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Diarrhoea in Dairy

Management of Diarrhoea in Dairy animals

Published: February 14, 2011
By: Dr.Abhishek Jain (Cattle remedies India Ltd.)
Diarrhoea is a multifactorial disease entity that can have serious financial and animal welfare implications in dairy herds. It has been estimated that 75% of early calf mortality in dairy herds is caused by acute diarrhoea in the pre-weaning period
Diarrhoea is a common complaint in cattle and young ruminants (particularly in the first few months of life). Many of the pathogens and management practices that cause diarrhoea in calves also affect lambs and goats. Most herds are exposed to diarrhoea causing pathogens, and management practices will largely determine the health impact that those pathogens will have on the youngstock. In "real life", most young ruminant diarrhoea is caused by more than one factor or pathologic agent. It is important to be able to correctly diagnose and appropriately treat diarrhea in livestock, and to be able to suggest management strategies that will prevent further outbreaks of disease. Several pathogens are zoonotic agents (Salmonella spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia spp., and certain types of enteropathogenic E. coli) so great care must be taken when handling diarrheic animals, contaminated bedding, and fecal samples to avoid contaminating yourself and others.
Implications of Diarrhoea
When an animal passes watery droppings many times a day it has diarrhoea.Animals with diarrhoea have certain symptoms like
Lose water and salt from their bodies.
Animals become weak and thin
Loss of appetite
Lose watery feaces contains mucous and sometimes blood comes along with feaces
Loss of milk production and animals can die if treatment gets delayed
Common causes of diarrhoea
Diarrhoea may be occurred due to Physiological and Pathological causes:
Physiological causes of diarrhoea are mainly
  • Increase in intestinal peristalsis
  • Hyper secretion of intestinal fluid
  • Damage to intestinal mucosa
  • Malabsorption 
  • In diarrhoea, the intestine fails to adequately absorb fluids, and/or secretion into the intestine is increased. Loss of fluids through diarrhoea produces dehydration and the loss of certain body salts. Diarrhoea causes a change in body tissue composition and severe depression in the animal.
Etiology of diarrhoea- On the basis of etiology diarrhoea can be classified as infectious and non-infectious diarrhoea
Causes of diarrhoea can be broadly divided into two categories
  1. Infectious diarrhoea- Infectious diarrhoea can be caused by agents like virus, bacteria, parasites, mycotoxins etc.
  2. Non infectious diarrhoea- Non infectious diarrhoea can be caused due to poor hygiene, stress, overfeeding, indigestion, faulty diet, intestinal injury and inflammation and malabsorption.
  • Possible causes include bacterial and viral infections, certain chemicals, intestinal parasites, poor diet, overfeeding on milk or lush grass, poisonous, plants and other toxins, food allergies and even stress.
  • In diarrhoea, the intestine fails to adequately absorb fluids, and/or secretion into the intestine is increased. Loss of fluids through diarrhoea produces dehydration and the loss of certain body salts.
  • It causes a change in body tissue composition and severe depression in the animal.
  • Death from scours is usually the result of dehydration and loss of body salts rather than invasion of an infectious agent.
The correct determination of the cause of diarrhoea is important in order to take effective preventive measures.
Infectious diarrhoea and its management in calf
About 80% deaths due to diarrhoea occur in the first 6 months of calf life. The main cause of death in acute diarrhoea is dehydration which results from loss of fluid and electrolytes in diarrhoea stools. Diarrhoea is an important cause of malnutrition. This is because calf with diarrhoea eat less and their ability to absorb nutrients is reduced; moreover their nutrient requirements are increased as a result of infection.
Viral diarrhoea
Rotavirus diarrhoea
  1. Within 24 hours of birth, a germ called rotavirus causes this type of diarrhoea.
  2. Infected calves are severely depressed. There may be drooling of saliva and watery diarrhoea.
  3. The faeces will vary in colour from yellow to green.
  4. Calves lose appetite and the death rate may be as high as 50 %.
  5. There are no signs on dead animals; however, there is an increased volume of fluid in both the small and large intestine.
 Coronavirus diarrhoea
  1. This occurs in calves that are over 5 days of age; the germ is called coronavirus.
  2. The animal is not as depressed as in rotavirus diarrhoea.
  3. The initial signs may be the same as in rotavirus, but later on the faeces may contain clear mucus that resembles the white of an egg.
  4. Mortality is low (1-25 %).
 Bovine virus diarrhoea (BVD)
  1. Diarrhoea begins 2 to 3 days after exposure to the germ and may persist for a long time.
  2. Ulcers on the tongue, lips and in the mouth are the usual lesions found in the live calf.
  3. Bovine virus diarrhoea is controlled by vaccinating all replacement heifers 1 to 2 months before breeding.
  4. Pregnant heifers should not be vaccinated. Consult your state veterinarian before starting a BVD vaccination programme.
Bacterial diarrhoea
Colibacillosis (Eschericia coli)
Eschericia coli is a major cause of diarrhoea in young calves. E. coli germs attack the intestinal mucous membrane and other mucous membranes and produce toxins (poisons).
The toxins cause severe inflammation of the intestinal lining (enteritis) and can lead to death within hours. A less severe form of the disease is usually characterised by diarrhoea accompanied by progressive dehydration. Colibacillosis lasts 2 to 4 days and its severity depends on the age of the calf. E. coli inhabits the intestine and is excreted in the faeces. It can contaminate kraals, stables, floors, paddocks and even water supplies.
Control of E. coli scours can be difficult in a severe herd outbreak. Early detection (as well as isolation of affected animals) and treatment of scours help to prevent new cases. consult your veterinarian or animal health technician for advice on the use of the available remedies, which are usually mixtures of sulphas and antibiotics.
Animals may be vaccinated 6 weeks and 3 weeks before calving. However, the calves must get colostrum in the first few hours of life for the vaccine to be effective.
  1. Salmonella germs produce a poison called an endotoxin. Calves are usually affected at 6 days of age or older (the same as in coronavirus diarrhoea).
  2. Signs of salmonella scours include diarrhoea, presence of blood and fibrin (yellow clots) in the faeces, depression and elevated temperature.
  3. Salmonella germs multiply in the intestine and many reach the bloodstream, causing blood infection and sudden death. Finding a membrane-like cover in the intestine of a dead animal suggests salmonellosis.
  4. Tick-borne diseases and underfeeding of calves predispose them to salmonella scours. Heavily infected animals may become severely depressed following treatment with antibiotics because treatment causes the salmonella organisms to release toxins.
Control and treatment of Salmonella diarrhoea
  1. Control of E. coli scours can be difficult in a severe herd outbreak. Early detection (as well as isolation of affected animals) and treatment of scours help to prevent new cases. Speak to your state veterinarian or animal health technician for advice on the use of the available remedies, which are usually mixtures of sulphas and antibiotics.
  2. Animals may be vaccinated 6 weeks and 3 weeks before calving. However, the calves must get colostrum in the first few hours of life for the vaccine to be effective.
  3. Guidelines for colibacillosis control consist of letting cows calve in an uncontaminated environment, e.g. in the veld; ensuring that calves consume enough colostrum and assisting weak calves; feeding or treating cows with a vitamin A preparation during dry periods (winter); keeping calves in clean pens and paddocks; feeding calves out of clean buckets; and the vaccination of pregnant cows.
Enterotoxaemia (pulpy kidney)
  1. The disease usually starts quite suddenly. Affected animals become listless, display uneasiness, and strain or kick at their abdomen. Bloody diarrhoea may or may not occur.
  2. It is usually associated with change in the weather, a change in the feed of the cows, or management practices that cause the calf to nurse for a longer period of time than usual. The hungry calf may overconsume milk which establishes an environment in the gut that is conducive to the growth and production of toxins by germs.
  3. In dead animals the gut may be red in colour or have bloody, purplish areas.
Other causes of calf diarrhoea
Coccidiosis occurs in calves of 3 weeks of age and older, usually following stress, poor sanitation, overcrowding or sudden changes of feed.
A typical sign of coccidiosis in young calves is diarrhoea with faeces smeared over the rump as far around as the tail will reach. The symptoms are diarrhoea, with slimy and bloody faeces, emaciation, weakening and anaemia. The affected calves strain excessively when they defecate.
Treatment and control of coccidial diarrhoea
Consult your veterinarian for treatment of the disease with appropriate remedies such as sulphonamides and Amprolium.
Good feeding practices, management and sanitation are possible control options.
Nutritional diarrhoea

  1. Nutritional scours are caused by anything that disrupts the normal nursing pattern, for example storms, strong wind or the mother's temporary absence. When the hungry calf gets the opportunity to nurse, the cow's udder may contain more milk than normal and the calf may take in excessive quantities, resulting in nutritional scours.
  2. It is usually white scours caused by undigested milk passing through the intestinal tract.
  3. It usually presents little problems. Milking the cow to limit the milk intake by the calf usually clears up the problem. Oral antibiotics may be used if the calf becomes depressed.
 Treatment of calf scours
  1. Treatment of the forms of diarrhoea is very similar regardless of the cause.
  2. Specific treatment is often not possible and symptomatic treatment of the diarrhoea itself should be applied.
  3. It should be directed towards correcting the loss of fluids (dehydration), acidosis (acidity) and loss of salts.
  4. Calves may be given milk diluted with an equal quantity of clean water.
  5. Antibiotic and or sulpha treatment can be given simultaneously with the treatment for dehydration.
  6. There are salt powders (also called electrolyte powders) available that can be mixed with water for oral administration.
Diarrhoea in adult ruminants
Diarrhoea in adult ruminants can be of infectious and non-infectious origin. Infectious diarrhoea in cattle is mainly caused by bacteria, virus and protozoa and non infectious diarrhoea is mainly caused due to  dietary error and intestinal diaturbaces.
Infectious diarrhoea in cattle and its management
Johne's disease or paratuberculosis
Casual agent-Mycobacterium paratuberculosis
Johne's disease (JD) is a chronic, progressive intestinal disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (Map). The agent was first identified in European cattle a century ago, and it was discovered in the United States in the early 1900s. Control of JD has been problematic because it has a long incubation period, it is clinically similar to many other common diseases of cattle, available diagnostic tests are expensive and relatively low in sensitivity, and there are no accepted standards for diagnosis and control. These problems are compounded by a lack of awareness of the disease and the fact that its slow progression makes financial losses not easily perceptible to the individual producer.
Johne's disease is an incurable wasting disease of adult cattle. It is of greater concern in dairy herds than in beef operations. This difference reflects variations in management practices-especially close confinement in dairy operations, which promotes easier transmission of the organism.  The germ causes an infectious inflammation of the intestines with severe weight loss and diarrhoea. It is economically important because some animals may become so emaciated that they are unfit for slaughter.
Johne's disease should be suspected when, despite persistent diarrhoea, animals continue to eat well and look bright. The manure of typical cases is not mixed with blood or mucus.  An adult cow with persistent diarrhoea, lasting for months, that is not responding to treatment, is likely to have Johne's disease.
Control of JD on farms has been difficult for several reasons. The disease has a long subclinical phase, during which animals can spread the infection without themselves exhibiting signs of illness. 
For dairy herds, the recommendations include:
  • Taking precautions against introducing the disease through purchased animals
  • Isolating and slaughtering clinically infected animals
  • Culling recent offspring of clinical cases as soon as possible
  • Removing calves from dams immediately upon birth (before suckling)
  • Isolating calves in separate calf-rearing area
  • Harvesting colostrum from cows with cleaned and sanitized udders
  • Feeding colostrum to calves by bucket, and thereafter feeding only milk replacer or pasteurized milk
  • Preventing contamination of calf feedstuffs, water, or bedding by effluent from the adult herd
  • Applying manure from the adult herd only to cropland or to pastures grazed by adult stock
Prevention and control measures-Infectious disease biosecurity (preventing the introduction of disease to a farm) has two major components: The first is to reduce the likelihood of introduction of an infectious agent into a group (external biosecurity). The second is to reduce the likelihood of transmission once a disease is present (internal biosecurity or biocontainment).

Other causes of infectious diarrhoea 
  • Salmonellosis (unusually a wasting disease in adults).
  • Bovine virus diarrhoea.
  • Protozoal diarrhoea
Treatment of infectious diarrhoea
 Various drugs are available in the market for treatment of infectious diarrhoea caused by Bacterial, protozoal and to check secondary infection caused by viral diarrhoea. 

Out of all the combinations Norfloxacin and Tinidazole is found to be most effective treatment in bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea. Norfloxacin is a synthetic broad spectrum antibacterial agent belonging to the fluoroquinolone group. It exerts its bactericidal effect by inhibiting the Asubunit of DNA gyrase, an essential enzyme involved in DNA replication. Tinidazole is a nitroimidazole which has antimicrobial action against microaerophilic protozoa Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica and Trichomonas vaginalis and against obligate anaerobic bacteria. It acts by damage of DNA strands or inhibition of their synthesis.
Some proven trials-Efficacy of Norfloxacin

The bacteriological and clinical efficacy of norfloxacin 400 mg b.i.d. was compared to those of co-trimoxazole (160 mg of trimethoprim plus 800 mg of sulphamethoxazole) b.i.d. and placebo b.i.d. for the treatment of acute bacterial diarrhoea in a randomized double-blind trial. Of a total of 450 patients with acute diarrhoea, 303 had positive bacterial cultures and were evaluable for efficacy. The time to elimination of pathogens was significantly (p less than 0.001) shorter in the norfloxacin group than in the co-trimoxazole and placebo groups. At completion of treatment, bacteriological cure was found in 97.9%, 72.4% and 38.2% of patients treated with norfloxacin, co-trimoxazole and placebo, respectively. All pathogens were susceptible to norfloxacin and none of them developed resistance to norfloxacin during treatment. In the co-trimoxazole group, resistance to that antibiotic increased from 2% at inclusion to 65.6% at the end of treatment (p less than 0.001). In patients with shigellosis or cholera, the mean time to normalization of bowel movements was significantly shorter in the norfloxacin and co-trimoxazole groups than in the placebo group (p less than 0.05 and p less than 0.01, respectively). There were no significant differences between groups with respect to adverse events reported. In conclusion, norfloxacin was well tolerated and highly effective in the treatment of acute bacterial diarrhoea.
Lolekha S, Patanachareon S, Thanangkul B, and Vibulbandhitkit S
Non infectious diarrhoea in cattle
  • Faulty diet
  • Inflammation and injury to intestine
  • Indigestion and mal-absorption
  • Hypersecretion or increased motility in intestine
  • overfeeding
Role of herbs in the control and treatment of non-infectious diarrhoea
Non infectious diarrhoea mainly occurs due to dietary error and intestinal disturbances. Herbs possess a great value to restore G.I functions and repair G.I mucosa.
  • Herbs forms protective layer on mucosal surface of intestine and reduces the severity of diarrhoea
  • Herbs regulates the peristaltic movements of intestine
  • Herbs provides healthy environment for growth and multiplication of micro flora

    Management of Diarrhoea in Dairy animals - Image 1
 Some Treatment Recommendations
  • A veterinarian or animal health technician should be consulted if possible on the best course of treatment-especially when diarrhoea is severe or persistent.
  • Try to determine the cause and then apply appropriate treatment.
  • Always administer clean water or barley water at intervals of 2 to 3 hours to compensate for the loss of body fluids.
  • Dosing activated charcoal with water may be of benefit in cases of poisoning. Limewater, tannic acid or commercial diarrhoea remedies could be used to
  • treat diarrhoea if the animal is in danger of dehydrating. If the diarrhoea is not severe and the animal is not dehydrating it is better to treat diarrhoea with herbal remedies
  • Sulphas and antibiotics should only be used on the recommendation of a veterinarian or animal health technician.
Related topics
Dr.Abhishek Jain
Cattle Remedies India Ltd.
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Iroka Justice
21 de noviembre de 2021
Please how will I cite this article
Zeshan Ghazi
25 de agosto de 2021
Bamigboye moshood Desmond
10 de septiembre de 2020

What can I use for diarrhea treatment?

Dr Ahmed Mohamed Nadiif (FIELD VETERINARIAN)
22 de mayo de 2018

It is useful article to refer DDs of Diarrhea, I recommend treatment options also will be included.

hafsha hossain
11 de junio de 2017
I need your helping hand about a thesis paper on bacterial diarrhoea in milch cow.
Deep Mavi
21 de mayo de 2016
sir cow is suffring from bloody diarria from last three day . what would i have to do?
Linda Mcmillan
8 de febrero de 2013

Of course, we need to treat the immediate (literally prevent dehydration and further damage to the intestional lining) and that is where sulfa or other antibiotics come into play. However, on a long range projection, do you think it is possible to look beyond the immediate and strive for more permanent resistance?
On my dairy goat farm, I noticed that there are animals that never have diarrhea and there are others that repeat diarrhea. Eliminating major factors such as bacterial and/or viral infections, parasites, coccidias, etc., I believe changes in forage and feeding patterns are very influential as causes of diarrhea as a metabolic disease. Either way, I'm thinking that genetic/and/or selection of those individuals or families that offer resistance might be profitable. However, other than field records I have no way of doing detailed scientific study to verify or disprove my theory. I know that the economic impact on raising replacement animals and on production losses can be devastating to a small producer. Also I know that small producers have neither the means nor the knowledge with which to manage non-resistant animals. I believe that the answer is within the animal itself when human factors are managed properly. What do you think?

Qamar Abbas
8 de febrero de 2013

very good article about Diarrhoea in Dairy animals. calf diarrhea treated with sulpha. fluid therapy. electrolytes.plz tell me is any successful treatment for jhones, is recovery possible beause in field no recovery from jhony, if recover animal so weak not gain previous status again.plz how further research ?

Linda Mcmillan
8 de febrero de 2013

Can immunity be developed through natural means with the understanding that diet, hygiene, a minimizing stress factors are of the utmost importance? I'm wondering if vaccines in themselves are but a delay factor for the inevitable but that by developing either through genetics and/or selection we can develop a more permanent and cost effective effect.

7 de febrero de 2013

Dr. Zahid Rafique

Good Article about Diarrhoea in Dairy animals.
I m working in dairy sector. No doubt Diarrhoea is multifactorial disease, we minimize only by Good immunity development via different vaccines, Balanced Diet, Good Hygiene, Prophylactive measures to handle any stress factor, Early diagnosis and followed by good treatment.

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