Congenital chondrodystrophy

From Cow
Congenital chondrodystrophy in a calf, showing classics signs of dished face, superior brachygnathia and limb and spine deformities. Courtesy Dr Peter White
Same calf as above

Congenital chondrodystrophy (Chondrodysplasia) of unknown origin (CCUO) is a rare congenital disease of free range beef cattle herds in southeastern Australia.

There appears to be an association between a maternal nutritional disturbance, purportedly a manganese deficiency[1], and the occurrence of CCUO[2].

Anecdotal evidence suggests that periods of drought during the gestation period may induce cartilage malformations in the fetus in utero[3].

Clinically affected calves present with disproportionate dwarfism and excessive extension of metacarpophalangeal and metatarsophalangeal joints. The limbs are often disproportionally short, compared with their trunk size, and wide epiphyses of the femurs and humeri[4].

A diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs and histopathological features of chondrodysplasia in affected limbs.

A differential diagnosis would include chondrodysplasia in Dexter cattle, which usually present with cleft palate[5].

Other differentials would include achondrogenesis (Bulldog calf), arthrogryposis multiplex, double muscling, complex vertebral malformation, and contractural arachnodactyly (Fawn calf syndrome).

No treatment is usually instigated as most calves cope with this disease adequately. Severely affected calves are usually euthanized.


  1. Staley GP et al (1994) Congenital skeletal malformations in Holstein calves associated with putative manganese deficiency. J S Afr Vet Assoc 65(2):73-78
  2. White PJ et al (2010) Risk factors for congenital chondrodystrophy of unknown origin in beef cattle herds in south-eastern Australia. Prev Vet Med 96(1-2):36-48
  3. White PJ et al (2010) The association between congenital chondrodystrophy of unknown origin (CCUO) in beef cattle and drought in south-eastern Australia. Prev Vet Med 94(3-4):178-184
  4. Cebra CK et al (1999) Congenital joint laxity and disproportionate dwarfism in a herd of beef cattle. J Am Vet Med Assoc 215(4):519-521
  5. Harper PA et al (1998) Chondrodysplasia in Australian Dexter cattle. Aust Vet J 76(3):199-202