Ketosis is a fairly common disease among adult cattle, although usually it occurs in dairy cattle. Ketosis typically occurs the first six weeks of parturition. It occurs in dairy cattle because of their inability to intake enough nutrients to meet their energy needs. This can lead to hypoglycaemia which is a pathologic state produced by a lower than normal level of glucose. That in turn leads to the formation of ketone bodies from the body and fat stores. Although they are only broken down for energy to used by the heart and brain in the times of low glucose levels. Ketosis is not an immediate thing like many other illnesses, it gradually occurs.
Some typical symptoms you will notice about your cattle if they have ketosis happen to be a decreased appetite, marked weight loss, decreased milk production, acetone odour of breath, nervousness, and hard, mucus covered faeces. For confined cattle, usually decreased appetite is the first sign that they might have ketosis. Also if they are fed in components such as part forage, part grain, they will tend to go for the forage more than they will go for the grain. If you fed your cattle in herds, then usually you will see reduced milk production, lethargy and an somewhat “empty” appearing abdomen. When cattle are physically examined with having ketosis they may appear slightly dehydrated.
Treatment for ketosis in cattle is more commonly done by IV administration of 500 ml of 50% dextrose solution. This treatment allows rapid recovery but the effects are often producing results beyond itself therefore relapses of ketosis are pretty common. Another treatment that can be used is the administration of glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone or isoflupredone acetate. You typically administer 5-20mg dose intra muscularly. This treatment often has good results in a more sustained response and you may repeat it daily as necessary. In mild cases of ketosis you may give your cow 250-400g/dose of propylene glycol orally. Propylene glycol acts a glucose precursor and therefore may be combined with other treatments and can be administered twice a day. However, if you accidentally overdose your cow with propylene glycol it will lead to central nervous system depression.
Ketosis can be prevented in your cattle by maintaining their nutritional needs. To see what your dairy cow requires to prevent ketosis, you should have a copy of the NRC (National Research Council) requirements for dairy cattle. This book will help aid you in rationing your cow’s diet and in term if she meets her energy requirements then she shouldn’t come down with ketosis.