Abdominal fat necrosis

From Cow
Postmortem findings in a cow with abdominal fat necrosis, showing necrotic fat masses surrounding the kidney[1]

Abdominal fat necrosis (lipomatosis) is a nutritional disease of cattle associated with grazing fescue pastures.

This disease has been diagnosed in Jersey, Guernsey, Japanese Black and beef cattle grazing fescue for long periods, and is thought to be caused by liberation of pancreatic enzymes in pancreatitis, pressure and trauma, febrile conditions, grazing on tall fescue grass[2], rapid cachexia, or genetic predisposition[3].

Most affected cattle are asymptomatic and a diagnosis is usually made during exploratory laparotomy or during rectal examination.

Lesions appear as “floating corks” when palpated per rectum and are usually painless. In severe cases, these growths may cause intestinal obstruction or colic.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs augmented by histological examination of biopsied material.

A differential diagnosis would include lymphosarcoma, intestinal adenocarcinoma, abdominal abscesses, developing or mummified fetuses, and peritoneal tumors such as mesothelioma[4].

Treatment usually requires surgical excision of large masses if secondary disease occurs as a result of mechanical obstruction of the intestines[5]


  1. Tharwat M & Buczinski S (2012) Diagnostic ultrasonography in cattle with abdominal fat necrosis. Can Vet J 53(1):41-46
  2. Radostits OM, et al (2007) Veterinary Medicine A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Goats and Horses. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Saunders. Diseases of the cardiovascular system; p:290
  3. Barker IK (1993) The peritoneum and retroperitoneum: Abdominal fat necrosis. In: Jubb KVF, Kennedy PC, Palmer N, editors. Pathology of Domestic Animals San Diego. California: Academic Pr; pp:431–433
  4. Fubini S & Divers TJ (2007) Noninfectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In: Divers TJ, Peek SF, editors. Rebhun’s Diseases of Dairy Cattle. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Saunders. pp:130–199
  5. Motoi Y et al (1984) Treatment and clinicobiochemical observations of cows affected with fat necrosis. Jap J Vet Sci 46:281–289