Beef cattle lameness: diagnostic strategies - DVM
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Beef cattle lameness: diagnostic strategies


DVM360 MAGAZINE


Radiography One of the best ways to evaluate the internal structures of the foot is radiography. It's my opinion that this is one of the most under-utilized tools in bovine lameness evaluations. It often is only performed when systemic anti-microbial therapy alone has failed. Many deep infections require prompt surgical debridement along with anti-microbial therapy for any chance of success. Unsuccessful antimicrobial treatment can waste valuable time and money, worsen the prognosis and remove culling options due to exacerbated weight loss, increased debilitation and antimicrobial residue problems. If significant lesions are recognized early through radiography, prognosis and treatment options can be discussed in a more timely manner. Remember that visible radiographic lesions lag behind clinical signs by approximately two weeks. So in acute cases, repeat radiographs might be necessary. However, an absence of radiographic lesions usually carries a better prognosis, so antimicrobial treatment alone might be warranted. It is worth noting that the cruciate ligaments between the digits can ossify in older, heavy animals. This will appear as smooth, sharp, slightly hook-shaped projections on the axial surface of the digits. Unless they are fractured, or appear rough or lytic, they are considered incidental findings.

Arthrocentesis Septic arthritis of the coffin joint is a common cause of lameness in cattle. It often occurs as an extension of a Rusterholz ulcer secondary to corkscrew claw in beef cattle. A key finding on physical exam is swelling of the heel region. Radiographs might show widening of the joint space in early cases. A culture of joint fluid is the best way to choose appropriate antibiotic therapy as an adjunct to other treatment options. An 18-gauge, 1-inch needle is inserted just proximal to the coronary band at about a 45-degree angle, just lateral to the extensor process. Fluid should be placed in an EDTA tube for cytology, and sterile media for culture. In my experience, this joint is difficult to tap in cattle, even with excellent restraint. Since the coronary band area is usually swollen and inflamed, joint taps are commonly blood contaminated. Although this will alter cytology results, it should not influence culture results.

Ultrasonography Occasionally this technique can be helpful in finding pockets of infection, and possibly tendon sheath infections/ tendon injuries. Ultrasonography also is being used to measure sole horn thickness in dairy cattle. Experience is required to interpret some lesions. It is sometimes helpful to compare the effected limb with the normal limb when there is question about the significance of a finding.


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