Ketosis in Dairy Animals and its Management

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic disorder in hing yielding cattle and buffalo which occurs when energy requirement of the animal exceeds the energy intake which results in negative energy balance. This condition occurs due to low blood glucose levels. During glucose deficiency the body fat is mobilized and processed in liver to meet the energy requirements. When higher quantity of fat gets mobilized, these fatty acids are not properly metabolised in the body leading to increased level of ketone bodies (acetone, acetoacetic acid and beta-hydroxybutyric acid) in the blood and accumulation of fact in the liver. Low blood sugar, high level of ketone bodies in blood and presence of ketone bodies in urine are the characteristic features of ketosis. Reduced appetite in later stage of gestation or after calving or due to disease conditions is one of the causes for ketosis. The condition is highly economically important as it results in reduced milk production during the peak lactation period and delayed conception leading to longer inter calving period. If the condition is untreated it will lead to weight loss and emaciation.

What are the signs of ketosis?

  • Drop in milk yield.
  • Slight reduction in feed intake.
  • Depression / lethargy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Particular acetone smell (fruity odour) in breath.
  • Fever.
  • Abnormal gait, humped back posture, head/muzzle pressing.
  • Pica, biting of coarse surfaces.
  • Nervous signs, circling, staggering and falling.

There can be silent forms of ketosis in which symptoms other than drop in milk yield are not shown.

Diagnosis

Display of clinical signs. Laboratory detection of ketone bodies in urine and milk.

Differential diagnosis

As the animal may show nervous signs this condition has to be differentiated form rabies, Listeriosis, Lead  poisoning etc.

Treatment and management of ketosis

The affected animal should be consulted to a veterinarian. Interventions should target quick increase the blood glucose level. Oral administration of jaggery can be done. Intravenous administration of 500ml of 50% dextrose solution is the common therapy. As this solution is hyper osmotic care must be taken. while injecting to avoid accidental entry of this liquid into the surrounding tissue. The glucose administration alone cannot prevent relapse of the condition. Administration of glucocorticoids like dexamethasone along with glucose will help in maintaining blood glucose level. Commercial Veterinary preparations of Propylene glycol can be given orally at 250g/day to improve the glucose level. Vitamin and mineral supplements should be given to improve the metabolism. Animal should be fed high energy rich feed (higher concentration of grains in the feed).

Preventive measures

During later part of gestation

  • Adequate feeding.
  • Excess feeding of energy rich concentrates should be avoided.
  • The animal should be given proper exercise during this stage.

After calving when the milk yield increases suddenly

  • The animal must be provided with adequate amount of energy rich concentrate feed according to the milk yield.
  • Sudden change of feed should be avoided.
  • High yielding animals can be fed with By pass fat to at a rate of 15 – 20g/kg milk yield to prevent negative energy balance.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate may be incorporated in feed to prevent development of acidosis due to excess concentrate feeding.
  • Probiotics, Vitamin and mineral supplements should be included in the feed during the entire peak lactation period in order to improve feed utilisation and metabolism.
  • The feed containing high quantity of urea and silage should be avoided in susceptible animals.
  • Disease conditions like retention of placenta (ROP), metritis, mastitis and environmental stress etc should be treated immediately.
  • Regular weekly tasting of urine and milk samples up to 2 months after calving can help in early detection of ketosis and immediate treatment should be given to save the animal.

Source : Central Coastal Agricultural Research

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