Sygnet, a 10 week old pedigree Holstein calf, presented with a non-reducible umbilical swelling, that was painful on palpation and getting bigger every day. Sygnet also wasn’t feeling too great in herself, with a waxing and waning temperature.
After placing a needle into the mass for a fine needle aspirate (FNA) and drawing out pus, it was decided to lance the abscess and let it drain. For simple, localised abscesses, this would normally fix the problem. However for poor Sygnet, her hernial sack continued to grow and she wasn’t improving.
She continued to have a high temperature (pyrexic) and a large 10cm swelling at the umbilicus. Ultrasound exam and another FNA showed thick puss in the area despite drainage. Sygnet was put on an extended course of antibiotics, pain relief and to reassess once the medication course was finished.
In more complicated umbilical hernias and abscesses, infections can track up the umbilical remnants, which should normally disappear once the calf is born. The umbilical arteries and urachus head towards the bladder, and the umbilical vein goes towards the liver.
After no improvement, Sygnet underwent surgery to investigate where the infection was coming from.
Sygnet was given a general anaesthetic, and her abdomen was opened. The infection was tracking up a very large umbilical vein. It was filled with thick pus and tracked up to her liver. The umbilical vein was ligated, with the very unhealthy end being removed along with the umbilical swelling. The other end of the vein connecting to the liver was marsupialised. This procedure allows for the vein to drain through a shorter and smaller tube which will eventually close over.
Sygnet made a full recovery from the surgery and after lots of TLC is doing very well.