Traumatic reticulitis

From Cow
A foreign body removed from the reticulum of a cow
Traumatic reticulopericarditis in a 15-month-old bovine

Traumatic reticuloperitonitis and pericarditis ('hardware disease') develops as a consequence of perforation of the reticulum by ingested foreign objects.

Cattle are relative indiscriminate feeders when grazing and it is not unusual for them to ingest wire, nails, fencing and other hardware material[1].

Perforation of the wall of the reticulum by foreign bodies sometimes results in pericarditis, reiculoperitonitis, and in severe cases, peritonitis. Occasionally, the liver or spleen may be pierced and become infected.

Clinical signs

Initial clinical signs are often vague, but in serious cases, cattle often present with fever, anorexia and lethargy. Ruminoreticular atony can be confirmed on auscultation of the abdomen[2]. Fecal output is decreased. A grunt may be elicited by applying pressure to the xiphoid. Abnormal or muffled heart sounds associated with pericarditis and epicarditis was the most common sequela[3].

In chronic cases, weight loss and milk production reduction occur. Some cattle develop chronic vagal indigestion, possibly due to the adhesions that form after foreign body perforation, particularly those on the ventromedial reticulum[4].


Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs supported by radiographic studies[5] and blood tests which confirm an infectious disease. Further evidence is supported by finding a foreign object(s) via rumenotomy.

A differential diagnosis would include lymphosarcoma, parasitism, intestinal obstruction, abomasal displacement or volvulus.

Electronic metal detectors can assist diagnosis but do not distinguish between perforating and nonperforating foreign bodies. In valuable cattle, ultrasonography of the heart and thorax is useful in the diagnosis of pleuritis and pericarditis.


Treatment usually commences with conservative broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy, such as tetracyclines, enrofloxacin or ceftiofur. Intravenous fluid therapy should be given as necessary.

Magnets have been prescribed in low-grade cases[6].

A surgical rumenotomy is usually indicated in valuable cattle.


  1. Braun U et al (2009) An unusual cause of traumatic reticulitis/reticuloperitonitis in a herd of Swiss dairy cows nearby an airport. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 151(3):127-131
  2. Merck Vet Manual
  3. Roth L & King JM (1991) Traumatic reticulitis in cattle: a review of 60 fatal cases. J Vet Diagn Invest 3(1):52-54
  4. Marr A (2004) Traumatic reticulitis and displaced abomasum in cattle. Vet Rec 154(25):799-800
  5. Farrow CS (1999) Reticular foreign bodies. Causative or coincidence? Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 15(2):397-408
  6. Cramers T et al (2005) New types of foreign bodies and the effect of magnets in traumatic reticulitis in cows. Vet Rec 157(10):287-289