Tamil Nadu veterinary university surgeons remove 52 kg of plastic from cow in Chennai

Surgeons from Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University worked over five hours to clear the waste, which included pins and needles.

October 19, 2019 10:43 pm | Updated 10:43 pm IST - CHENNAI

Testing surgery:  The cow had consumed vast quantities of waste that posed a threat to its life.

Testing surgery: The cow had consumed vast quantities of waste that posed a threat to its life.

A stomach full of plastics led to a cow from Thirumullaivoyal, on the outskirts of the city, being brought to the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Vepery.

In a chilling example of the harm caused by the indiscriminate use and disposal of plastics, the animal was found to have ingested vast quantities of waste resulting in a life threatening condition, quite impossible to detect.

The plastics caused severe pain to the animal, and it was observed to frequently kick its stomach with its legs. Subsequently, the yield of milk also dropped.

It took veterinarians at the university five and half hours to surgically remove a whopping 52 kg of plastic waste from the stomach of the cow.

“The incident exemplifies the threat to animals posed by plastics discarded indiscriminately by the public. Even though we have removed plastics from cows in the past, the quantity this time — 52 kg — is unprecedented,” said S. Balasubramanian, Director, Clinics at TANUVAS.

P. Munirathanam had bought the cow six months ago from Vellore. Though it delivered a calf 20 days ago, it was yielding just three litres of milk. Further, the cow could not defecate and struggled to urinate. Seeing it struggle, Mr. Munirathanam took the animal to the local veterinarian, who advised him to take it to TANUVAS.

“We could feel the presence of plastics even during a manual rectal examination. Plastics could have accumulated in the rumen over a period of two years,” explained P. Selvaraj, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Medicine. “We conducted an x-ray and followed it up with an ultrasound scan and found that plastics occupied 75% of the rumen, one of the four chambers of the cow’s stomach.”

Once the diagnosis was clear, the veterinarians decided to perform a procedure to remove the accumulated plastics waste.

“We gave region-specific anaesthesia instead of general anaesthesia,” said C.S. Arunaman, a member of the team that performed the procedure.

The surgery started at 11 a.m. on Friday and ended at 4.30 p.m.

“It was a long and complicated surgery. Since the wastes were attached to the walls of the rumen, we had to be very careful that we do not damage the wall,” said assistant professor of surgery A. Velavan, who performed the surgery along with another surgeon R. Sivasankar. A team of post-graduate students also participated in the removal of plastics. A few pins and needles were also found among the plastics.

“In some cases the needle could prove dangerous to the animal as it could move to the heart,” said Dr. Velavan.

After the surgery, the rumen was filled with 5 kg of bran, jaggery and pro-biotic bolus, he said.

Since the animal has lost its cud (which is normally sent from the stomach back to the mouth to chew), the animal is also being treated with transplanted cud to rejuvenate its gut health.

“We collect the juice either from a healthy animal or from dead animal in the slaughter house. The treatment is needed for a minimum of five days,” said Dr. Selvaraj.

Despite the long-drawn and demanding nature of the surgery, the entire procedure cost Mr. Munirathanam a mere ₹70 — ₹20 for registration and ₹50 for the actual surgery.

“At a private veterinary hospital, the cost of such a procedure would be around ₹35,000, half the cost of the cow,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

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