They Ate What? Hardware Disease

Vets see a wide variety of odd things that pets and livestock ingest: shoes, coins, socks, teddy bears, watches, rubber ducks, rocks, lightbulbs, kitchen utensils, pendants, golf balls, and more. “They Ate What?” has become a very popular contest by Veterinary Practice News and as they say: “and after all, who doesn’t love looking at crazy x-rays?”

However as you will see in the story at the bottom “Fatal Hardware Disease” is no laughing matter. Here are some links to more information on prevention of hardware disease by John Cothren and a quality, informative YouTube video by Dr. Rhynardt de Ridder of Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospitalon on identifying symptoms of Traumatic reticulopericarditis , hardware disease. I hope this is helpful.

— Nicole Porter, PhD

Hardware Disease in Livestock

— Written By John Cothren and last updated by JoAnne Gryder 

Hardware disease may occur when sharp, heavy objects such as nails or wire are consumed by cattle. These objects fall to the rumen floor and are swept into the reticulum (another stomach compartment) by muscle contractions. A sharp object may puncture the reticulum wall and cause severe damage to and infection of the abdominal cavity, heart sac or lungs.


Originally Posted on IYAK on November 20, 2016

Several years ago we purchased an adorable 7-month-old, part-super- woolly yak who was going to be our next breeding bull.


After we had Travis a couple of months, he was off his food and became droopy. We called our veterinarian, and Travis was diagnosed with pneumonia and pleurisy. Antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory perked our little bull right up, but over the course of the next month, he continued to go up and down, up and down. At the end of a month, he was on a 3rd round of antibiotics (3 different kinds) and not responding as before.

Our veterinarian arranged for Travis to be evaluated at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Ft. Collins. Right away they suspected what is called "hardware disease", and sure enough, X-rays revealed a wire in our yak's stomach. Where or when he swallowed the wire will never be known, but it could possibly have been in a bale of hay, as we have found some interesting items in bales before. The wire had punctured into the yak's chest/lung cavity, starting an infection, which caused the pneumonia and pleurisy. By the time of evaluation at CSU, the infection had progressed, and Travis had abscesses and fluid around his heart. The CSU vet said he was already near death and had only a 10% chance of getting well, even with another massive round of antibiotics. My husband Dave and I looked at each other and said, "We have to put him down." So just two days shy of being 10 months old, this beautiful little animal with excellent blood- lines was put to sleep.

The preventative for hardware disease is to put a magnet in the animal's stomach. This is done orally, using a balling gun. The magnet sinks to the lower part of the stomach where it sits permanently. If the animal ingests something metal, such as a wire, it will attach to the magnet before any damage can be done. We checked with our local veterinary supply and the magnets average around $1.25 each, so are a very inexpensive preventative for a very devastating illness. That year when our yaks went through the squeeze chute for their "spring cleaning" (hoof trim, immunizations, etc.), each received a magnet. After weaning and before selling our calves, we make sure that each one has swallowed a magnet. We thought other yak owners would like to know about hardware disease and how it is so easily preventable. 


Nicole Porter-Salvato, PhD is one of the owners of Prairie Sky Sanctuary and Ranch, a horse and Tibetan yak ranch in South Western Wisconsin. She’s trained in epigenetics and epidemiology, an avid IYAK supporter, BOD member and yak lover. She and her husband, Dan, love to talk about yak and are always available to answer questions or provide resources.

Nicole Porter-Salvato

Prairie Sky Sanctuary

HealthNicole Porter-Salvato