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Mayr, Sophie (2004): Untersuchungen zur Ursache des generalisierten Haarausfalls bei jungen Kälbern. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
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Abstract

In the past few years alopecia has been observed in calves that were admitted to our clinic because of diarrhea and/or ruminal drinking. The aim of this prospective study was to investigate whether there is a causal relationship between ruminal drinking and generalized alopecia. Data from a total of 270 animals aged 31 days or younger that were admitted to the clinic for various reasons – and discharged after successful treatment were analysed. Animals whose general condition did not allow the collection of samples were excluded from the study. On the day of admission blood samples, rumen liquid, and hair-pluck samples from three defined regions of the body (forehead, withers, tail base) were taken. On the following day, preferably twenty-four hours later, these procedures were repeated. The fluid taken from the rumen was examined for gross evidence of casein, and the pH-value was measured. If the pH was above six on the first day, but below than six on the second day, rumen liquid was taken again on the third day. A differentiation between simple ruminal drinking (pH below six on the first day of the study), and complicated ruminal drinking (pH below six on two consecutive days) was obtained by following the described procedure. Up to the day of discharge the hair-pluck samples and visual examination were carried out daily. A total of 76 of the examined animals developed alopecia. Animals with alopecia were significantaly more often diagnosed with complicated ruminal drinking than animals without hairloss. With regard to simple ruminal drinking, presence of casein , and force-feeding (according the history) the groups were not significantly different. Significant differences were observed between the groups with reference to base excess, hydrogen-carbonate, D-lactate, urea, creatinine and the enzymes glutathione peroxidase, aspartate amino-transferase, as well as creatine kinase. Analysis of the blood values of L-lactate and glucose did not show significant differences. Calves with hair loss remained in the Clinic significantly longer than animals without alopecia. On the basis of the results, the following causal relationships are assumed: Alopecia and complicated ruminal drinking represent after-effects of serious diarrheal illness in the newborn calf. These secondarly problems seem to be independent of each other. Alternatively, it could be hypothesized that complicated ruminal drinking leading to a protracted ruminal acidosis could induce alopecia. Furthermore, it can be assumed that serious neonatal diarrhea alone could cause generalized hair loss in calves. This assumption is supported by the results of this study which show that the majority of the animals included in this investigation suffered from severe diarrhea but were not diagnosed with ruminal acidosis during the observation period. A variety of disturbances caused by severe diarrheal illness possibly influence the metabolism of the hair. D-lactatemia, dehydration, or blood acidosis could be of relevance in this context. The mechanisms that cause alopecia during serious illness should be the subject of further studies.