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Klein, Carmen; Feist, Melanie; Knubben-Schweizer, Gabriela and Dobenecker, Britta (2020): Case of suspected theobromine poisoning in dairy cattle. In: Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition

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High-yielding dairy cows collapsed and died displaying signs of a disturbed central nervous system (muscle tremor, convulsion) and a considerably reduced body condition score. An intense diagnostic screening did not allow to confirm a definite diagnosis. Therefore, further analyses including an evaluation of feeds and feeding were initiated. The herd was fed a total mixed ration (TMR) based on corn and grass silage of moderate nutritive value supplemented with various amounts of chocolate chips. In retrospect, the amount of chocolate chips added to the respective TMR batches could not be quantified. These chips were purchased from a company producing bakery and chocolate products for human consumption and added to the silage and therefore to the TMR in order to increase the energy intake of the animals. Because the TMR, which was fed during the time of the incidence, was no longer available, a sample of a later batch of silage was examined. The amount of chocolate chips was quantified (0.44% per fresh matter), and a theobromine analysis was performed in the chocolate chips of the available batch (69.7 mg/100 g fresh matter). Because of the possible link between chocolate intake and observed signs, an immediate cessation of using the chocolate chips was recommended in addition to an optimisation of the TMR, that is an increase of the energy density. Even though the theobromine intake during the time of the incidence is unknown and information about toxicity of theobromine in ruminants is limited, we suspect that the feeding of chocolate in this case caused all signs including the sudden death of the cows. Further reasons are that no differential diagnoses were established and the problems at the farm stopped after removing the chocolate from the TMR.

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