Evaluation of tetracycline in milk following extra-label administration of topical tetracycline for digital dermatitis in dairy cattle

G. Cramer, L. Solano, R. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Digital dermatitis (DD) is a painful infectious foot lesion commonly treated topically with extra-label tetracycline. Our objectives were to determine the concentrations of tetracycline in milk and plasma and to calculate a withdrawal interval following topical application at various doses. Another objective was to evaluate agreement between tests for measuring tetracycline in milk. A randomized block trial was conducted on 2 farms, where 50 cows with active DD lesions on 2 feet were allocated to 1 of 5 treatment groups (n = 10 cows per group). Treatment groups consisted of topical applications of tetracycline hydrochloride, in a paste or as a powdered form under a bandage, at 3 different dosing levels (2, 5, and 25 g) on each of the 2 affected feet. Following enrollment and treatment, samples were collected from milk, teat skin, and blood every 8 to 24 h for up to 7 d postdosing. Concentrations of tetracycline were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and milk samples were further tested using the Charm ROSA TET test (Charm Sciences Inc., Lawrence, MA). Tetracycline was present in milk, plasma, and teat skin from all treatment groups. Tetracycline concentrations varied depending on time of sampling, method of application, and dosing level. At 8 h post-treatment, 11% of cows had tetracycline present in milk higher than 100 ng/mL (ppb) but none higher than 300 ng/mL. The 25-g treatment group had the longest estimated withdrawal interval, the highest observed concentrations (210–244 ng/mL) of tetracycline present in milk, and the longest observed consecutive period of tetracycline presence (from 8 to 72 h) among all treatment groups. Compared with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, the Charm test had a sensitivity of 77 and 100% for measuring tetracycline in milk at ≥30 and ≥100 ng/mL, respectively. Post-treatment samples of the teat skin were taken from 15 cows on 6 occasions, and every cow had tetracycline present in at least 1 of those 6 samples. This confirms an association between topical DD treatment with tetracycline and contamination of the teat. A total of 22% of blood samples had detectable tetracycline, and the majority (63%) occurred at 8 h post-treatment. At 100 ng/mL, the estimated cow-level milk withdrawal interval ranged from 0 to 70 h. At 300 ng/mL, the estimated cow-level withdrawal interval ranged from 0 to 34 h, and was 0 h at the bulk tank level. We recommend that conservative measures be adopted after extra-label use of topical tetracycline for DD treatment, including using a low dose and strategic post-treatment testing for tetracycline-class drugs in milk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-895
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank participating farms for their willingness and time. We are especially grateful for the contributions of Ann Godkin [Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Elora, ON, Canada], Trisha Dowling (University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada), Todd Duffield (University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada), Erin Royster (University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN), Cleeson Mill (Country Hoof Care, St. Charles, MN), and for contributions of Megan Thompson, Brian Stampfl, Jesse Ingvalson, Gerald Dykstra, Tommy Winders, Michelle Reitsma, Kayla Klehr, Grant Stoddard, and Janna Sorg (University of Minnesota, St. Paul) in data collection. This study was funded by OMAFRA (Guelph, Canada), Dairy Farmers of Ontario (Mississauga, Canada), and Vetoquinol (Lavaltrie, Canada).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Dairy Science Association


  • digital dermatitis
  • food safety
  • milk drug residues
  • withdrawal interval


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