Is it a bird or is it a plane?
Is it a prolapsed uterus or is it a schistosome?
During calving time, it is not uncommon to get sent to a ‘prolapsed uterus’, only to find it’s not a uterus but the insides of a calf.
What is a schistosome?!
Officially called Schistosomas reflexus; this is a rare and fatal congenital abnormality of ruminants resulting in inversion of the spine and ribs (bending backwards in reverse). This often means the skin cannot close over the abdominal organs and they are left exposed. The joints are often fused and not easily manipulated, and the hind legs are often folded back towards the head. Interestingly, despite all these abnormalities, the calf often remains alive while inside the cow due to the placental connection delivering oxygen and nutrients.
Due to the spine position (the calf is essentially folded in half backwards) and fused joints, the calf cannot normally pass through the pelvic canal without assistance. Presentation of these mutants are usually one of two forms:
But fear not, we can help! Call your vet, and we can use our fetotomy skills to remove the calf in pieces. Some can be removed with as little as one or two cuts, with a great outcome for the cow. However, some of these can be extremely complicated (many of you will have some stories) and caesarean may be the best option for the cow. If you suspect a schistosome calf, please don’t assume it is not worth calling your vet, the majority of the time we get a good outcome for the cow.
To distinguish the difference between a uterine prolapse and a schistosome:
- Does it appear like one big pink/red sack? Often there are big dark red ‘buttons’ on the outside. This would be a uterine prolapse
- Are there long spaghetti loops of intestines? Possibly even a dark maroon mass (calf’s liver)? This would be a Schistosome calf.