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Calf Scours Treatment Summary


Diagnosis:  This is an underused tool.  Treatment can be directed more effectively if we know the cause of the scours.  This makes this tool cost effective.  Fecal samples should be taken from untreated calves and not off the ground.   Keep samples refrigerated or on ice packs but do not freeze and get them to your vet to mail the same day preferable Monday through Thursday.  At least 2 samples should be obtained and 3 to 4 is ideal.  It is also not recommended to pool samples, this saves on the lab fees but limits the amount of information obtained.


Antibiotics:  Every calf should receive an injectable antibiotic.  You can try different products (use different colored chalk for each and write it down) to see if one seems more effective.  Oral antibiotics (scour pills) are only effective against bacterial scours and can actually be harmful with other scours.  Therefore in the absence of a diagnosis try treatment with and with out pills to see which works best, again chalk differently and probably a good idea to write it down.


Flunixin (Banamine or generic Banamine):  Helps with intestinal pain so the calf feels better, has and anti-endotoxin effect, and reduces fever.  Every scouring calf should receive flunixin.  If severe dehydration is present rehydrating prior to flunixin is recommended.


Fluids:  Start early and give often.  Many people feel that if they give fluids once they are covered but the severe calf may need to be tubed 4 or 5 times a day.  The more extensive article gives details on fluid therapy but the key is to start them early and give adequate amounts thus correcting mild dehydration or preventing dehydration instead of having to deal with the severe dehydration that is harder to correct.  Fluids should be warm, body temp or slightly above.


Intestinal Protectants:  Bismuth solutions or kaolin and pectin solutions.  These coat and protect the intestine which inhibits binding of pathogens and can be used in any scours.  I feel bismuth is slightly more effective and adding activated charcoal also helps with any toxins that may be produced by the organisms. 


Probiotics:  Compete with pathogenic bacteria to try to reestablish normal flora in the intestine.  They will be killed by oral antibiotics.  These are probably best used in the recovering calf to give them a boost in getting back to normal.


Warm calf:  If mouth is cold and calf is hypothermic you need to warm the calf up.  If their temp is less than 99 degrees you need more than just warm fluids.  A warm bath works best but make sure to dry the calf before returning to a cold environment.