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23rd Jun, 2021

Bloat is a dangerous condition that occurs to  cattle, goat and sheep when there is an abrupt nutritional change in the diet especially when they feed on lush green pastures following long rains. This means animals have too much gas in their stomach.


Bloat has tremendous economic implications to a farmer including losses from death of animals.


It is therefore prudent that such losses should be prevented and controlled.


Protocols of Preventing the Occurrence of Bloat


a)      Before turning the animals out onto lush pasture feed the animals with dry grass or hay to fill them up. The hay or dry grass should form 30% of the diet.

b)      Avoid watering the animals just before putting them on wet pasture

c)      Do not graze the animals on wet green pasture early in the morning. Let them out around 10 am when the pasture has been dried up by the heat of the morning sun

d)      Gradually increase the grazing hours of the animals on wet green pasture over the first week. Introduce new feeds in small quantities

e)      Consider administration of anti-foaming agents such as Stop Bloat during the risk period.

f)       During the risk period spend time watching animals closely.

g)      Introduce new feeds in small quantities

h)      Rations in feedlot or zero grazing situations must contain 10-15% chopped roughage mixed into the complete diet. This should be a cereal, grain straw, hay among others. Crack or roll the grains rather than finely ground. 

Treatment Protocols of Bloat

There are several protocols of treatment that can be used depending on the type of bloat:

a.      Do not feed the animal for a few hours and make the animal move around at moderate speed. 

b.      Give 500 ml to large animals and 100ml to small animals of any edible vegetable oil, solid cooking oil, butter oil, ghee or milk by mouth for less severe cases of frothy bloat. Non-toxic mineral oils can also be used. 

c.       Severe bloat is an emergency and rapid action is required to save the animal's life. In life-threatening cases, puncture the skin and the rumen of the animal on the left flunk carefully to let the gas out. Use a knife or any sharp thing but the best instrument to use is the trocar and cannula. The hole should be made 2 inches behind the last rib and 2 inches from the edge of the backbone. Gas and froth will come out when you make the hole.

d.      Keep the hole open by placing a tube or cannula through the hole. There will be an explosive release of gas and rumen contents. In severe cases if this is not done the animal will die. 

  1. Pour some vegetable oil into the rumen through the hole to help stop further gas or froth formation. Complications are rare. Call a veterinarian to attend to a punctured abdomen or a difficult case of bloat. 
  2. Tying a stick in the mouth to stimulate the flow of saliva which is alkaline helps to denature the foam. 
  3. Forceful walking may help to coalesce the foam into larger bubbles and stimulate belching.
  4. Give bloat medicine such as the following: Stop Bloat, Bloat Guard or Birp once daily for 3 days 
  5. In cases of Free Gas Bloat due to a foreign body lodged in the esophagus, it may have to be dislodged by using a probang or stomach tube, call a veterinarian immediately.

Adapted from Large Animal Medicine Texts and Merck Manual.

Author; Dr. Paul R. N. Kangethe (BVM, UoN)

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