Conservative management of a distal interphalangeal joint dislocation of dairy cow in field, radiographic findings and thermography: case report.

  • Vanessa Faillace
  • Diego Fabris
  • Chiara Fiorese
  • Enrico Fiore
Keywords: cow; lameness; distal interphalangeal joint dislocation; thermography; radiography.


The painful nature of lameness makes it a serious welfare issue. Early detection and management of lameness is paramount. In the present case report, a 20-months-old dairy cow was referred with a history of acute lameness (locomotion score 5, on a scale of 5-point). Infrared thermography was used as a useful addition to the diagnostic tools available to clinicians, as it can detect localised variations in temperature and have a great potential to assist diagnosis in bovine lameness. The evaluation of subtle temperature variation associated with inflammatory conditions is a very important indicator to detect inflammation associated with lameness. In this case, the use of the preclinical thermographic examination was capable of pinpointing the location in the area of the greatest inflammation to focus radiographs. Following this procedure, physical and radiographic examinations were taken of the detected area and were evaluated. A non-weight bearing lameness of the right forelimb and a swelling medial hoof that was painful upon palpation was noticed. Radiographic images showed a dislocation of the distal interphalangeal. Conservative management was performed by placing the healthy claw on a block to alleviate weight bearing on the affected claw and the half - limb cast was used for immobilization of phalangeal for 25 days. Complete joint ankylosis was evident on radiographs, one month after. Effectiveness of all treatment measures was monitored through continual locomotion scoring. Clinical outcome was excellent. The management of lameness is centred on improving the welfare of the cow.  Although the function of the ankylosed digit is reduced, it still plays a part in bearing weight; movement at pasture and on slatted floors remains satisfactory. The advantages of a conservative approach and a clinical management, if there are adequate conditions, allow to salvage the digit which a long productive life can still be expected, reduce costs for the owner and avoid complications after surgery.