Why does a vet need to come and see every Woody Tongue case? I just want the drugs to treat it…

Why does a vet need to come and see every Woody Tongue case? I just want the drugs to treat it…
Why does a vet need to come and see every Woody Tongue case? I just want the drugs to treat it…
By Anne Gelling, Anexa FVC Veterinarian Te Aroha

Most of you would have experienced the above. Why do we insist on a vet visit for every suspected Woody Tongue case?
The usual symptoms that make a farmer suspicious of Woody Tongue are a swollen jaw and/or drooling. Pretty straight forward, right? Not really…

Roughly 80% of the ‘Woody Tongue’ cases that we go out to see are NOT Woody Tongue!!

So what are they?

  • Many cases are Johne’s disease! This disease causes the so-called ‘bottle-jaw’, which can sometimes cause them to drool as well, putting you on the wrong foot quite easily
  • Adult teeth erupting, causing inflamed gums and drooling
  • Tooth root abscesses, quite commonly seen in 2nd and 3rd calvers
  • Cellulitis and diphtheria (laryngitis)
  • Lumpy jaw
  • Broken jaw
  • RDA (displacement of the abomasum)
  • Drench gun injuries
  • A stray copper bullet accidentally lodged in soft tissue of the throat
  • Swollen glands/lymph node abscesses/blocked glands
  • Foreign bodies stuck in the mouth/throat: a piece of rubber, an alkathene pipe, a broken bucket, a baked bean can lid or a stick to name a few
  • Oedema due to liver disease/ lymph node swelling due to facial eczema


Or this case seen this month:

Woody Tongue is not usually seen in calves, but this girl looked quite convincing from a distance. The farmer had brought the calf in the day before and looked in its mouth and found a hard tongue, so suspicions were that I was actually going to find Woody Tongue.

However, once I opened the mouth it turned out that her entire throat was filled and blocked with a large amount of half chewed grass!

She was obviously unable to dislodge this herself, which meant she also could not eat or drink anything. Luckily I managed to keep my fingers intact while freeing up her throat and we confirmed free passage by passing a calf drencher successfully into her oesophagus. Time will tell if she was just unlucky or if this was a case of pharyngeal paralysis.

Note: the big risk for this calf would be to drink too much water too soon, as she was very dehydrated and this could cause something called salt poisoning. With some careful nursing we hope she will recover well and grow into a nice, big milking cow.

Vibrostrep is the preferred treatment for Woody Tongue, however it is also a very important antibiotic in the treatment of Leptospirosis, it is relatively expensive and only cures a small range of diseases.

None of the above cases mentioned would have recovered with a course of Vibrostrep and some of them would most definitely have died without a vet visit. Others would have continued to go downhill and have gained a 30 day meat WHP if we would have handed out the Vibrostrep without seeing the animal.

We hope that this article helps you understand that the reason we insist on seeing your suspected Woody Tongue cases is to have the chance to save you your animals, your money and your chance to send certain animals to the works.

And sometimes, we just confirm that you have a Woody Tongue case and we happily hand over the treatment, knowing that we have chosen the right product for the right disease.


Date Added: Thursday, 1st February 2018


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