Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Spinal Cord Injury


In the export process, spinal cord injuries may occur as a result of being ridden by other animals or as a consequence of accidental injury (slipping or getting stuck between or under rails or other infrastructure).

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Affected animals show variable signs of ataxia and paresis, including bilateral knuckling of the lower hind limbs, staggering gait, and inability to stand or walk. Animals may stagger and fall if made to turn quickly or run. In some cases, the tail is paralysed and flaccid. Necropsy of severe cases requiring euthanasia may reveal bruising of the spinal cord where it was compressed, and even a vertebral fracture with or without osteomyelitis. Differential diagnoses include compressive injury to nerves of the limb acquired during recumbency, or rupture of the gastrocnemius tendon. These usually affect one rather than both hind legs.


Administer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (flunixin meglumine, ketoprofen, meloxicam, or tolfenamic acid), isolate, and provide rest and non-slip floor conditions.


Isolate animals that are riding or being ridden excessively, and match pen mates by size and sex. Design low risk pens and modify high risk pens. Use sawdust on ramps and loading areas when moving stock and ensure livestock are not slipping or falling when handled.