From Cow
Typical generalised stiffness characteristic of tetanus in cattle

Tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani is a rare bacterial disease of cattle worldwide[1].

Clostridium tetani is a bacteria normally present in the soil and the normal intestinal flora of cattle. Disease occurs in situations of deep penetrating wounds that cause an anaerobic situation in whic the bacteria can flourish.

Clinical signs often develop 1 - 2 weeks post-injury characterised by localized stiffness of the masseter and neck muscles. As the disease progresses, the hindlimbs become affected. Generalised stiffness, tonic spasms and hyperesthesia ensue a few days later and death is by asphyxiation.

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinic signs of stiffness, recent surgery or penetrating wound. In cases in which the wound is apparent, demonstration of the bacterium in gram-stained smears and by anaerobic culture may be attempted.

Treatment usually involves large doses of parenteral penicillin and tetanus antitoxin.

A tetanus toxoid is a readily available preventative vaccine and is routinely used during standard surgical procedures such as dehornng and castration in calves[2].


  1. Stouder WC (1973) An economic approach to the treatment of Bovine tetanus. Vet Med Small Anim Clin 68(5):523-524
  2. Coetzee JF et al (2010) A survey of castration methods and associated livestock management practices performed by bovine veterinarians in the United States. BMC Vet Res 6:12