Yogi is our sweet highland calf that we brought home last December. She is very sweet and also timid. We noticed this February that her breathing was very raspy, but it was right after that arctic blast we had so we thought she probably had pneumonia. We listened to her lungs with our stethoscope and she definitely sounded coarse, so we treated her with Nuflor on the farm. She seemed to feel better and was more energetic, but then a few weeks later we noticed the raspiness again. This time, it sounded like the raspiness was coming from her throat. We tried to listen with the stethoscope again, but didn't hear much coarseness in the lungs. We decided to take her to the vet to see if they had any other suggestions. She registered a fever on the thermometer, so they decided to give a different, more powerful antibiotic (Exceed). One week later we called back to let them know the raspy sounds continued. We picked up yet another antibiotic (Draxxin) and a steroid and treated her on the farm with that. After all those treatments, she continued to "wheeze" and pant, so we loaded her up and hauled her to the Oklahoma State University Veterinary Hospital. When they evaluated her they agreed that she didn't have any coarse sounds coming from her lungs, but they did an ultrasound to make sure the lung tissue looked healthy and that there weren't any pockets of fluid or infection. The ultrasound was clean so they asked if they could perform an endoscopy. On endoscopy they discovered that she has scarring of the arytenoids (cartilage in the throat). The scarring effectively enlarged those tissues and caused a narrowing of her airway. The veterinarian said she thought this was caused by a previous diphtheria infection that was either treated too late or not at all. She said that with a diphtheria infection her breathing would have been significantly worse than it was at the time of the exam, and we would have definitely known if she was sick. We had no knowledge of any symptoms like that since we have known her, so we are guessing the previous owners may have missed the symptoms and she didn't get the treatment she needed.
This is her at her very worst. She came up for feed one night panting so badly. We were so scared! We offered her cold fresh water and a cool place to rest without the other cattle bothering her and she recovered just fine.
How do we help her!?!
There is no procedure they could do to fix the narrowed airway. The reason has to do with the fact that she is a ruminant animal and is constantly regurgitating her food. We noticed that her breathing is worse during hot weather and the vet agreed heat would aggravate her symptoms. She suggested keeping her as cool as possible by clipping her hair, providing cold water, making a fan available, and even providing air conditioning if possible or necessary. I'm not going to lie, we panicked at first. I immediately felt like we needed to give her to someone who lives in North Dakota, so that she could stay comfortable. We really didn't want to part with her, though and wanted to at least try to make comfortable accommodations for her.
Our barn doesn't have electricity (there isn't any on the whole property), so we decided to install a few solar panels on the barn. Dusty is a jack of all trades and quickly figured out how to connect the solar panel to a charge controller and then to the battery. The battery then connects to the inverter which the fan plugs into. We installed two of these on either side of the overhang area of the barn. He also had the great idea of adding a misting device to the front of the fans. We are so hopeful this works for her to help keep her cool during our hot summer months quickly approaching. I hope she likes swimming in the ponds!