calves. A range of measures are critical to disease prevention, including colostrum
management and subsequent nutrition (Lorenz et al., 2011b). Oral rehydration therapy,
continued milk feeding and prudent use of antibiotics are each important in the successful
management of neonatal calf diarrhoea. Vaccines for neonatal calf diarrhoea are available,
however, efficacy reports are variable and data on economic benefit are lacking.
Conflict of interest statement
None of the authors of this paper has a financial or personal relationship with other
people or organisations that could inappropriately influence or bias the content of the paper.
The Technical Working Group includes employees of Pfizer Inc. (CC) and Volac Ireland
(LG); these companies played no role in the design, development or journal submission of
IL drafted the manuscript and compiled the literature. All authors made substantial
inputs to the review, critically discussed the progressing manuscript and approved the final
The authors from Animal Health Ireland’s Technical Working Group (TWG) on Calf Health
would like to thank the remaining colleagues of the TWG for their valuable input:
Mary Canty (Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of
Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland; Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Kildare St, Dublin 2, Ireland), Charles Chavasse (Pfizer
Animal Health, Riverwalk, National Digital Park, Citywest Business Campus, Dublin,
Ireland), Bernadette Earley (Teagasc, Animal and Bioscience Research Department, Grange,
Dunsany, Co. Meath, Ireland), Richard J. Fallon (Castleknock Green, Castleknock, Dublin,
Ireland), Liam Gannon (Volac Ireland, Church St, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan, Ireland), John
Gilmore (Emlagh Lodge Veterinary Centre, Elphin, Co. Roscommon, Ireland), Ian Hogan
(Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Regional Veterinary Laboratory,
Knockalisheen, Limerick, Ireland), Emer Kennedy (Animal and Grassland Research and
Innovation Centre, Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland), John F. Mee (Animal
and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork,
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Paediatric & Adult Orthopaedic Surgeon Please follow the advice of Dr Balakumar and the instructions given to you at the time of your pre-operative call by his assistant. The following instructions have been developed with your safety in mind. Children under 12 Years of Age1. Take nothing by mouth after midnight the night before surgery or 6 hours prior to surgery if in the afternoon. This
file:///C|/WINDOWS/Desktop/arte/NAPOLI/carmine.txtDomina la zona che fu teatro della rivoluzione di Masaniello (1647). Nella chiesa è venerata un'immagine della Madonna su una tavoletta di legno detta "La Bruna" che, si racconta, un tempo apparteneva a certi eremiti i quali abitavano sul Monte Carmelo, perseguitati dai Saraceni, scesero un giorno a Napoli e, ottenuto il possesso di un