However there are other benefits, especially in sick calves. The increase in protein levels helps prevent hypoproteinemia
if IV fluids have to be given, and if fresh, whole blood is given, benefits of cellular immunity, interferon and other circulating
non-specific immune factors might benefit the calf. Treatment with antibiotics prophylactically in healthy calves is controversial
and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
A potential sequela to failure of passive transfer is septicemia. The source of the bacteria can be the umbilicus, the GI
tract or the respiratory tract. Any organ system can be secondarily infected, but the neurologic, musculoskeletal and ophthalmic
systems are most likely infected.
General clinical signs are depression and reluctance or inability to stand. Anorexia, poor suckle reflex,+/- fever (more often
hypothermia) are other general signs.
Hypoglycemia might be present. Neurologic signs due to secondary meningitis are ophisthotonus, seizures, stiff extremities,
nystagmus and/or miotic pupils. Hypopyon, uveitis, synechia and conjunctivitis might occur but are not life threatening, only
a sign of serious problems.
Single or multiple swollen joints, edema around the joints and osteomyelitis might occur. Musculoskeletal infections carry
a poor prognosis unless caught early. Lameness in neonatal calves should be treated as an emergency since infectious arthritis
from septicemia is a more likely cause of lameness than injury/trauma. Diarrhea and pneumonia are not a common sequela to
septicemia in beef calves, although they are common problems in calves with FPT.
A diagnosis of the causative organism(s) requires blood culture. The most likely organism is E. coli, but Salmonella sp., A. pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus can be involved. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are needed unless a culture and sensitivity shows otherwise. Ceftiofur (six times
the label dose) in combination with penicillin will give broad-spectrum coverage. If meningitis or joint involvement is evident,
florfenicol is a good choice. Anti-inflammatory drugs also are important. If caught early, arthritis can be successfully treated
with joint flushes and intra-articular antibiotics. Extensive fibrin buildup will be present in chronic cases that will hinder
flushing. Fluid therapy might also be needed.
If an umbilicus does become infected, and the calf is systemically ill or has poor growth, the umbilicus usually should be
immediately removed surgically. Systemic antibiotics rarely work long term, and the longer the infected umbilicus stays, the
higher the risk of infection spreading to the joints and nervous system.