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This is a peculiar condition of evil appetite in which the animals start eating objects that they normally do not eat. It is met within cattle, buffalo (particularly pregnant and lactating) and occasionally in other animals such as horses, and goats. Cows, calf, and young cattle are especially liable to develop pica. Affected animals have the tendency to lick and to bite almost anything with which they come into contact. They seem particularly prone to eat earth and sand (geophagia), bones, soiled litter, and even excreta. Some affected animals lick the walls and floors of the barn.

The cause of the condition is not well-understood. It is probably due to indigestion and dietetic errors that are difficult or impossible to specify. It has been suggested that insufficiency of sodium salts or phosphates in the feed, may cause it. It has also been asserted to be due to a nervous derangement, probably interfering with nutrition. In some lactating buffaloes, pica may be a sign of subclinical ketosis. Ketosis-associated with pica is characterized by refusal of concentrates, but the continuation of eating of roughages.


Clinical Signs:
When first noticed, the animal may be in a good state of nutrition, but soon there is loss of condition. The animal becomes somewhat restless, uneasy and depressed. The patient will almost at any time eat the abnormal substances already mentioned, lick the clothes of the attendants and gnaw at the fixed objects to which they may be attached, such as the manger, partition etc. Later the animal becomes quite thin and wasted. Animal shows various symptoms of indigestion, such as intermittent tympany, irregular bowels, and partially suspended rumination. The faeces become more or less dry and firm, although occasionally diarrhoeic and offensive in odour. The mucous membranes become paled and the skin harsh. If untreated the animal may die from malnutrition and exhaustion, after a varying period that may extend over months.

For the purpose of treatment, first change the pasture; if housed, remove to another shed. Complete change of environment is often necessary. Then, administer a purgative, and follow with alkalies and bitter tonics. The following mixture is particularly serviceable:

Carbonate of iron                                 = 120 g

Finely ground bone meal                      = 500 g

Powdered gentian (gentiana in Urdu)  = 140 g

Common salt                                        = 240 g

Powdered fenugreek (methi in Urdu)   = 140 g

These are to be mixed, and a full tablespoonful should be given three times a day. In addition, it is recommended that three tablespoonful of powdered charcoal may be mixed with the feed. It is also well to provide the animal with rock salt in his feeding trough. Successful results are also recorded from the hypodermic injection of apomorphine daily, for several consecutive days. To keep the problem away, the farmers should be advised to supplement the ration with a balanced mineral-vitamin mixture on regular basis.

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