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A 4-month-old 127.5-kg (280.5-lb) Holstein heifer calf (patient 1) and a 4-month-old 174-kg (382.8-lb) Holstein bull calf (patient 2) of high genetic value were examined because of signs of respiratory tract disease (dyspnea, wheezing, and coughing) of 2 and 3 months’ duration, respectively, that did not respond to antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment. Patient 1 was born with assistance owing to malpresentation and dystocia. The birth of patient 2 was unobserved.


For both calves, results of a physical examination, CBC, serum biochemical analysis, thoracic radiography and CT, and nasotracheal endoscopy led to the diagnosis of tracheal collapse and stenosis secondary to perinatal rib fractures. Neither calf had evidence of substantial lower airway disease.


Both calves were discharged from the hospital with the recommendation that they be individually housed in cool, well-ventilated stalls with no access to headlocks. The clinical signs abated, and surgical intervention was not pursued in either patient. Both patients grew as expected and achieved reproductive maturity, with patient 1 becoming an oocyte donor and patient 2 being purchased by a commercial bull stud company. Patient 1 was reevaluated at 21 months old, and patient 2 was reevaluated at 26 months old. Results of follow-up thoracic radiographic (patient 1) and nasotracheal endoscopic (both patients) examinations indicated an anatomically normal trachea with no evidence of collapse or stenosis.


This report was the first to describe successful resolution of tracheal collapse and stenosis secondary to perinatal rib fracture in dairy calves without surgical intervention.

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association