Hydrocephaly is an increased volume of cerebral spinal fluid during gestation which may result in stillborn or dummy calves with a domed appearance to the skull.
Most affected animals are either born dead, or die shortly after birth. Gross lesions present may include the classic domed appearance to the skull (see photo above), however this lesion is not always seen. Animals born alive show signs of cerebral inhibition such as depression, weakness, poor suckle reflex, droopy ears and head, blindness, spasm of the limbs, head tremors, recumbency, and convulsions. Cerebral damage may also result in contracture of the limbs, known as arthrogryposis.Etiology:
A number of infectious diseases have been identified to cause hydrocephaly, all of which are the result of infection of the dam during days 62-96 of pregnancy, and consequently the improper development of the fetus. Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is found in Minnesota and can cause the deformity. Recently, a genetic mutation has been isolated in Angus cattle which is responsible for development of the disease, and currently any affected animals must be reported to the American Angus Association. It is also possible for the disease to occur spontaneously, with no identifiable cause.
The most effective prevention of pathogens causing hydrocephaly is the vaccination of the dam prior to breeding, particularly for BVDV. In the case of neurogenic hydrocephalus, which is genetically inherited, cows and sires which are known carries of the disease should be eliminated from the breeding herd to prevent further affected calves.
No treatment is currently available, and live-born affected animals should be euthanized.
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