February 9, 2015
Deer stomach full of corn
Deer found dead in Wisconsin suspected of dying from corn toxicity. Corn toxicity is in reference to two diseases which can affect ruminants, including white-tailed deer and elk. Both diseases can cause mortality in any ruminant even those in good body condition and include acidosis (grain overload) and enterotoxemia (overeating disease). While these diseases can occur at any time of the year they are usually seen in late winter when there is a rapid change from a natural diet of high fiber woody browse to a low fiber/high carbohydrate diet found in grain such as corn. In acidosis the ingestion of large amounts of grain, usually corn, results in a change in the microbial organisms within the rumen which leads to the production of large amounts of lactic acid. The lactic acid lowers the pH of the rumen which then further reduces the normal flora of the rumen leading to reduced rumen motility and interference with digestion. In enterotoxemia the ingestion of large amounts of grain, usually corn, results in an overgrowth of the bacteria Clostridrium perfringens. This overgrowth leads to the production of lethal amounts of toxins which are absorbed into the animal's body. Signs of deer or elk with either acidosis or enterotoxemia are similar and indistinguishable in the field. The signs can include dehydration, diarrhea, incoordination, convulsions, and depression. Death may occur within 24-72 hours of excessive grain ingestion.
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