Avoiding the Complications of Foot Rot

What is foot rot?

  • Foot rot, hoof rot or “foul-in-the-foot” are commonly used terms for an infection that affects the skin between the claws in adult cattle
  • Injury of the interdigital skin allows entry of the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum, which causes infection, swelling, necrosis and often, a foul odor or discharge in the space between the claws

 How does it affect the herd?

  • Increased number of lame animals
  • Can cause significant losses in milk production, feed intake and mobility due to pain and fever
  • Most commonly affects adult animals, but calves may be affected if they are housed in an unsanitary environment
  • The infection and swelling can cause intense pain and marked lameness in cattle.  Usually only one foot is involved; the hind limbs are more commonly affected than the forelimbs.
  • Cattle that stand in wet, unsanitary conditions with unsteady footing are at the greatest risk.  Constant exposure to moisture, manure and urine softens the interdigital skin, making it more prone to injury
  • The condition can affect beef and dairy cattle equally and mainly depends on management of the housing system

What is the cost?

  • Treatment cost for antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and possibly evaluation by a veterinarian
  • Production losses from individual animals can be significant due to decreased milk production, withdrawal times and weight loss

 How can you evaluate foot rot?

  • Check the skin between the claws, it will appear discolored, broken and may have a foul odor.  Cattle often show signs of pain when pressure is applied to this area of the foot
  • Be on the lookout for lameness,  Mildly affected animals  may have swelling between the claws  that extends up into the fetlock
  • Severely affected animals may be non-weight bearing, off-feed and have a fever
  • Evaluate living conditions for the animals including cleanliness, moisture level and footing

 What herd management techniques help prevent foot rot?

  • Keep high traffic areas scraped free of manure and properly drained
  • Consider use of footbaths containing copper sulfate (plus copper reducers) or formaldehyde
  • A bandage containing either topical antibiotics or copper sulfate may be used under the direction of the herd’s veterinarian
  • Schedule regular trims with a hoof trimming professional
  • Move treated animals to a clean, dry area
  • Treatment with an antibiotic approved for use in lactating dairy cattle is recommended as soon as signs are observed.  Improvement should be noted within 2 to 4 days.
  • All prescription medications must be used under the direction of the herd’s attending veterinarian.
  • Anti-inflammatory treatment may be warranted to reduce pain and fever.

Extra label treatment options are available if initial therapy is not effective.  Please consult with the herd veterinarian if alternate treatment is necessary.

Dr. Katie Speller
ANIMART Professional Services Veterinarian
Cell: 920.382.9783


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