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Vet J. 2008 Apr;176(1):50-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2007.12.020. Epub 2008 Mar 14.

The monitoring, prevention, and treatment of milk fever and subclinical hypocalcemia in dairy cows.

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National Animal Disease Center, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Ames, IA 50010, USA.


The periparturient cow undergoes a transition from non-lactating to lactating at calving. The animal is tremendously challenged to maintain calcium homeostasis. Those that fail can develop milk fever, a clinical disorder that is life threatening to the cow and predisposes the animal to a variety of other disorders. Guidelines for monitoring the incidence of hypocalcemia and methods for treating milk fever are reviewed. The physiological factors that cause milk fever and strategies for prevention of milk fever are discussed, focusing on the effects diet cation-anion difference can have on tissue sensitivity to parathyroid hormone. Another major risk factor for milk fever is hypomagnesemia, which is observed when animals are fed inadequate amounts of magnesium, or some factor is present in the diet that prevents adequate absorption of magnesium. Moderate hypomagnesemia impairs the ability of the cow to maintain calcium homeostasis and hypocalcemia occurs.

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