A bony lump must be treated from the inside out, with antibiotics via the bloodstream that serves the bone. Lancing the lump does no good as the infected bone can't be drained. The usual treatment is sodium iodide into the jugular vein, repeated at least 2-3 times at 7- to 10-day intervals. While this measure may not always halt the infection, the lump may stop growing long enough to market the animal or acquire additional calves.

Most veterinarians use a 10-20% solution, giving a dose of about 70 mgs of sodium iodide/kg of bodyweight, Smith says. If a mature cow weighs 500 kg (1,100 lbs.), 175 mls of a 20% solution would be administered and double that if using a 10% solution,” Smith explains.

“But be careful to avoid overdosing. If you see signs of iodine toxicity (flaky skin and diarrhea) back off on dosage for the next treatment. But if the animal seems normal after 7-10 days, give the full dose again.”

Some veterinarians report improved bony lump jaw treatment success with the addition of an antibiotic. Most commonly this is penicillin and oxytetracycline (such as LA-200), as well as florfenicol (Nuflor) and penicillin G.

Penicillin should be given once daily for at least seven days, or until the next dose of sodium iodide. Some people prefer LA-200 or Nuflor because those don't have to be given so often,” Smith says. “All are considered extra-label treatments as no antibiotics are currently approved for treatment of bovine actinomycosis.” Thus, be sure to get a veterinarian's approval.

“Our goal in treatment is to kill the bacteria and stop the lesion growth. The bone responds to inflammation by proliferating; and once the bone is enlarged, it won't go down in size.

“If people don't like the way bony lump jaw looks on a valuable animal, some of it can be removed surgically,” Smith says. Surgery provides two benefits, he adds. It reduces the swelling and may also allow the intravenous sodium iodide to better access the bone.

“In my opinion, treatment success rates have been a little better with surgery, but many animals respond to just sodium iodide,” Smith says.

Heather Thomas is a rancher and freelance writer based in Salmon, ID.

Health Tip: Abortion worries

Some producers believe treating pregnant cows with sodium iodide can result in abortions. But Geof Smith, North Carolina State University ruminant specialist, says the only likely results of waiting until she calves is a worse bone infection and the animal having to be slaughtered.

“As far as we know, it's safe to use in pregnant cows and there is no evidence it causes abortion. Of course, if the cow aborts for some other reason, the owner may blame it on the treatment,” he says.


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