Acute bovine pulmonary emphysema and edema

From Cow

Acute bovine pulmonary emphysema and edema (ABPEE) is a common respiratory disease in beef and dairy cattle due to exposure to a number of toxins.

This disease is seen with cattle that have ingested mold sweet potatoes (Fusarium solani) and wild mints (Perilla frutescens) and is associated with high morbidity. Similar symptoms have also been reported on cattle fed alfalfa, rape, kale, and turnip tops.

Clinical signs

Some cattle are asymptomatic but severely affected cattle present with sudden death, or in less acute affected cases, severe dyspnea and a loud expiratory grunt.

On auscultation, respiratory crackles are audible over the dorsal lung fields after 2 - 3 days exposure. Subcutaneous emphysema has also been noted.

Full clinical recovery may require 3 wk.

Postmortems of cattle which have died reveals extensive edema and interstitial pulmonary emphysema, with submucosal hemorrhages along the respiratory tree. Histological analysis usually shows alveolar edema, alveolar epithelial hyperplasia and bronchiolar necrosis.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs, historical exposure to offending plants and postmortem findings consistent with pulmonary emphysema.

A differential diagnosis would include other causes of acute pneumonia such as atypical interstitial pneumonia[1] (rye-grass staggers) and bovine viral diarrhea.

In most cases, treatment is supportive, with broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy aimed at minimising development of pneumonia. Recovery from exposure is often prolonged, and return to normal activity may take a month.


  1. Doster AR (2010) Bovine atypical interstitial pneumonia. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 26(2):395-407