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Foot Rot in Cattle: Causes, Prevention, Treatment!

Foot rot, also known as infectious pododermatitis, is a hoof infection that causes heat, swelling, and inflammation between the toes of a cloven-hoofed animal leading to severe lameness. This situation is experienced by every cattle producer finding an animal suddenly lame. The main organism causing foot rot is Fusobacterium necrophorum which is often found in housing facilities.

Causes

Footrot occurs in cattle of all ages with severe cases during wet, humid conditions. The severity of footrot also varies according to the season, weather and grazing period.

Usually, the skin acts as the protective shield between the hoofs that protect the inner space from external elements, but an injury, especially abrasions caused by hard stalks, rough surfaces, and sharp gravel occur, and constant exposure to wet conditions cause infection.

The majority of F. necrophorum organisms isolated are one of two types A or B, which produce toxins causing necrosis (death of body tissue). 

Once there is a loss of skin integrity, bacteria more actively enter into subcutaneous tissues and start rapid production of toxins that encourages further bacterial multiplication and entrance of infection into deeper foot structures.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made by examining the hoof and looking signs of swelling between the claws, sudden onset of lameness, and separation of interdigital skin. Other conditions cause cattle lameness, including sole abscesses, sole ulcers, fractures, infected corns, septic arthritis, and infection of tendon sheaths, all of which usually involve one claw and not the skin areas between the claws or toes.

Treatment

Footrot treatment is usually successful, especially when diagnosed early. It begins with examining and cleaning the foot to check that lameness is actually caused due to footrot. While some mild cases are treated with supportive care and topical therapy, most cases of foot rot treatment in cattle use systemic antimicrobial therapy. A long-acting antibiotic is also recommended. However, consult with your veterinarian on antibiotic and dosages recommendation for a specific situation.

Further, affected cattle should be kept in dry and protected areas until they are healed. If improvements are not evident within a few days, it might mean that the infection has penetrated the deeper tissues. If the infections are not showing any response to initial treatments, they need re-evaluation by your veterinarian. In more severe cases, cattle handling will be between claw amputation, salvaging for slaughter, or claw-salvaging surgical procedures.

Prevention

It starts with taking preventive measures to avoid mechanical damage to the foot caused by brush, sharp gravel, stubble, and minimizing the time spent by animals standing in wet, humid areas.

Other preventive measures include regular footbaths (often used in dairy operations and confinement beef), avoiding uneven floors, small stones, regular trimming practices and overcrowding of facilities. Ensuring proper ventilation and dry bedding to achieve a fresh barn climate is also a great preventive measure.

When animals are severely deficient in essential dietary iodine and zinc, there might be increased chances of footrot. Appropriate dietary iodine/zinc should be given in the form of a well balanced nutritional plan to help reduce foot rot and other kinds of lameness. However, it is worth mentioning that the required levels of iodine/zinc and the toxic levels are similar. Having additional iodine and zinc above the recommended levels might result in acute or chronic cattle toxicity. The veterinarian can also recommend a commercial vaccine in cattle as a control for foot rot. 

Conclusion

Footrot can be a frustrating condition and can result in extra expense and labor. It is vital to regularly check the skin integrity to prevent foot rot.  Remember that early intervention leads to faster response to treatment. The best preventive measures narrow down to protecting the interdigital skin health.

Managing cattle according to the environmental conditions and providing them well-balanced dietary plan nutrition are some important key prevention!

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