Hocks are susceptible to a number of injuries that can cause swelling. If the hock rubs against a hard surface for prolonged periods of time the skin might break. Depending on the hardness of the surface, this may damage blood supply and in severe cases cause ulceration or open sore. Any break in skin allows for infection; the result is a swollen hock. Swelling can also occur due to acute injuries for example, when a cow slips and falls. In addition, swollen hocks can result from various health problems such as mastitis and lameness. Treatment of swollen hocks in cattle requires farmers to have an understanding of the cause so as to provide a suitable solution. As such, the hock should be thoroughly inspected prior to administering any form of treatment.

Antibiotics for Swollen Hocks in Cattle

Antibiotics are an effective way of fighting bacteria that causes hocks to swell. For this reason, they are widely used for the treatment of swollen hocks in cattle. An open wound allows for bacteria which gets attached to the synovial membrane (the tissue lining the joint) causing inflammation of the hock. As the bacteria multiply, the membrane thickens and tightens resulting in further inflammation and the cycle continues. Cows suffering from swollen hocks fail to walk or exercise due to pain. The consequence is lameness which can be detrimental. As such, treatment of swollen hocks in cattle should be administered timeously. The severity of the wound should be examined as well as the type of bacterial species so as to determine the suitable antibiotics for treatment. This is because some antibiotics have difficulty penetrating into the joint and killing the bacteria hidden in the proliferated membrane. The most commonly used antibiotics for such severe cases include penicillin and tetracycline. If this form of treatment for swollen hocks in cattle fails, antibiotics can be injected directly into the hock. When doing so, caution must be taken to prevent the introduction of additional bacteria which leads to further harm. It is advisable to provide pain killers so as to enable movement thereby managing the risk of lameness. Pain management can also be achieved through the application of heat. Note that antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian. It is essential for farmers to strictly adhere to the recommended dosages as continuous use may result in bacteria developing some form of resistance to the medication.

Surgical Treatment for Swollen Hocks in Cattle

Severe cases of swollen hocks require surgical treatment. Farmers should understand that this form of surgical treatment for swollen hocks in cattle varies according to the cause. Swollen hocks caused by health complications such as arthritis are usually characterised by a hard knot of swelling on the lower inside of the hock. Surgical treatment therefore usually involves opening the hock, dissecting out the lining, and thoroughly flushing it. Note that this treatment for swollen hocks in cattle must be carried out by a certified veterinary medical professional.  Joint lavage can also be used which generally involves removing bacteria and toxins from the joint; it allows antibiotics and the body’s own immune system to heal the joint. Note that joint lavage sometimes proves ineffective, particularly in severe cases. After the surgical treatment of swollen hocks in cattle, the hock is bandaged for about 5 days and the skin sutures are removed after 14days. The immediate effect of surgery is that the hock becomes profoundly flexed. During this period great care and hygiene must be practised to prevent infection of the surgical site.

Phytotherapy

Phytotherapy is defined as science-based medical practice that makes use of plant derived remedies for prevention and treatment of diseases. It is a growing practice in the agricultural community. This is due to the ban or restrictions placed on various animal medication which are said to possibly have a negative impact on both animal and human health. In addition, treatment of swollen hocks in cattle is often administered by certified veterinary professionals either through surgery or antibiotics. As widely known, these methods require a lot of money which most farmers cannot afford. Herbs therefore provide farmers with the ability to maintain animal health at very low costs. Herbs that are usually used for treatment of swollen hocks in cattle include the arnica and comfrey.  These help to improve blood circulation and helps against bruises. Arnica montana is a widely utilised therapeutic plant; it is traditionally used to treat various ailments including swollen hocks. Its extracts have been reported to have antibacterial, antitumor, antioxidant, anti‐inflammatory, antifungal and immunomodulatory activity which are of essence in the treatment of swollen hocks in cattle.

Comfrey is also known for its excellent healing abilities. Swollen hocks from acute injuries can be treated using this herb. However, note that comfrey can only be used on shallow wounds. This is because it is a speedy wound healing remedy and so tends to heal the top layer of skin before the bottom layer, resulting in an abscess. To add on, when administering it through ingestion, caution should be taken because it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can be harmful to the liver in high doses. For this reason, it is advisable to make use of comfrey topically rather than internally for animal safety purposes. Honey, thyme, lavender and basil have antibacterial properties and improve wound healing. As such, they can also be used in the treatment of swollen hocks. Another important factor to note is that farmers can generally use various herbs that have antibacterial properties and wound healing abilities, provided they have sufficient knowledge about the effects and suitable dosage to livestock.

Conclusion

Swollen hocks do not only occur as individual cases; sometimes cattle are afflicted on a herd basis. Effective treatment for swollen hocks in cattle depends on diagnosis. This is because swollen hocks can be due to bacteria, another form of illness or a simple acute injury. Note that when errors exist in diagnosis, there are increased chances of administering wrong medication that can possibly have a detrimental effect on animal health. It is therefore advisable for farmers to acquire sound knowledge and necessary skills for diagnosis, prevention as well as methods of treatment for swollen hocks in cattle.