Diagnosing and treating pica (depraved appetite) in farm animals
November 21, 2013
Pica is a peculiar condition of depraved or perverted appetite in which the animals start eating objects that they normally do not eat. It is met with in cattle, buffalo (particularly pregnant and lactating) and occasionally in other animals such as pigs, horses, and goats (Firyal, 2007). Cows in calf and young cattle are especially liable to develop pica. Affected animals have the tendency to lick and to gnaw almost anything with which they come into contact. They seem particularly dispose to eat earth and sand (geophagia), bones (osteophagia), soiled litter, and even excreta. Other signs include wood chewing, shopper chewing, wall licking, eating bark of the tree and licking the body coat of another animal tethered nearby (Muhammad and Rashid, 2011). They cause of the condition is not well understood. Pica is probably due to indigestion and dietetic errors that are difficult or impossible to specify. It has been suggested that insufficiency of soda salts or phosphates in the food, may cause it. It has also been asserted to be due to a nervous derangement, probably interfering with nutrition. In some lactating buffaloes, pica may be a sign of subclinical ketosis. Ketosis-associated pica is characterized by refusal of concentrate by the animal and continuation of eating of roughages.
When first noticed, the animal may be in a good state of nutrition, but soon there is loss of condition. The animal becomes somewhat restless, uneasy and depressed. The appetite for normal foods is very capricious. The patient will almost at any time eat the abnormal substances already mentioned and will also lick the clothes of the attendants and gnaw at the fixed objects to which they may be tethered, such as manger, partition, etc. Later, the animal becomes quite thin and wasted, and shows various symptoms of indigestion such as intermittent tympany, irregular bowels, and partially suspended rumination. The feces become more or less dry and firm, although occasionally diarrheic and offensive in odor. The mucous membranes become pallid and the skin harsh and the condition of the affected animal progresses towards hide-bound. If untreated, the animal may die from malnutrition and exhaustion, after a varying period that may extend over months. Depraved appetite often precedes osteomalacia in cattle, in which the bones become brittle and are easily fractured.
For the purpose of treatment, first change the pasture, or if housed remove to another shed. Complete change of environment is often necessary. Then, administer a purgative and follow with alkalies and bitter tonics. The following mixture is particularly serviceable (Wooldridge, 1923):
Carbonate of iron = 120 gms
Finely ground bone meal = 500 gms
Powdered gentian = 140 gms
(gentiana in urdu)
Common salt = 240 gms
Powdered fenugreek = 140 gms
(meethi in urdu)
These are to be mixed and a heaped tablespoonful given three times a day. In addition, it is recommended that three tablespoonful of powdered charcoal be mixed with the food which must be generous and nutritious. It is also well to provide the animal with a lump of rock salt in his feeding-trough. Successful results are also recorded from the hypodermic injection of apomorphine daily, for several consecutive days. To keep the problem at bay (i.e., control), the farmers should be advised to supplement the ration with a balanced mineral-vitamin mixture (e.g., Vito-mineral-T™, Trust Pharma, Faisalabad) on regular basis.
Firyal, S., 2007. Pica (depraved appetite; allotrophagia) in domestic animals and man. Pak. Vet. J., 27(4): 208-210
Greig, J. R., 1939. Hoare’s Veterinary Materia Medica & Therapeutics. 5th Ed. Bailliere, Tindal and Cox, London. P: 382.
Muhammad, G., and I.Rashid, 2011. Comparative evaluation of single super phosphate and di-calcium phosphate in cows and buffaloes: (I) effect on production and health, and (II) treatment of phosphorus-associated clinical disorders. 1st year annual technical report of a Pakistan Science Foundation Funded project. Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
Ranjhan, S. K. and N. N. Pathak, 1992. Nutritional and metabolic disorders of buffaloes. In: Buffalo Production. World Animal Science C6. Tulloh, N. M. and J. H. G. Holmes (eds). Elsevier Publishers, Amsterdam, Holland. pp: 355-374
Wooldrige, G. H., 1923. Diseases of the digestive tract. In: Encyclopedia of Veterinary Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics. Wooldrige, G. H. (ed). Henry Frowde & Hodder and Stoughton, London. Pp:277
Dr. Imaad Rashid and Prof. Dr. Ghulam Muhammad and Dr. Sehrish Firyal*
Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
*Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore
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