Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Sinusitis in Cattle


John Campbell

, DVM, DVSc, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Last full review/revision Mar 2015 | Content last modified Jun 2016


Sinusitis in cattle typically involves the frontal or maxillary sinus. Frontal sinusitis is usually associated with dehorning, and maxillary sinusitis with infected teeth. Numerous bacteria have been isolated from sinusitis infections in cattle.

Clinical Findings:

Frontal sinusitis may occur immediately after dehorning while the site is still open or months later after the dehorning site has healed. The condition is most often unilateral. Signs may include anorexia, pyrexia, unilateral or bilateral nasal discharge, changes in air flow through the nasal passages, and foul breath. Head carriage may be abnormal. In longstanding cases of frontal sinusitis, there may be distortion of the frontal bone, exophthalmos, and neurologic signs.


Diagnosis can usually be made on the basis of clinical signs. Percussion may reveal a dull sound over the affected sinus. Radiographs may reveal fluid in the sinus, the presence of dental disease, or bone lysis. Cytology of aspirated material from the affected sinus may reveal purulent material.


Sinusitis is treated by draining the affected sinus. Trephine sites should be selected carefully, using appropriate anatomic landmarks. If an infected tooth is the cause of maxillary sinusitis, the tooth can be repelled through a sinusotomy site created with a trephine. Once drainage has been established, the sinus can be lavaged daily with antiseptic solutions. Treatment with parenteral antibiotics is indicated if systemic signs are present. NSAIDs can be given for pain relief, if needed. The prognosis is guarded.


The best control method is to dehorn calves at a young age using a closed dehorning technique. If this is not possible, close attention should be paid to disinfection of surgical instruments between animals, dust control, and fly control.

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