BACKGROUND: Published reports of rib fractures in adult cattle are limited to the occurrence of chronic rib swellings caused by calluses, which are unremarkable from a clinical standpoint, whereas studies identifying clinical signs of rib fractures were not found in a literature search. This report describes the clinical and postmortem findings in four cows with rib fractures.
CASE PRESENTATION: The 13th rib was fractured in three cows and the 11th rib in the remaining cow; three fractures were on the right and one on the left side. Clinical and postmortem findings varied considerably, and percussion of the rib cage elicited a pain response in only one cow. One cow had generalised peritonitis because of perforation of the rumen by the fractured rib. One cow was recumbent because of pain and became a downer cow, and two other cows had bronchopneumonia, which was a sequel to osteomyelitis of the fracture site in one. In the absence of a history of trauma, the diagnosis of rib fracture based on clinical signs alone is difficult.
CONCLUSIONS: Although rib fractures undoubtedly are very painful, the four cases described in this report suggest that they are difficult to diagnose in cattle because associated clinical signs are nonspecific.