Bovine musculoskeletal disorders

Adult fractures and luxations

Cannon bone fractures

These are high energy fractures and are often comminuted and open. Fixation requires full limb cast or transfixation cast. Prognosis is better in cattle than in horses but poor if the fractures are open and/or articular.

Radial and tibial fractures

Better prognosis in cattle than horses but these need transfixation cast  or external fixateur apparatus. A regular cast does not usually work unless the fracture is very distal on the radius. Internal fixation is great but often too costly.

Femoral fractures

We cannot fix these but they will often heal on their own as the musculature will stabilize it. Affected animals need good bedding and nursing care. The limb may end up with abnormal conformation.

Coxofemoral luxation

Caused by sudden hyperextension. These generally  have a poor prognosis; referral is needed for therapy unless very acute (then try to manipulate back into the socket).

Luxations may be caudodorsal (animals can usually stand up) or cranioventral (animals are usually down).

Patellar luxation

Can be treated with imbrication but this is challenging in larger animals.


Devitalized bone fragments can develop after full thickness wounds. Debridement is needed to allow healing. Suspect sequestration if draining tracts persist.


Cattle are excellent patients and heal rapidly. This improves their prognosis over horses. However, fractures can heal misaligned due to the same forces. Example: cattle lie down frequently but the limb alignment is different when the animal is lying rather than standing.

Prognosis was worse in cattle with long bone fractures that also had a high lactate on admission.


Limb fractures chapter


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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes Copyright © by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.