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Horizontal Fissures 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
Topic Resources

Horizontal fissures result from disruption of horn production at the dermis beneath the coronary band, leading to a defect in the integrity of the wall. These fissures run parallel to the coronary band. The defect varies in severity from a shallow groove (hardship groove) to a complete fracture (fissure) of the wall. A comparable anomaly is seen as a band of horn differing in appearance from the remainder of the claw. One form of the band is seen in animals stressed after weaning (weaning groove) or during a period of nutritional deprivation. The fissure moves distally as the claw grows, and the distal portion becomes progressively more mobile (thimble) until it fractures, leaving a “broken toe.” A series of grooves can destabilize the vertical strength of the dorsal wall, causing it to bend (buckled toe).


Fissures are believed to be caused by a wide variety of stressors, including a difficult calving, an acute febrile disease, or a sudden, relatively short-term but significant change in nutrition. A ridge may indicate an event such as compensatory growth.

Clinical Findings:

The horizontal groove or fissure is an important indicator of metabolic disturbance. The date on which the causal insult occurred can be calculated by measuring the distance from the hair line to the fissure and dividing that number by the growth rate of the claw. In mature dairy cows, the rate of growth of the wall measured along the dorsal flexure of the claw is ~0.5 cm/mo. Growth rates are more rapid in young animals, in animals on intensive feed, and during the summer months.


No treatment is possible except when very deep fissures form a thimble, which is extremely painful. In these cases, the loose horn should be removed with pincers; regional anesthesia may be needed.

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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The lameness examination is an important method to identify musculoskeletal abnormalities. Which of the following abnormalities is NOT observed during a physical and lameness exam? 
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