The effectiveness of oxytetracycline in the treatment of calves with contracted flexor tendons



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PICO question

In neonatal calves with contracted flexor tendons is the use of a 3 day course of oxytetracycline in conjunction with other treatments more effective in returning the hoof to normal full weight bearing on both the toe and heel compared to no oxytetracycline?


Clinical bottom line

Category of research question


The number and type of study designs reviewed

Three papers were critically reviewed. One randomised controlled study, one case series and one case study

Strength of evidence


Outcomes reported

Oxytetracycline as a treatment for contracted flexor tendons in calves was found to be slightly more effective in returning the hoof to normal weight bearing compared to no oxytetracycline. In contrast, oxytetracycline infusions for the treatment of contracted flexor tendons in calves do not have an influence on weight bearing and have no significant clinical effect


There was limited confidence that the estimated effect reported by the studies were close to the true effect, this is due to the studies having a number of limitations as well as the case series / study having limited evidentiary power. There is currently insufficient evidence from the literature to support or reject the use of oxytetracycline in the treatment of contracted flexor tendons in calves. Further studies, with higher strengths of evidence, are required to provide conclusive evidence


How to apply this evidence in practice

The application of evidence into practice should take into account multiple factors, not limited to: individual clinical expertise, patient’s circumstances and owners’ values, country, location or clinic where you work, the individual case in front of you, the availability of therapies and resources.

Knowledge Summaries are a resource to help reinforce or inform decision making. They do not override the responsibility or judgement of the practitioner to do what is best for the animal in their care.


Open Access Peer Reviewed


Anderson, D. E., Desrochers, A. & St. Jean, G. (2008). Management of Tendon Disorders in Cattle. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice. 24(3), 551–566. DOI:

Fazili, M. R., Bhattacharyya, H. K., Mir, M., Hafiz, A. & Tufani, N. A. (2014). Prevalence and effect of oxytetracycline on congenital fetlock knuckling in neonatal dairy calves. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research. 81(1). DOI:

Şirin, Ö. S., Çelik, M. T., Özmen, A. & Avki, S. (2014). Measurements of normal joint angles by goniometry in calves. Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology. 27(02), 120–123. DOI:

Lokai, M. (1992). Case selection for medical management of congenital flexural deformities in foals. Equine Practice. 14(4), 23–25.

Madison, J. B., Garber, J. L., Rice, B., Stumf, A. J., Zimmer, A. E. & Ott, E. A. (1994). Effect of oxytetracycline on metacarpophalangeal and distal interphalangeal joint angle in newborn foals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 204(2), 246–249.

Kumar, N., Singh, P. P. & Mohanty, T. K. (2012). Contracted flexor tendon and its management with plaster casting and oxytetracycline in a Karan Fries crossbred calf. Intas Polivet. 13(2).

Metzner, M., Baumgart, I. & Klee, W. (2007). Effect of infusion of 60 mg/kg oxytetracycline on forelimb flexor tendon contracture in calves. Veterinary Record. 160(5), 166–167. DOI: (2020). Summary Of Product Characteristics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 November 2021].

Vol. 7 No. 1 (2022): The first issue of 2022

Section: Knowledge Summaries

Categories :  Small Animal  /  Dogs  /  Cats  /  Rabbits  /  Production Animal  /  Cattle  /  Sheep  /  Pig  /  Equine  /  Exotics  /