OBJECTIVE: To compare synovial fluid characteristics of cattle with infectious and noninfectious arthritis. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. ANIMAL OR SAMPLE POPULATION: 130 cattle. METHODS: Synovial fluid was analyzed for total nucleated cell count (NCC), absolute number and percentages of polymorphonuclear (PMN) and mononuclear cells, total protein (TP) concentration, and specific gravity. Cattle were categorized as having infectious or noninfectious arthritis based on physical and lameness examinations, joint radiographs, and microbial culture results. Kruskal-Wallis 1-way analysis of variance was used to compare synovial fluid analysis data from different categories. Selection of cut-off values for the calculation of likelihood ratios, sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values was based on examination of the distribution of the data using histograms. RESULTS: Cattle with infectious arthritis had significantly higher numbers of total NNC, PMN cells, TP concentration, and specific gravity (P = .0001) and a significantly higher percentage of PMN cells compared with cattle with noninfectious arthritis (P = .0001). The percentage of mononuclear cells was significantly higher in cattle with noninfectious arthritis (P = .0001). CONCLUSIONS: Synovial fluid analysis is useful for differentiation of infectious and noninfectious causes of joint disease in cattle. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Cattle with a synovial fluid total NCC > 25,000 cells/microL, a PMN cell count > 20,000 cells/microL or more than 80% PMN cells, and TP > 4.5 g/dL should be considered to have infectious arthritis.
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