Contracted flexor tendons

From Cow
Congenital contracture of flexor tendons in a calf

Contracted flexor tendons is a relatively common autosomal recessive genetic disease of cattle worldwide.

This disorder is the most prevalent in a cluster of musculoskeletal diseases of newborn calves including Acquired tendon disorders may include tendon laxity, contracture, luxation, tendinitis, laceration, avulsion, rupture, and tenosynovitis[1].

Clinically affected calves have varying degrees of flexor tendon contraction, difficulty walking (tip-toeing) and reluctance to stand. Weight loss may be a result of inability to graze. In utero positioning may also affect the degree of disability[2]. Some affected calves also have concurrent cleft palate.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs and differentiation from other causes of congenital joint deformity such as osteopetrosis, achondrogenesis, arthrogryposis multiplex, complex vertebral malformation, congenital chondrodystrophy and contractural arachnodactyly (Fawn calf syndrome).

Treatment in mild cases involves pressure splints or plaster-of-Paris to slowly address the contracture over a 4 - 6 week period. In severe cases, a tenotomy of one or both flexor tendons is required.

Severely affected calves that cannot be surgically corrected for financial reasons are usually culled.


  1. Anderson DE et al (2008) Management of tendon disorders in cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 24(3):551-566
  2. Merck Vet Manual