Treatment of metritis may be the easy road, but it may not be the best road. Focus first on prevention of metritis. This article is the final in a series of four on metritis from Michigan State University Extension. Previous articles have discussed the causes, detection and prevention of metritis.
Every case of metritis is another reminder that changes need to be made well before freshening. While cases of metritis may need treatment, be judicious about treatment.
It is imperative that you work with the herd veterinarian who is responsible for drug use policy and protocols on your farm - the Veterinarian of Record (VOR). Work together and develop a diagnostic and treatment protocol for metritis. Make decisions together on courses of action based on levels of disease severity. The protocols should include diagnostic parameters (temperature, discharge, etc) and antimicrobials or other pharmaceutical products to be used including dose, route, and duration of therapy as well as the criteria for success or failure of therapy. Of course, important in this discussion is recognizing the milk and meat withholding times.
The cow was created to fight off infections and she may be able to do that on her own. However, elevated temperature is a warning flag that she should be watched to make sure that if she is infected, the infection is not overwhelming the ability of her immune response.
Elevated temperature alone is not an indication for treatment. Just because a fresh cow has an elevated temperature does not mean that she has metritis or should be treated. Dr. Sarah Wagner, North Dakota State University, examined fever, white blood cell counts and clinical signs during the first 10 days of lactation and concluded that rectal temperature has low specificity for diagnosing illness in postpartum dairy cows in the absence of other clinical signs.
Abnormal discharge alone is not an indication for treatment. Certainly, a foul-smelling reddish brown watery discharge is a sign of metritis. However, fresh cows may have an abnormal discharge in the postpartum period that is not metritis.
Treatment may be necessary when the cow is systemically sick. Train your employees to look for signs that the disease is systemic – that is, that the cow herself is sick and suffering. Systemic changes may include milk production decrease and visual signs that the cow is not feeling well including a raised tail, increased heart rate and reduced feed intake. These signs, in combination with elevated temperature or foul discharge, may indicate treatment.