AGE: 1 1/2 YEARS
ISSUE: APPLE IN THROAT
DIAGNOSIS: FORGIEN OBJECT, BLOAT, BLOCKED RUMEN
When your in this line of duty you often find yourself establishing an odd relationship with your clients owners. You'll find yourself bringing the animal into the world as well as taking it out of the world.
That was the case with Ms Jenny, my neighbors 1 1/2 year old beef heifer. Back in the day I spent 8 hours repositioning and pulling the large heifer within the mothers reproductive tract. We nearly had a c-section at UC Davis VMTH on our hands. In the end it took 5 of us and a come along calf puller to get the beast out. And once she did she ended up having brain damage. Over the next 3 weeks I found myself tube feeding every 4 hours, collecting colostrum from a less than friendly cow, dealing with a 105 fever, an infected umbilical cord, and bowed legs. I also was in charge of a mean cat with stiches and a history of dislike for medical personal. And a horse with a severe tendon injury, but that’s a different story!
With time the heifer ended up recovering and grew incredibly well despite her rough start. And while I regularly paid visits to the not so little girl I never had another experience with her again.
Well until THAT one night...
It was 10:30pm when I got the call that Jenny the cow had lodged an apple in her throat. When I arrived the woman told me she had choked the night before but "puked it up". Since cattle have no uvula I dismissed it as rumen fluid/saliva. I gathered my equipment, a stethoscope, various tubes, and found a water source. I hadn't seen the cow yet but figured we'd be flushing it out.
Well we called and called for that cow. After 45 minutes we determined we needed to go to HER. By now it was past 11pm on the 4th of July. Fireworks had stopped and we still couldn't even hear her moving in the bushes. We knew it was not a positive sign.
When we finally DID locate her she was stretched out foaming at the mouth with a large bulge that was visually apparent in the esophagus as well as felt upon external palpation. We decided we needed to halter her and take her to the corral for further evaluation. Right about that time she took off. And seconds later our flash light went off.
Where I live we have wild hogs, rattlesnakes, and a recent mountain lion in the area. We knew without a flash light we needed to get out quick.
By the time I got another light source and relocated the heifer if was past 12pm. We started in on moving her up the hill to the corral. It didn’t take long for her to run out of breath. So every few yards we stopped.
When we finally got to the top we began our work. She was the most bloated live animal I have ever seen. After listening for pings in her stomach and checking for displaced abdomen I determined neither were possible. I smelled her breath for rumen smell. When nothing came up it was obvious her rumen was not functioning. I could still feel the apple in her lower esophagus nearing the base of her neck. With an impatient owner and a sick cow I quickly tried to determine what was going on. Then it hit me...
Cattle have several chambers to their stomach. Their ruminants meaning they chew their food and spit it back up to process it again. Jenny couldn't spit her food back up because of the apple lodged in her esophagus which was blocking the entire digestive system up and causing the bloat.
The apple needed to be removed one way or another. I called the vet out and waited until 1am for her to arrive. When she did we quickly sedated her and went to work. With the owner standing by watching her beloved cow groan through sedation we placed a speculum in her mouth and ran an esophageal tube in to try and push the apple out. After an hour and a half of this with no success we began looking at other options.
We called UC Davis VMTH and asked about a rumenectomy where they would go in with an endoscope and attempt to remove the apple from her throat. It was $400 and the other vet had charged $300. Between the two the owner decided she had put too much into her. And since the procedure was not 100% successful she decided to put Jenny down that night.
At 2:30am I headed back to our barn. I STILL hadn't milked or done barn chores due to the emergency call. It ended up being a late night and it was one of those nights where I couldn't even say it was worth it.
But sometimes those happen. As NHL player Wayne Gretsky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take". I'm glad I took the shot to save her. THAT made it worth it to me.