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How to Treat Respiratory Tract Infections in Cattle?

Aug. 13, 2021

Cold weather is not only bad for the people caring for the animals, but also for the animals themselves. Consider respiratory disease (pneumonia) in cows. It's not just our imagination that cold temperatures often lead to an increase in sick calves; there is a physiological reason why cold weather increases the risk of respiratory disease.


Cold weather promotes the growth of certain respiratory bacteria inside the calf's nose and upper respiratory tract. The more bacteria present in the upper respiratory tract, the more likely they are to reach the lower lungs and cause pneumonia. Cold weather also thickens mucus and impairs the work of the "ciliary escalator" - the ciliated cellular structures that sweep bacteria and foreign matter from the lower respiratory tract into the throat and are coughed up. All of these factors can increase the risk of pneumonia in calves.

Carprofen injection is a non-narcotic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug with analgesic and antipyretic activity comparable to indomethacin in animal models. Carprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) of the propionic acid class. Like other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the mechanism of action of carprofen is thought to be related to the inhibition of cyclooxygenase activity. A number of studies have shown that Carprofen has a regulatory effect on both humoral and cellular immune responses.


Detection and Prevention

The importance of obtaining fresh air in the calf housing through proper ventilation - a goal that can conflict with efforts to protect calves from cold temperatures. Providing dry bedding and adequate nutrition is an important strategy to help calves cope with cold temperatures.


Risk: The increased risk of respiratory disease following cold weather should prompt janitors to pay more attention to calf health. Early detection and treatment are important for the calf's immediate health as well as her long-term production. There is evidence that cows treated multiple times for respiratory disease as calves produce 10% less milk in the first lactation and 15% less in the second lactation. These effects on milk production have not been confirmed in heifers treated only once, highlighting the importance of effective and timely treatment. Heifers with pneumonia at first calving were, on average, older compared to heifers without disease.

Carprofen Injection

 Carprofen Injection

Antibiotic treatment

Antibiotics effective against Mannheimia, Histoplasma and Bartonella are the hallmark of treatment for respiratory disease in heifers. Many drugs (available by veterinary prescription) have been shown to be effective against respiratory pathogens. Since no single drug has been shown to be effective in all cases, the choice of antibiotic should be guided by veterinary consultation and, if possible, by previous bacterial culture and antibiotic susceptibility results from calves. Nasal swabs should be used with caution to identify pathogens and guide treatment, but may be informative in some cases. Lung cultures from calves that died of pneumonia may be more useful, but their representativeness for future calf herds should be carefully considered.


Pneumonia and other infections caused by Mycoplasma bovis are particularly difficult to treat. Antibiotics labeled for mycoplasma should be used and may require extended treatment. Identification of mycoplasmas by laboratory testing is a valuable piece of information that can help inform treatment and prognosis.

Carprofen injection is used as an auxiliary agent of antibacterial drugs for the treatment of bovine infectious respiratory diseases and acute mastitis.


Supportive care

Supportive care through anti-inflammatory medications, injectable vitamin supplements and oral electrolytes can also prove valuable in helping to treat pneumonia in sick calves. In the event of an outbreak, your veterinarian may recommend an intranasal vaccine to boost the immune response. Providing sick calves with extra bedding and calf coats will help them maintain body temperature. Sick calves should not be denied milk, as energy and protein are necessary for them to cope with infection. Dividing the required daily feeding into more frequent small feeds may help calves with lung problems "catch their breath" more easily during feedings.


In summary

When prevention efforts fail, early detection and effective treatment of respiratory disease can improve the chances of calves surviving respiratory disease and their productivity as heifers. Work with your veterinarian to improve these aspects of your operation, and pay close attention to your calves during the cold winter months when temperatures are stable.