Question: I have a cow with a swelling as big as a basketball in her flank, below her last rib. There is an old cut or scrape over the area. The swelling is soft and feels like it's full of fluid. What do I need to do?
Answer: My first reaction is this is probably a hematoma or a seroma. A hematoma is an accumulation of blood under the skin; a seroma is an accumulation of the fluid portion of the blood under the skin. A seroma often develops as a hematoma resolves. Both often occur after bruising or damage to tissue. It could also be an abscess or accumulation of pus, especially if this started out as a cut that got infected.
A seroma and an abscess heal best once drained. To address this, I open two small holes -- one at the lowest part of the affected area, and the second just above that. I use a rubber Penrose drain to remove the fluid and then seal down the wound. Especially with a seroma, if fluid is removed without a drain, the area will often fill back up.
The last, and most serious, possibility for the condition you describe is a hernia. This could occur if the body wall was damaged. In that case, this swelling could contain intestines. If you lance this area and it contains intestines, you could puncture them or even dump intestines on the ground. Hernias must be repaired surgically by a veterinarian.
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