How to Treat a Calf With a Swollen Tongue

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Calves are susceptible to swollen, or woody, tongue.
Calves are susceptible to swollen, or woody, tongue. (Image: calf image by Kevin McGrath from Fotolia.com)

Cattle are susceptible to a condition called swollen tongue, commonly known as wooden tongue. When a calf is afflicted with this condition, the tongue protrudes from the mouth, gets hard and becomes swollen. The cause of this condition is a form of bacteria called actinobacillus lignieresii. This type of bacteria only exists when oxygen is present. The condition affects only those areas in which soft tissue is present. Lesions in the mouth allow the bacteria to invade the affected tissue.

Things You'll Need

  • Tetracyline
  • Sodium iodide
  • IV needle and bag

Try to catch the symptoms of wooden tongue early. If the condition is diagnosed at an early stage, it's relatively easy to treat. If the condition is caught at too advanced a stage, it could kill the calf.

Administer a sodium iodide to the calf via IV therapy. The sodium iodide should be given to the calf for 7-10 days. Take care not to let the sodium iodide get outside of the vein. Should this happen, the calf's skin may slough off. If you have never given IV therapy, call a veterinarian immediately.

Purchase antibiotics prescribed by the veterinarian, most likely a streptomycin combination, penicillin or tetracycline. Iodine treatment may also be used, but a veterinarian will instruct on how to administer that.

Administer all medication to the calf as prescribed. The veterinarian will likely order that medication be given until it is completely gone.

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