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Farm Animal Practice
Clinical examination of the abdomen in adult cattle
  1. Peter Cockcroft

    Peter Cockcroft graduated from Cambridge in 1980. He is a senior lecturer in farm animal medicine at the University of Cambridge and holds the RCVS diploma in cattle health and production.

  2. Peter Jackson

    Peter Jackson graduated from Edinburgh in 1960. After 16 years in general practice, he worked as a lecturer in veterinary obstetrics at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. In 1980, he moved to Cambridge veterinary school as a university physician. He retired in 2002, but maintains a keen interest in medicine and obstetrics.


CLINICAL examination of the abdomen in adult cattle can be daunting due to the fractious nature of infrequently handled animals and the lack of adequate restraint facilities on some farms. For many veterinary surgeons, cattle have become an unfamiliar species which are only examined periodically. The range of abdominal conditions which may occur in cattle is challenging and a careful cost-benefit analysis is required before an investigative or treatment protocol in embarked upon. Nevertheless, much can be achieved by using a methodical approach and many conditions may be successfully (and dramatically) treated if the correct diagnosis is achieved. This article describes how to conduct a systematic clinical examination of the bovine abdomen and outlines the abnormalities which may be found. In particular, it considers the observation and examination of the patient and any further diagnostic investigations which may be useful. Where appropriate, specific conditions are used to illustrate the abnormalities which may be present. The urogenital system is not covered.

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