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Suspected levamisole intoxication in calves

Authors: Dwyer C, Muller KR
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 257-260, Jul 2016
Publisher: Taylor and Francis


CASE HISTORY: A group of 32 Friesian and four Hereford calves, 3–4 months old with body weights between 100–120 kg, were purchased from a weaner sale. On arrival at the property the Hereford calves were treated with a combination anthelmintic containing 2 g/L abamectin and 80 g/L levamisole hydrochloride. Shortly afterwards they developed tremors and frothing from the mouth, and two died overnight. The Friesian calves were treated with the same anthelmintic on the following day, when some showed hypersalivation and frothing from the mouth.

CLINICAL FINDINGS: Examination of the three most severely affected Friesian calves revealed severe nicotinic-type symptoms including hypersalivation, frothing from the mouth, muscle tremors, recumbency, rapid respiration, hyperaesthesia, and central nervous system depression. Other calves showed mild to moderate signs of intoxication including restlessness, tail switching, salivation, tremors, frequent defaecation, mild colic and jaw chomping. Two calves died shortly afterwards. An adverse drug event investigation revealed that the formulation and quality of the anthelmintic was within the correct specification, and that the drench gun was functioning correctly.

DIAGNOSIS: Suspected levamisole intoxication due to a combination of possible overdosing, dehydration, and stress caused by transportation and prolonged yarding.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Susceptibility to levamisole toxicity in New Zealand calves can be increased if factors like dehydration or stress are present. Levamisole has a narrow margin of safety, and overdosing in calves can easily occur if the dose rate is not based on their actual weight or health status.

KEY WORDS: Calves, levamisole, toxicity, dehydration, adverse drug event investigation
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