Vets about AQUA COW

Downer Cow Syndrome

Victor S. Cox, D.V.M., Ph.D.

"Downer cow is a term applied to the syndrome of recumbency and inability to rise the cattle. The typical downer is in-sternal recumbency and unable to rise for no physically apparent reason. The syndrome has a varity of causes. Downer cows are usally alert, but variable degrees og alertness and depression are commonly seen"

Bradford Smith, D.V.M., DACVIM Director

"The only method of lifting a downer without causing pressure damage is flotation. Commercially available flotation tanks have been enthusiastically recieved by diary producers. Tanks are available with removable wheels, which allows easy transport. For loading into flotation tank, the cow is manually positioned on a mat which is then pulled by a mechanical winch into the tank. Once the cow is positioned in the tank, the ends are replaced and secured with turnbuckles. Leakage is prevented by wide rubber gaskets which seal the interface of side and end pieces. Once sealed the tank is rapidly filled with warm water. About 700 gal are required to float the cow. The water can be heated by the sun in warm weather or a gas-fired boiler, during cold weather. A 5 cm. diameter water supply is recommanded to fill the flotation tank rapidly. Flotation times should be at least 6 hours and times up to 24 hours have been usefull. During the entire time of flotation it is important to maintain the water temperature at or near body temperature. After flotation, the water is drained, the tank ends removed, and the cow is encouraged to exit onto an adjacant nonslip surface.

There are two approaches to the management of downer cows. Either aggressive therapy, including lifting, prefarably by flotation, or conservative therapy can be employed. Conservative therapy consists of providing good bedding such as sand or grass along with adequate nursing care such as rolling, but without lifting. In all cases, appropriate therapy for systemic disorders is required for recovery to occur.

If the client is unwilling to invest time and effort in proper management, euthanasia should be considered. A proper diagnosis is important so that time is not wasted on hopeless cases."