Farm specialists at a veterinary school in Scotland have developed a speedy, simplified method of surgery to treat bovine spastic paresis.

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies developed a novel method to treat the neuromuscular disease which is characterised by spastic contractions of muscles in the hind limbs.

Modified surgery can allow for on-farm treatment to relieve the condition. Left untreated, the animal’s welfare can be compromised through the stress and pain associated with muscle spasms.

Surgery benefits the animal’s welfare by relieving pain, improving movement, growth and ability to gain weight, and helps avoid economic losses to the farmer, the researchers said.

Spastic paresis

A modified approach to a tenectomy, which is a procedure in which muscle spasms are remedied by surgically amending two of three tendons of the Achilles tendon, was developed.

The research team at the Dick Vet Farm Animal Services found that the relevant tendons can be more easily accessed by making an incision closer to the hock (the joint midway down the leg).

This allows for a simpler surgery in comparison to conventional tenectomy and neurectomy procedures used in the treatment of spastic paresis, the researchers said.

This approach, aided by easily identified surgical landmarks, allows for reduced surgery time in a farm environment, calls for less veterinary expertise, and lowers the cost and risks of anaesthesia.

This is of particular importance in older, heavier animals where tibial neurectomies are more difficult to perform due to the increased depth of muscle within the surgical site, the study shows.

Case study

Vets demonstrated their method in a bullock in which spastic paresis was affecting a hind limb, and carried out surgery to the medial and lateral tendons of the gastrocnemius muscle.

The procedure was successful and the animal recovered fully with improved gait and mobility, with the pain involved with spastic contractions resolved, the case study showed.

Tenectomy of the medial and lateral tendon of the gastrocnemius muscle is a “useful alternative” to a tibial neurectomy, especially in older, larger animals, researcher David McFarland said.

“Our method gives vets an option where time constraints in the field may be a concern, with a less invasive procedure with simple-to-identify surgical landmarks,” McFarland added.