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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Fractures in Cattle

By Paul R. Greenough, FRCVS, Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Surgery, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Bone fractures occur in cattle of all ages, but they are most common in those <1 yr old. Corrective procedures may be justified economically in this age group, provided that joints are not involved. External fixation techniques or Thomas splints have been used successfully. In selected cases, percutaneous transfixation or internal fixation may be attempted.

Fractures of major long bones in adult cattle usually are not treated. The tuber coxae may fracture when cattle are hurried through narrow doorways. In these cases, spicules of bone may penetrate the skin, or unsightly distortions of the flank can result. Fractures of the proximal and intermediate phalanges may be considered for treatment in tractable, young adult cattle.

Fracture of the distal phalanx is relatively common in adult cattle. Onset of lameness is rapid, and the pain is usually severe. If the medial digit is involved, the animal may seek relief from the pain by crossing its legs. Natural recovery is prolonged, and because most such fractures extend into the distal interphalangeal joint, a debilitating arthritis may develop at the fracture site. If treatment is undertaken, the sound digit should be elevated on a wooden block and the affected digit immobilized in a flexed position to the block using methyl methacrylate adhesive.