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  • Clinical case: Calf Hernia Operation

    Posted on by Abii Dowdy


    Hernias in calves can be fairly common diagnosis. A hernia is a weakness in the abdominal muscle walls which allows fat and occasionally abdominal contents, such as the intestines, to poke through and sit underneath the skin. Having intestines within the hernia gives a worse prognosis as the normal peristalsis through the intestines could increase the risk of a twist happening and it getting blocked; this can cause the twisted intestines to die and the calf is at a high risk of septicaemia.

    Hernias can appear as small defects at the navel or large like in this calf, approximately 20cm in diameter. While this calf was expected to be a finisher, the farmer wanted to try and reduce the size of the hernia. Calves with hernias are not recommended to be kept as breeding animals due to the strong heritability of hernias developing in offspring. Also being a male calf, the surgery and surgical site, had to be approached with caution to prevent any accidental damage to the penis and associated structures.

    The calf was given a general anaesthetic at our Towcester Surgery. The hernia was opened in the groin area and the hernia contents was confirmed to be small intestines. The exact size of the hernia defect was only 8cm but this had allowed a lot of contents to enter the hernia pocket. Once returned to the abdomen the hernia was sutured closed in a way to reduce the risk of the hernia redeveloping. Due to the nature of the hernia skin involving the penis this was left on but as you can see from the photos is flat and should reduce as the calf grows.

    The calf has responded well to surgery and was back on his feet shortly after the anaesthetic. Post operation checks has shown the calf behaving normally and we anticipate no further problems as he grows.