Differentiating causes of neonatal calf enteritis to enhance management and prevention

  • Franklyn Garry Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523
Keywords: neonatal enteritis, calf scours


There are numerous different agents that cause infectious enteritis in neonatal calves. Although each of these agents have some unique features, the pathophysiological effects on calves can be grouped into 2 categories that are useful in establishing appropriate treatment protocols and management guidelines. One group includes the viral pathogens rotavirus and coronavirus plus the protozoal agent Cryptosporidium. These are non-invasive, cause diarrhea with associated fluid and electrolyte loss that responds well to fluid therapy and are not affected by antibiotic treatment. The other group includes bacterial pathogens that cause different pathophysiologic changes including significant inflammatory response and invasion beyond the intestinal lining. The differences between these groups should guide treatment methods and help establish realistic prognostic expectations and preventive practices. Most affected calves are treated by the workers on a cattle operation. Educating these workers about clinical signs of disease that distinguish between causes of neonatal enteritis could help guide more successful treatment and more judicious antibiotic use.

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