Bloat in cattle is one of the true veterinary emergencies we come across, and if not treated quickly can result in sudden death.
Animals with bloat may have distension of the left abdomen, pain and discomfort, they may bellow, have difficulty breathing and may be found down. There are two main types of bloat in cattle – frothy bloat and gassy bloat.
Frothy bloat in cattle
Frothy bloat normally affects groups of animals which have had access to lush pastures. High consumption of rich pastures containing clovers, alfalfa or legumes is a predisposing factor.These types of crops contain foaming properties in the soluble leaf protein. A stable foam forms in the rumen that traps the gas so it cannot be released. Think bubble bath.
In this situation, passing a stomach tube won’t relieve the bloat. These animals need to be removed from pasture as soon as possible. Various products or mineral oil can be used for treatment.
Prevention of frothy bloat is best done with careful pasture management. Consider limiting intakes of rich pastures with strip grazing or buffer feeding.
Gassy bloat in cattle
Gassy bloat is where there is a physical obstruction within the oesophagus that prevents the gas from being released.This may be due to a foreign body, such as potatoes or beet, may be due to narrowing of the oesophagus, caused by lymph node enlargement, following pneumonia, or due to inflammation/damage to the vagus nerve.
We may also see gassy bloat following grain overload in beef animals or in cows that are down with milk fever.
Gassy bloat can be relieved with the passage of a stomach tube. This should always be tried in first instance. In chronic cases, you may need to call us to place a red devil or to perform a small surgery, in which we place a small hole in the side of the left abdomen and into the rumen to allow the gas to escape.