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Radial Paralysis in Cattle


Paul R. Greenough

, FRCVS, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan

Last full review/revision Sep 2015 | Content last modified Sep 2015

Distal radial paralysis results in an inability to extend the carpus and digit. Proximal radial paralysis prevents the animal from extending the elbow, carpus, and fetlock to bear weight.


The proximal radial nerve may be injured by stretching close to the brachial plexus, in which case the triceps muscles as well as the extensors of the carpus and digits may be compromised. The damage is frequently associated with casting an animal with ropes or with any situation in which the forelimb is accidentally restrained and the animal struggles violently to free itself. Either distal or proximal radial paralysis can result from prolonged recumbency in very heavy animals.

The distal radial nerve is vulnerable to injury in the musculospiral groove of the humerus, either from fractures or deep, soft-tissue trauma. A lesion of the nerve proximal to the sulcus for the brachial muscle causes proximal radial paralysis.

Clinical Findings and Diagnosis:

In proximal radial paralysis, the elbow drops, the carpus and fetlock are in partial flexion, and the limb is usually dragged. In distal radial paralysis, because the triceps muscles remain functional, dropping of the elbow is minimal. However, paresis affecting carpal and fetlock position is present.


Rapid improvement can be expected in most cases. Animals should be confined in a generously bedded stall. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful, particularly in the early hours after the initial trauma. If skin sensation in the forelimb has been completely lost, the prognosis is guarded. When the condition persists for ≥2 wk, damage is likely permanent and the prognosis is grave.

Lameness in Cattle
Overview of Lameness in Cattle
Physical Examination of a Lame Cow
Locomotion Scoring in Cattle
Computerized Recording of Digital Lesions in Cattle
Distal Digital Anesthesia for Diagnostic and Surgical Procedures in Cattle
Radiography in Cattle
Arthrocentesis and Arthroscopy in Cattle
Risk Factors Involved in Herd Lameness of Cattle
Footbaths of Cattle
Functional Claw Trimming of Cattle
Prevalent Lameness Disorders in Intensively Managed Herds of Cattle
Digital Dermatitis in Cattle
Pododermatitis Circumscripta in Cattle
White Line Disease in Cattle
Toe Necrosis Syndrome in Cattle
Sole Hemorrhage in Cattle
Thin Sole in Cattle
Heel Erosion in Cattle
Other Disorders of the Interdigital Space in Cattle
Interdigital Dermatitis in Cattle
Interdigital Phlegmon in Cattle
Interdigital Hyperplasia in Cattle
Disorders of the Horn Capsule and Corium in Cattle
Laminitis in Cattle
Double Sole in Cattle
Foreign Body in Sole of Cattle
Vertical Fissures in Cattle
Horizontal Fissures in Cattle
Corkscrew Claw in Cattle
Slipper Foot in Cattle
Disorders of the Bones and Joints in Cattle
Ankylosing Spondylosis in Cattle
Degenerative Arthropathy in Cattle
Coxofemoral Luxation in Cattle
Patellar Luxation in Cattle
Fetlock Dislocation in Cattle
Hip Dysplasia in Cattle
Fractures in Cattle
Septic Arthritis of the Distal Interphalangeal Joint in Cattle
Serous Tarsitis in Cattle
Neurologic Disorders Associated with Lameness or Gait Abnormalities in Cattle
Suprascapular Paralysis in Cattle
Radial Paralysis in Cattle
Ischiatic Paralysis in Cattle
Obturator Paralysis in Cattle
Femoral Paralysis in Cattle
Peroneal Paralysis in Cattle
Tibial Paralysis in Cattle
Spastic Syndrome in Cattle
Spastic Paresis in Cattle
Soft-tissue Disorders Causing Lameness in Cattle
Carpal Hygroma in Cattle
Rupture of the Gastrocnemius Muscle in Cattle
Rupture of the Peroneus Tertius Muscle in Cattle
Tarsal Cellulitis in Cattle
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In all animals, the motor unit of skeletal muscle consists of the motor neuron, the neuromuscular junction, and muscle fibers. Muscle dysfunction—such as ataxia, paresis, or paralysis—most commonly originates in which of the following locations?
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