Ask the Vet

Naval Ill Can Lead to Bigger Issues

Close monitoring and treatment are called for in a calf with naval ill. (DTN/Progressive Farmer image by Claire Vath)

QUESTION: I have a heifer calf, about 2 years old, that still has a large naval. She seems to be dribbling fluid from the naval. What could this be, and what do I need to do?

ANSWER: This could very likely be a persistent or patent urachus. If this is the case, the fluid you see is urine. The urachus is the tube leading from the bladder to the umbilical cord that carries away urine the calf produces while in the uterus. It's supposed to close and wither away after birth.

However, infection in the umbilical cord (commonly referred to as naval ill) increases the chance of it not closing. This can raise the likelihood that an infection will spread throughout the body, including the bladder and the joints (joint ill).

This may resolve with time, but your veterinarian needs to examine the calf. At a minimum, she needs antibiotic treatment and close monitoring. Many of these cases are best treated by surgically removing the infected umbilical cord and urachus.