of Viral Calf Scours
(Adapted from Reference 21)
is no specific treatment for calf scours caused by corona and rotavirus. The treatment plan will focus on supportive
care while the calf’s immune system clears the virus.
considerations during the physical
exam of the calf:
Temperature: calves with neonatal
diarrhea are often hypothermic.
level of dehydration in these calves should be estimated as a
body weight. This is easily done by
assessing the skin tent response and the eyeball sunkenness.
between globe and orbit)
< 2 seconds
< 4 seconds
< 6 seconds
> 8 seconds
Acidosis: the degree of
acidosis in a calf can be assessed by its mental state.
The following chart is handy in estimating
the degree of acidosis as a function of the base deficit.
Knowing the base deficit is important when
developing treatment plan to correct the acidosis.
Deficit (in mmol/L) as a function of Calf age and Attitude
Less than 8 days
Older than 8 days
Standing, not sucking
d. Hypoglycemia: this is assessed by
taking a blood sample from
the calf and getting the blood sugar levels.
These calves are often hypoglycemic because of the malabsorptive
A scouring calf is
hypothermic. It is important to move the
calf to a warm, dry environment where the calf will be able to stay
end of treatment. Blankets, heating pads and lamps may be used to warm
calf. Be careful not to overheat or burn
the calf as it may be too weak to change position or get away from the
source. It is important to monitor
temperature throughout the course of treatment.
Therapy to correct dehydration, acidosis and
All scouring calves
dehydrated and a fluid therapy plan should be in place even if the calf
not appear to be dehydrated. Fluid
therapy will increase perfusion to all of the vital organs and avoid
hypovolemic shock. A specific fluid therapy plan should be tailored in
case with careful consideration of the severity of dehydration,
acidosis and hypoglycemia.
often be grouped into
the following treatment plans.
Oral fluid and
calf with diarrhea should be given oral fluids and electrolytes as soon
start showing signs. This may prevent
the need for more aggressive treatment later in the course of infection.
Oral electrolytes will
sodium, chloride, an alkalizing agent (acetate, proprionate) and
will facilitate the uptake of sodium and water in the intestinal tract
glucose and glycine).
Oral therapy is
any calf with neonatal diarrhea that fits th following description:
suck reflex present
good muscle tone
oral therapy may be
appropriate as the first defense if the calf is not presenting severe
it may be appropriate after more aggressive treatment has taken place
calf has begun to respond.
Oral fluid and
intravenous hypertonic saline
Calves that fit the following description are good candidates for this
weak suck reflex
will allow them to
correct their electrolyte imbalances more quickly.
This therapy should be followed by oral
electrolyte therapy once the strong suck reflex returns (re-evaluate in
6 – 8
and dextrose: Calves that are
showing more severe symptoms (such
as the following) are good candidates for this therapy:
no suck reflex
The correct amount of
fluid to be
given can be calculated by considering the level of dehydration, the
maintenance requirements of the calves and its ongoing fluid losses due
Iso-osmotic saline is often given
as a source of electrolytes to correct imbalances.
Bicarbonate ions may be added to
the fluid therapy to correct for the acidosis. The correct amount of
bicarbonate ions to add to the treatment plan can be calculated by
the base deficit of the calf.
A 5% dextrose solution may also
be given as part of IV fluid therapy to provide a quick energy source
calf. It is also helpful in decreasing
the level of hyperkalemia.
that doses and rates
are not given. These will be dependant on the size of the calf and the
of symptoms. Veterinary
medicine: a textbook of the diseases of cattle, horses, sheep, pigs,
2007) should be consulted for equations required to
calculate type of fluid, dose and rates.*
Calf scours do cause damage to
the intestinal tract of the calf, making it possible for normal flora
intestinal tract to escape into the blood.
Antibiotic therapy is therefore an important part of treatment
for the treatment of the scours but rather, for the prevention of