Examine the Legs and Feet

Musculoskeletal problems are common in the small ruminant and careful examination is required to be certain that a suspected locomotor problem is not, in fact secondary to a neurologic, metabolic, or infectious disease.  Animals with Gangrenous Mastitis often present lame to the naive observer as the limb in question bangs alongside the engorged, painful udder.  Parasitic migrations within the spinal cord (specifically P. tenius) often begin as a hind limb lameness.  Lambs and kids with White Muscle Disease will present stiff and unwilling to ambulate.  Begin by observing the animal move about.  The excited small ruminant may appear sound and only when the animal settles down and moves slowly may a subtle lameness become obvious.  When standing still, the animal may swing or hold the affected limb off the ground.  



The foot should be examined for dampness and/or redness in the interdigital space indicative of Footrot.  The claws should be tested for soreness with hoof testers or digital pressure.  A repetitive, positive response is indicative of a hoof abscess.  Overgrown hooves should be trimmed to determine the health of the hoof wall and sole.  



Next the joint should be palpated for swelling, soreness, and/or decreased range of motion.  Septic joints in small ruminants are typically very painful yet variably distended.  CAE Arthritis is extremely common in goats leading to lameness and enlargement of the carpal joints.  The spine should be assessed for straightness.  Scoliosis is common and often leads to lameness and/or an abnormal gait.  When lameness is observed and the examination is normal, evaluation of the neurologic system is warranted.  The presence of proprioceptive deficits in one or both hind limbs is indicative of a spinal cord problem.


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Copyright 1999-2001
New Bolton Center Field Service Department
Students:  Keith Javic - Class of 2003, C. Nikki Conroy - Class of 2003