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What Causes Seizures in Calves?

| Updated August 11, 2017

When one of your calves has a seizure, it can be alarming. Several disorders can lead to seizures, and a seizure is almost always a symptom of an underlying illness. This means that to treat the seizure, you must pinpoint the cause. The first step should always be to consult a veterinarian.


A number of things can cause a calf to have seizures. At the top of the list of possible suspects are nervous coccidiosis, infections, nutritional and mineral deficiencies, stress and toxins.


Only a veterinarian can properly diagnose the cause of a seizure. You can suspect nervous coccidiosis if your calf has intermittent seizures along with loss of balance and twitching. If the seizure is due to toxins, nutritional or stress related, it may come on suddenly without prior warning or illness. If your calf has shown signs of being sick before the seizure, an internal infection could be the cause.


You can administer between 250 and 500cc of a calcium solution with magnesium and dextrose. This is standard treatment for both mineral deficiencies and coccidiosis, plus it will not hurt anything no matter what the cause of the seizure turns out to be. Treatment with sulfa drugs and antibiotics can prevent infections. An anti-inflammatory is also given to prevent the absorption of toxins. Together, these treatments offer a catch-all solution that brings most calves around within 48 hours.


Seizures can often be prevented with good herd management, mineral supplements, reduction of stress and the regular use of coccidiostats.


Always consult a veterinarian when one of your calves has a seizure. Some causes cannot be diagnosed in the field, and may cause death if not treated properly.