Background: Recumbent cows are a diagnostic challenge because of a wide range of differential diagnoses, which include trauma, neurological and metabolic disorders, malnutrition and mineral deficiencies. This case report describes recumbent suckler cows that presented as a herd problem. In addition to weakness due to inanition, Cu and Se deficiencies were considered as possible aetiologies of the recumbency. Furthermore, Trypanosoma (T.) theileri, a blood parasite of unknown importance in Germany, was detected in the blood of some cows.
Case presentation: Three recumbent cows were referred to the Clinic for Ruminants and Swine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Leipzig. They were unable to rise and had low body condition scores and rough hair coats. Haematological and serum biochemical analyses showed neutrophilia, electrolyte imbalances, increased activities of muscle and liver enzymes and decreased concentrations of trace elements, especially Copper (Cu) and Selenium (Se). T. theileri was detected in a routine blood smear from one cow. The cows did not respond to an intensive care protocol, which included intravenous fluids and electrolytes, mineral substitution, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, and were therefore euthanized or died. Postmortem examination showed cachexia, subcutaneous and scleral oedema and muscular dystrophy, especially in the hind limbs. Follow-up examination of the herd of origin produced similar findings including the detection of T. theileri in a large proportion of the herd. Ration analysis revealed considerable undersupply of several nutrients.
Conclusions: Based on all findings, an aetiological diagnosis of trace mineral and nutrient deficiency with possible involvement of T. theileri was made.
Keywords: Blood parasites; Copper deficiency; Downer cow; Selenium deficiency.