Clinical Findings and Treatment in Cattle with Caecal Dilatation

Caecal dilatation can usually be diagnosed in cattle based on clinical findings and treated conservatively or surgically, according to researchers at the University of Zurich, with hypocalcaemia the most common lab finding. They recommend surgery in cases of suspected caecal torsion or retroflexion.
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This retrospective study describes the clinical and laboratory findings, treatment and outcome of 461 cattle with caecal dilatation, write Ueli Braun and colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland in their recent paper in BMC Veterinary Research.

The general condition and demeanour were abnormal in 93.1 per cent of cases, and 32.1 per cent of the patients had colic. Ruminal motility was reduced or absent in 78.3 per cent of cattle. In 82.6 per cent of cases, swinging and/or percussion auscultation were positive on the right side, and 82.4 per cent had little or no faeces in the rectum.

Caecal dilatation could be diagnosed via rectal palpation in 405 (88.0 per cent) cattle. There was caudal displacement of the dilated caecum in 291 patients, torsion around the longitudinal axis in 20 and retroflexion in 94.

The most important laboratory finding was hypocalcaemia, which occurred in 85.1 per cent of cases.

Of the 461 cattle, 122 (26.5 per cent) initially received conservative therapy (intravenous fluids, neostigmine, calcium borogluconate) and 329 (71.4 per cent) underwent surgical treatment. Ten patients were slaughtered or euthanased after the initial physical examination. Of the 122 cattle that received conservative treatment, 42 did not respond after one to two days of therapy and required surgical treatment. The final number of cattle that were operated was 371 (80.5 per cent). Because of a grave prognosis, 24 cases were euthanased or slaughtered intraoperatively. Another 24 cattle did not respond to one or more operations and were euthanased or slaughtered. Of the 461 patients, 403 (87.4 per cent) responded to either conservative or surgical treatment and were cured, and 58 were euthanased or slaughtered.

Caecal dilatation can usually be diagnosed based on clinical findings and treated conservatively or surgically, according to Braun and co-authors. Swinging and percussion auscultation as well as rectal examination are important diagnostic tools.

They add that conservative treatment is not rewarding in cattle considered surgical candidates with suspected caecal torsion or retroflexion and surgery should not be delayed in these patients.


Braun U., C. Beckmann, C. Gerspach, M. Hässig, E. Muggli, G. Knubben-Schweizer and K. Nuss. 2012. Clinical findings and treatment in cattle with caecal dilatation. BMC Veterinary Research, 8:75. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-7

Further Reading

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August 2012
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