Transit tetany

Transit tetany is a disease often associated with transport stress. It is of economic importance because profit margins decline when stock are stressed during transport.

Cause

Hypocalcaemia (a drop in blood calcium levels).

Affected animals

cattle

Symptoms

Animals suffering from transit tetany display the following symptoms:

  • restlessness and weakness
  • staggering and unsteady gait
  • frothing at the mouth
  • grinding teeth
  • partial paralysis of hindquarters, followed by stock dropping to their bellies
  • resting their head on its flank
  • groaning
  • constipation.

Sometimes hypomagnesaemia (a deficiency of magnesium in the blood stream) is present in affected animals.

In the final stage, stock lie on their sides in a comatose condition with limbs hanging loosely. They bloat quickly and often die from inhaling regurgitated rumen contents. In cases that linger, scouring may sometimes set in, with an unusual appetite and a typical acetone smell on the breath. If low magnesium is involved, a high stepping gait, aggressiveness, excessive bellowing and galloping around may also be seen.

How it is spread

Transporting long distances to and from saleyards means stock may become stressed by the lack of feed or water, or the trucking process.

Drinking large amounts of water after trucking often aggravates transport tetany and stock can die shortly after watering.

Risk period

Pregnant or lactating females of all species are prone to transit tetany but beef cows are particularly susceptible. All classes of stock can be affected, particularly if their diet has been low in calcium or magnesium. Therefore, stock coming off lush growth pastures or from a district that is mineral deficient or drought affected are at risk.

Control

Prevention

Stock requires quiet handling, shady yards, dehorning (if young stock), adequate room in trucks, and ad-lib feeding before being transported long distances.

Supplementing with vitamins A and D and providing access to electrolytes will help to reduce dehydration and stress levels in transported stock. For valuable animals, you may consider tranquillisers.

After unloading, provide access to good quality feed and observe animals for some time in yards for signs of the condition to help prevent any losses.

Treatment

Commercial solutions available for treating transit tetany contain calcium, magnesium and glucose (e.g. Calcigol Plus). Animals that are down on their sides usually require quick attention and intravenous injections to save them. Careful administration and observation are necessary, and veterinary advice is recommended.

In less severe cases, an injection of calcium, magnesium and glucose solution under the skin is usually sufficient. You should seek veterinary advice because rapid diagnosis and suitable treatment are the keys to saving animals.

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