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Professional Version

Tibial Nerve Injury in Cattle


Peter D. Constable

, BVSc (Hons), MS, PhD, DACVIM, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Reviewed/Revised Apr 2023 | Modified Jun 2023

In tibial nerve paralysis, there is paralysis of the extensors of the hock and flexors of the digits.

Etiology of Tibial Nerve Injury in Cattle

The tibial nerve is the caudal branch of the sciatic nerve, which, in its proximal course, is well protected by the gluteal muscles. Distally, it progresses beneath the tendon of the gastrocnemius muscle and can be damaged when the tendon is traumatized. Damage to the tibial nerve is rare because of its well-protected location, and many cases diagnosed as tibial nerve paralysis are more likely to be sciatic nerve paralysis.

Clinical Findings of Tibial Nerve Injury in Cattle

Clinical signs of tibial nerve paralysis are similar to those of sciatic nerve paralysis, which is much more common. The hock joint is overflexed (dropped hock syndrome) and the fetlock is partially flexed. The gastrocnemius appears to be longer than normal and gives the impression that it or its tendon could be ruptured. The fetlock tends to be buckled; however, the animal can walk and bear weight, although its attempts to do so are awkward. Compared with that evident in peroneal nerve injury, the gait disturbance is mild; however, the postural disturbance could be permanent.

Treatment of Tibial Nerve Injury in Cattle

The use of anti-inflammatory drugs may be of value in the early stages of tibial nerve paralysis. However, the primary efforts should be directed toward ensuring the animal does not injure itself further, by maintaining it on surfaces with good footing.

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