Bovine musculoskeletal disorders
Flexor tendon lacerations
Unfortunately flexor tendon lacerations are common and are generally caused by interactions with farm machinery. If the fetlock is dropped, the superficial digital flexor tendon is damaged. If the toe is tipped up, it is a deep digital flexor laceration.
Debride and cast or debride and splint. Half limb casts are adequate for lacerations below the hock. Suturing the tendon doesn’t really help healing. The outcome can be good but healing takes 10-12 weeks for stable fibrous union.
If it is just the tendon to one digit, placing a block on other digit may be sufficient.
If it is the gastrocnemius tendon, suture repair and full limb cast is required. See below.
Fair. Better if the tendon sheath is not involved. Healing within the tendon sheath is less effective.
Gastrocnemius tendon lacerations
Gastrocnemius tendon lacerations or ruptures are are bad. The hock will dropped when animals attempt to bear weight on the limb. Treatment is placement of a Schroeder-Thomas splint but it is often unsuccessful.
Extensor tendon lacerations
These have a good prognosis. Initially the animal cannot advance the leg well but this resolves rapidly.
Cruciate injuries are bad. These are most commonly seen in heavy postparturient cattle with milk fever. Due to muscle weakness, they have difficulty standing and fall. Mild to moderate lameness with joint effusion is noted. Cattle will have a positive drawer sign but these are tricky to do and you can only try once (before they try to injure you back). The cow has to be weight-bearing to perform the test. Stand behind her, place your shoulder into her stifle and pull. Surgery is required for repair; this is a referral procedure.
Treatment of flexural contracture involves physical therapy, pain relief, and progressive splinting. Oxytetracycline can be useful in neonates as it temporarily relaxes the muscle-tendon unit. Surgery may be needed to transect tight tendons. In ruminants, the contracture often involves the joint capsule, rather than just the tendons. Due to the joint capsule involvement, treatment is not as effective in ruminants as in horses. If the joint capsule is contracted, that means there is no muscle to respond to tetracycline and nothing to cut at surgery.
Angular limb deformities
Camelids have mild carpus valgus normally. More severe angulation can be seen. However, the growth plates are slower to close than in horses. Mother nature and restricted diets can take care of the problem. Fast growing crias may need to be weaned early as the dam’s milk may be too rich.