Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Digit amputation (Farmer Factsheet)

Contributor(s): Louise Cox-O’Shea, Vetstream Ltd , Roger Blowey

  • Digital amputation is the surgical removal of the digit/claw.
  • With appropriate candidate selection, amputation of the digit provides pain relief, improved welfare, improved production, and often a return to almost 100% normal gait. 
  • In some cases digit amputation is classed as a salvage procedure.
  • Conditions that may warrant this procedure include: 
    • Penetrating injury to the hoof.
    • Deep infection of the foot.
    • Fractures/ dislocations.
    • Chronic lesions that have failed to respond to conventional treatment such as foul, and non-healing white line lesions, toe necrosis etc, where secondary digital dermatitis infection is involved.
  • In many cases, however, culling may be a more economically sound option, depending on the age of the cow, and should be considered,.
  • Digit amputation is not appropriate for very heavy animals or those with disease in both claws.
  • The majority of digit amputations are carried out on hind limbs (because most cases of lameness are in hind limbs). Amputation of fore digits can also be successful.
  •  Amputation of the medial (inner) claw carries a better prognosis than amputation of the lateral (outer) claw.
  • Many cows undergoing this procedure will respond well, be back in the herd in 4 – 6 weeks and go on to have a near normal existence in the herd.  

Objectives of digital amputation

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Procedure

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Anesthesia, pain relief and pain control

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Immediate aftercare

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Back in the herd

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Complications and reasons for failure

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