FA GI Topics

Colon and rectal disorders

Calves may be born with colonic atresia. Colonic atresia has been associated with early pregnancy palpation and as an genetic anomaly in Holsteins. Most of these cases involve a large gap between the proximal end of the colon and the part attached to the rectum. Calves will present at 1-2 days of age with abdominal distension. No manure will be present in the rectum. As it is easy to perforate the distal segment, diagnosis is usually made by exploratory laparotomy or based on clinical signs. In many cases, calves have peritonitis at the time of diagnosis.

In some calves, the ends will not reach and anastomosis is not possible. In others, anastomosis can be done but motility never recovers. The latest recommendation is to perform a colostomy to enable to the calf to reach market weight.

Modified colostomy technique for colonic atresia in calves, Vet Surgery 39(6):722-728, 2010

Other colon disorders include luminal or extraluminal obstruction (often by saponified hardened fat). The spiral colon is hard to exteriorize so surgery is challenging and often unrewarding.

Rectal abscesses are possible but not common.

Rectal prolapse occurs fairly commonly in calves with parasite infestations or chronic coughs. If undamaged, the rectum is cleaned and replaced under epidural anesthesia. A purse string suture is placed in the rectum to retain it until the straining stops. If damaged, the mucosa can be resected or the damaged area amputated.

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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD; Elaine Norton, DVM PhD; Erica Dobbs, DVM; and Ashley Ezzo, DVM is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.