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Production-Related Metabolic Disorders in Animals

By

Andrew J. Allen

, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-LAIM, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University

Medically Reviewed Mar 2022 | Modified Nov 2022

The pathogenesis of a number of common diseases of production animals, although largely related to production or management factors, is primarily related to alterations in metabolism. In most cases, the basis of disease is not a congenital or inherited error in metabolism, but rather an increased demand for a specific nutrient that has become deficient under certain conditions.

Diseases such as hypocalcemia Hypocalcemia in Dogs and Cats Hypocalcemia causes the major clinical manifestations of hypoparathyroidism by increasing the excitability of both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Peripheral neuromuscular signs... read more , hypomagnesemia, and hypoglycemia are augmented by management practices directed toward improving and increasing production. They are therefore correctly considered production-related diseases. However, they are also metabolic diseases because management of the animal is directed at production, which at its peak is beyond the capacity of that animal’s metabolic reserves to sustain a particular nutrient at physiologic concentrations. For example, ketosis Ketosis in Cattle Ketosis is an elevated concentration of ketone bodies (acetone, acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate) in all body fluids. Key clinical signs of ketosis are vague but include anorexia, decreased... read more Ketosis in Cattle occurs when cows are in negative energy balance, and parturient paresis of cows Parturient Paresis in Cows Parturient paresis (milk fever, hypocalcemia, paresis puerperalis, parturient apoplexy) is a disease of adult dairy cows in which acute hypocalcemia causes acute to peracute, afebrile, flaccid... read more Parturient Paresis in Cows (milk fever) occurs when the mass of calcium in the mammary secretion is greater than the cow’s diet or its skeletal reserves can supply. Comparable situations occur with magnesium and glucose metabolism, and with phosphorus in relation to postparturient hemoglobinuria Postparturient Hemoglobinuria in Dairy Cows Postparturient hemoglobinuria most often affects high-yielding dairy cows at the onset of lactation. Clinical signs can include a drop in milk production, anorexia, lethargy, and pale, icteric... read more . Other factors that contribute to hypocalcemia in dairy cattle include age, breed, and endocrinologic factors (eg, estrogen concentration).

Exertional rhabdomyolysis Exertional Myopathies in Horses Exertional myopathy in horses is a syndrome of muscle fatigue, pain, or cramping associated with exercise. Less common exertional myopathies that cause exercise intolerance without muscle necrosis... read more Exertional Myopathies in Horses of horses is another production-induced metabolic disease. In this case, the production activity (draft or racing) is maintained by and matched to a level of caloric intake. Management decisions not to work or race these horses without a concomitant decrease in caloric intake may result in accumulation of muscle glycogen to dangerous levels. Disease results when work is resumed and the production of lactate exceeds its metabolism.

The difference between production-related metabolic diseases and nutritional deficiencies is often subtle. Typically, nutritional deficiencies are long-term, steady-state conditions that can be corrected via dietary supplementation. Metabolic diseases are generally acute states that dramatically respond to the systemic administration of the deficient nutrient or metabolite, although affected animals may require subsequent dietary supplementation to avoid recurrence. An important aspect of dealing with production-induced metabolic diseases is accurate and rapid diagnosis. Ideally, diagnostic tests can be used to predict the occurrence of disease before its clinical onset.

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