Prevent Salt Toxicity in Livestock

April 18, 2010 07:00 PM
p>By Ellen Crawford, North Dakota State University Agriculture Communications


Lack of fresh water can lead to salt toxicity in livestock.

Salt toxicity, also known as water deprivation sodium ion toxicosis, occurs when animals go without access to fresh water for an extended period of time. The condition usually is seen in swine but also can be seen in cattle, says North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow.

When water consumption is limited or nonexistent, animals' sodium-regulating systems become ineffective, and the amount of sodium ion in the animals becomes too high, which ultimately can lead to death. The problem can be compounded when animals on range have free access to salt or a mineral supplement high in salt and limited access to fresh water.

Clinical signs of salt toxicity in cattle include salivation, increased thirst, abdominal pain and diarrhea followed by wobbling, circling, blindness, seizures and partial paralysis. Sometimes the cattle become belligerent. Other central nervous signs include dragging a hind limb or knuckling of the fetlock joint.

No antidote or specific treatment is available for water deprivation sodium ion toxicosis, so preventing it by ensuring animals have access to fresh water at all times is critical, Stoltenow says

While supplying water is imperative, animals should drink water in small amounts at frequent intervals, he says. Allowing animals to drink their fill actually can make the neurologic signs worse because of brain edema (swelling of the brain).

Severely affected animals may need to be given water by a stomach tube. However, the mortality rate can be more than 50% in affected animals regardless of treatment.

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