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Tracheal Edema Syndrome of Feeder Cattle


John Campbell

, DVM, DVSc, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Last full review/revision Mar 2015 | Content last modified Mar 2015

Tracheal edema syndrome is characterized by extensive edema of the mucosa and submucosa in the dorsal membrane of the lower trachea. The etiology is unknown. Proposed causes include respiratory viruses and bacteria, trauma to the trachea from feed bunks, passive congestion and edema from excessive fat accumulation in the thoracic inlet, hypersensitivity reactions, and mycotoxins.

The condition occurs in heavy feeder cattle in the later two-thirds of the feeding period throughout North America but may be most severe in the summer in southern plains (USA) feedlots. Onset is sudden and appears to be associated with an increase in respirations stimulated by hot weather or exercise. The initial signs are a loud inspiratory noise (stridor) and the onset of dyspnea. Forced movement causes the respiratory distress to worsen. The cattle become cyanotic and typically collapse and die of asphyxiation in <24 hr. The disease is usually very sporadic, with small numbers of animals in the population affected.

In the acute form, necropsy lesions include edematous and/or hemorrhagic thickening of the submucosa and mucosa of the dorsal trachea extending from the midcervical area to the thoracic inlet. There is extensive hemorrhage in the trachea but no lung lesions. In the chronic form, lesions consist of hyperemia of the caudal third of the trachea with mucopurulent exudate in the trachea. In fatal cases, the lesion becomes completely obstructive.

Movement and handling of affected cattle should be limited. Antibiotics and corticosteroids are recommended for the acute form, although the efficacy of treatment is not reported. Tracheostomy may be required in severe cases. Providing shade and cooling with fans or water sprays is recommended. Animals that recover are prone to relapse and should be sent to slaughter.

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Respiratory Diseases of Small Animals
An obese, 13-year-old, neutered male Pomeranian is brought to the veterinarian because of a cough that has worsened over the last 3 to 4 months. His owner reports that the cough sounds like a “goose honk,” occurs when the dog is excited (e.g., when the doorbell rings), and is unproductive of sputum. The dog then appears to have trouble breathing after coughing. On physical examination, auscultation of the heart and lungs is normal, and the veterinarian is unable to stimulate the cough. The owner declines thoracic x-rays due to financial concerns. Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
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