Abomasal displacement

From Cow
Abomasal displacement in a cow. The abomasum is above the rumen when it should be under and slightly in front of the rumen
Abomasal torsion in one-week old Simmental calf
Phytobezoar removed from a cow which presented with abomasal displacement

Abomasal displacement (left, right or anterioventral displacement of the abomasum) is an infrequent gastrointestinal disorder of cattle worldwide which results in cattle deaths and economic losses for the cattle industry.

Causes of abomasal displacement is considered to be multifactorial:

The majority of cases are seen within a month post-calving. Abomasal displacement occurs as a result of an impairment to abomasal motility[4], causing the abomasum to be displaced upward along the left abdominal wall lateral to the rumen. The omasum, reticulum, and liver are also rotated to varying degrees[5]. Torsion of blood vessels sometimes leads to acute necrosis of the abomasum and death ensues.

Clinical signs

In affected cattle, anorexia and decreased milk production are usually the only visible signs. Ketosis is observed in cows that have been anorexic for some time. Analysis of bloods can be disappointing, as total protein, albumin, glucose and cholesterol are often within normal limits. However, the peritoneal fluid often shows distinctive features of ischaemia and inflammation[6]. An increase in serum Amyloid A or haptoglobin may indicate the presence of hepatic lipidosis in cattle with abomasal displacement[7].

In severe cases, acute fever, recumbency, DIC and shock are observed[8]. Rectal examination may reveal an enlarged abomasum palpable via the rectum.


The most important diagnostic physical finding is a ping on simultaneous auscultation and percussion of the abdomen.

Ultrasonography may be helpful in supporting a diagnosis. Often, diagnosis requires and exploratory laparotomy to confirm.


Cattle which show signs of circulatory compromise should be treated as medical emergencies. A laparotomy is usually indicated in these cases.

Anti-inflammatory therapy is usually required and medical treatment should be directed to prevent complications of ischaemia and reperfusion. Bethanacol may be warranted in cases where spasticity of the abomasum is suspected[9].

Broad spectrum antimicrobial therapy such as enrofloxacin, penicillins or ceftiofur are advisable. Erythromycin has prokinetic effects in cattle and may be more effective at increasing abomasal motility and emptying[10].

Aggressive treatment of satellite conditions such as mastitis, puerperal metritis and ketosis are essential to assist recovery.

In severe cases, intravenous fluid therapy is warranted. Providing treatment is instigated early, most cases of abomasal displacement respond to treatment, unless omasal-abomasal or reticulo-omasal-abomasal volvulus has occurred.


  1. Starke A et al (2010) Noninvasive detection of hepatic lipidosis in dairy cows with calibrated ultrasonographic image analysis. J Dairy Sci 93(7):2952-29565
  2. Kalaitzakis E et al (2011) Macromineral status of dairy cows with concurrent left abomasal displacement and fatty liver. N Z Vet J 58(6):307-311
  3. Tschuor AC et al(2010) Right flank laparotomy and abomasotomy for removal of a phytobezoar in a standing cow. Can Vet J 51(7):761-763
  4. Ontsouka EC et al (2010) Binding sites of muscarinic and adrenergic receptors in gastrointestinal tissues of dairy cows suffering from left displacement of the abomasum. Vet J 186(3):328-337
  5. Merck Vet Manual
  6. Grosche A et al (2012) Peritoneal fluid analysis in dairy cows with left displaced abomasum and abomasal volvulus. Vet Rec 170(16):413
  7. Guzelbektes H et al (2010) Serum amyloid A and haptoglobin concentrations and liver fat percentage in lactating dairy cows with abomasal displacement. J Vet Intern Med 24(1):213-219
  8. Sobiech P et al (2008) Changes in the coagulation profile of cattle with left abomasal displacement. Pol J Vet Sci 11(4):301-306
  9. Niederberger MD et al (2010) In vitro effects of bethanechol on abomasal and duodenal smooth muscle preparations from dairy cows with left displacement of the abomasum and from healthy dairy cows. Vet J 184(1):88-94
  10. Constable PD et al (2012) Evidence-based use of prokinetic drugs for abomasal disorders in cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 28(1):51-70