What’s Your Diagnosis #6

What’s your diagnosis #6

History: A 15 month old Angus steer became recumbent and could not rise.

What are some differential diagnoses for acute weakness and recumbency in cattle?


The steer was treated with thiamine and penicillin, but  was eventually euthanized for diagnostic purposes. Three other animals have died acutely.

Gross Necropsy Findings:

The steer was in good body condition. The rumen contained coarse plant fibers and chopped cornstalks, with no grain. The rumen pH was 7.4. The brain did not fluoresce under UV light.

There were no significant gross lesions.


Differential Diagnoses for acute recumbency:


Polioencephalomalacia (thiamine deficiency, lead toxicity)

Lymphoma (spinal)


Thrombotic Meningoencephalitis



Septic meningitis


Calcium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency (grass tetany)

Salt toxicity/water deprivation


Blackleg (Clostridium chauvoei)





Urea toxicity

Nervous Ketosis

Nervous Coccidiosis

Abomasal displacement


Systemic bacteremia


Considering the signalment and gross necropsy findings many of these diseases can be ruled out or down.  This is not a lactating cow (its a steer), so hypocalcemia, and hypomagnesemia are less likely. There is no evidence of septic peritonitis, abomasal bloat, or meningitis.  There is no enteritis suggesting coccidiosis, and no rumen acidosis. There was no sign of skeletal muscle necrosis, fractures, or joint diseases, and no sign of lymphoma.

Remaining differentials include: Polioencephalomalacia, Urea toxicity, BSE, Rabies, Listeriosis, or TME

What would you expect to see histologically in each of these conditions?

Stay tuned for histopath…

About Brian

Anatomic Pathologist, VetPath Services, Stone Ridge, NY- musculoskeletal, oral/dental, and sinonasal diseases www.vetpathservices.com
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