Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Signs & Symptoms of Arthritis in Cattle

| Updated September 26, 2017

Arthritis signs and symptoms may occur in cattle regardless of age as the result of an infection such as pneumonia or mastitis. It can also be caused by an injury involving a joint or tendon. Arthritis symptoms may also be the result of age-related lameness. While arthritis can cause significant pain, you have to look for signs that cattle are experiencing pain since they cannot tell you.

Signs & Symptoms

You may notice that cattle affected by arthritis have difficulty moving, including getting up from a lying position. An obvious sign that a problem exists involves swelling, tenderness and heat in specific joints or tendons that change when palpitated.


Arthritis in cattle is either noninflammatory--such as degenerative joint disease, osteochondrosis, trauma to a joint, and hemarthrosis--or inflammatory arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis includes noninfectious and infectious arthritis. Any of these types of arthritis may result in polyarthritis (involving symptoms with five or more joints), oligoarthritis (involving symptoms with 2 to 4 joints), and tendosynovitis (involving the sheath surrounding a tendon).


Arthritis in cattle may also affect appetite, heart rate and respiratory rate. Fluid can be drawn from the affected area and analyzed for a specific diagnosis.


Immersion or thorough flushing of joints that are affected is recommended every day or every other day until significant improvement is seen. This may take up to two weeks. Antibiotics may be injected locally, depending on the type of arthritis. Aspirin may be administered for pain and to reduce swelling and inflammation.


When arthritis causes lameness and pain in cattle, it can decrease milk production in dairy cows, increase expenses because of treatment costs, and may result in the premature sale of affected animals. All of which negatively affect profit for the farmer resulting in economic losses, according to The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. A link is provided in the additional resource section of this article.