The secret sauce of treating baby calf scours is fluids--LOTS of fluids over the course of the illness. Even if you think the calf doesn't "need" them--he NEEDS them. I like the image of the firemen with the blasting hose. This is how much fluids most calves need. The worst thing that can happen if we give too much fluids is more urine. Calves need a HUGE amount of replacement fluids during a diarrhea episode or even if they have a fever. Average sized baby calves that will need 3-6 liters of fluids just to get back to normal. Then they will need fluids to replace any they are still losing through diarrhea.
There are two main ways to get fluids into a calf
- Oral Electrolyte Solutions (OES): These are very effective for replenishing fluids into a calf and are necessary to keep the guts healthy.
- I.V. Fluid therapy: This is necessary when dehydration reaches a critical point. This can be determined with some complicated science-y stuff which has been distilled down to a handy-dandy flowchart.
The main clinical signs for giving fluids to calves are:
- The cow hasn't been sucked in 6-12 hours
- Calves that are slow to get up
- Calves that walk around dazed and stumbly
- No suckle response--This is my go to sign to diagnosis what direction my treatment needs to go in.
- Very deep "pocket" in the lower eyelid (see photo below)
This calf NEEDS IV fluids quickly to reverse the dehydration and electrolyte imbalance caused by that.