Untreated Lameness Can Lead to Abnormal Pedal Bone Development

By Steve Mason on

Sole hemorrhage, sole ulcer and white line lesions, collectively referred to as claw horn disruption lesions (CHDL), are the most common non-infectious claw lesions of dairy cattle worldwide. Several research studies have reported that failure to treat these conditions early in their development can lead to damage to the internal anatomy of the claw.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham, UK examined the anatomy of the pedal bones (P3, distal phalanx) from 72 Holstein-Friesian slaughter cows from a research herd for which weekly locomotion scores were available from first calving. The 3-dimensional X-ray images below demonstrate new bone development on the rear (caudal) end of the pedal bone which increased significantly with age, CHDL occurrence, and an increasing proportion of locomotion scores at which a cow was severely lame (score 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale). The authors suggest that early identification and effective treatment of CHDL may be critical in preventing irreparable damage to the pedal bone.


In an attempt to explain how this new bone growth is involved in the overall development of CHDL, the authors propose the sequence of events outlined in the diagram below.


Proposed sequences of events involved in the pathogenesis of claw horn disruption lesions (CHDL). Self-perpetuating cycles are suggested, with inflammation being a key factor in lesion recurrence. Line styles highlight the levels of current evidence supporting the links displayed: (1) data in peer-reviewed literature supports this link (solid line), (2) some evidence exists to substantiate this link, but it has not been confirmed (dotted line), and (3) the present study hypothesizes this link (dashed-dotted).

A copy of the original 2016 Journal of Dairy Science article is here.

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