Caring for farm animals and livestock involves more than just feeding and watering them. They need shelter and enclosures where they can roam safely. Like any living creature, animals can get sick. It’s important to recognize symptoms and have them treated.
One of the more common ailments in cattle is traumatic gastritis and traumatic reticuloperitonitus, colloquially known as hardware disease. It is caused when an animal swallows a sharp metal object that pierces the inside of the stomach. Cattle are known to chew and swallow things such as pieces of wire and 55-75% of cattle have foreign objects in their stomachs.
What is Hardware Disease?
Cows have multiple stomachs and the first, located directly below the esophagus is called the reticulum. When cattle swallow metal, the weight drops it to the bottom of the reticulum and it can’t move through the digestive tract and be expelled. The inside of the chamber is lined with honeycomb-like pockets that can trap metal objects.
Hardware disease in cattle happens when the metal pierces the lining of the reticulum. It can also pierce the heart which is right above the reticulum. This generally results in a fatality.
What Are The Symptoms of Hardware Disease?
Farmers and ranchers need to be able to recognize the symptoms of hardware disease in their livestock. Typical signs of the ailment include:
- Weight loss and lack of appetite
- Extending the neck and head
- Difficulty breathing and a higher rate of respiration
- A fever of 104-15 degrees
- Lack of movement
- Pushing the elbows away from the body
If you observe any of these symptoms in an animal there is a simple test you can perform. Pinch the withers. A healthy animal will reflexively lower its body. If your cow doesn’t react, then there is pain preventing the reflex. Contact a veterinarian right away and have the animal examined.
How is Hardware Disease Treated?
The veterinarian will diagnose the disease by taking X-rays, an ultrasound, and a blood test to analyze protein levels. A rapid diagnosis is vital. If one cow has swallowed metal, chances are others have as well.
Treating hardware disease involves multiple steps. The forelimbs of the animal are elevated to prevent the object from moving up to the heart. A rumenotomy is performed to remove the object and antibiotics are prescribed to fight infections. If the object is palpated, it will need to be removed manually.
How Do You Prevent Hardware Disease?
There is always a risk of hardware disease but it can be significantly reduced. Go through the pastures where your cattle graze and remove all metal objects, no matter how small. When chopping up hay or mixing feed, be alert for pieces of wire and metal objects. Remove them so they are not chopped up into the food and then served to your animals.
For ranchers and farmers, livestock is part of their livelihood as well as living creatures. They deserve to be well cared for. Be mindful of metal in pastures or feed and alert to symptoms of hardware disease. Keep your cattle safe and healthy.