United States
Print page content Print
Increase text size Decrease text size
Text Size
Bovin Footrot

Bovine Footrot

Foot rot causes lameness, fever and loss of appetite.

Foot rot is an acute and highly infectious disease of cattle characterized by swelling and lameness. This extremely painful condition can become chronic if treatment is not provided, allowing other foot structures to become affected.  Foot rot originates between the claws of the hoof. It is more common during wet periods like mid-winter and early summer, but it can affect cattle at any time.

Expand All
    • Foot rot results when the interdigital skin is injured. The injury can be caused by anything from frozen mud to dirt clods or stones, mud buildup, or abrasions caused by rough surfaces of sale barns or handling facilities.
    • This skin damage provides a portal for bacteria to enter the tissue of the foot, allowing the infection to spread rapidly to the connective tissues, tendons, joints and foot bones in the digital region.
    • Bacteria such as Fusobacterium necrophorum and Porphyromonas levii  enter the tissue of the foot, where they can start an infection. Damp conditions predispose feet to damage.
    • Pain, sudden lameness with swelling of the interdigital space and coronet.
    • Fever, loss of condition, reduced milk production (dairy cattle), loss of appetite and resulting loss of gain (beef cattle).
    • Cellulitis and liquefactive necrosis (tissue death) in the interdigital space accompanied by a foul odor.

    Without treatment, inflammation develops into necrosis, which may extent to the surrounding tissues, including even the bone of the digit, leading to chronic arthritis.

  • Because foot rot can take hold very quickly, early detection is critical. Diagnosis may be made on clinical signs (careful examination of the foot) and epidemiology.

    • Early administration of systemic antibiotics labeled for the treatment of footrot.
    • Local treatment:
      • Foot trimming
      • Topical medications
        • Spray
        • Footbaths
      • Surgical amputation of claw in chronic cases
    • Environmental hygiene is a key component in preventing foot rot:
      • Keep lots free of hard objects such as stones, bricks, machinery, or anything that could bruise or cut the soft tissue of the foot.
      • Minimize abrasive surfaces, especially around feeding and watering areas. Cover rough surfaces with clay or cured, composted manure.
      • Remove manure regularly.
      • Put slabs along water tanks and feed bunks.
      • Promote drainage by using mounds of soil or composted manure.
      • Maintain maximum drainage of lots and around water tanks, feed bunks, and other busy traffic areas
    • Footbaths.
    • Good nutrition with adequate levels of Vitamin A, D and zinc.
    • preventing bruising during the harsh winter months by keeping lots clear of ice chunks and frozen manure
    • ensuring that cattle receive adequate nutrients for good bone and tissue health
    • isolating sick animals
    • Management should also include regular herd checks focused on early detection. You can't expect antibiotics to work if the infection is seeded and going up the leg. On the other hand, if cattle are being managed and pulled in a timely fashion, most cases can be treated successfully.
  • Economic impact on a dairy herd includes:

    • Treatment costs.
    • Lower milk yields.
    • Reduced reproductive performance.
    • Reduced detection of estrus.
    • Higher involuntary culling rates.

    Economic impact on a beef herd includes:

    • Treatment costs.
    • Reduction in live weight gain.
    • Subsequent delay in marketing.

    When the pathogens have become "seeded" in the environment, foot rot may persist for extended periods. Constant observation is necessary to prevent serious economic loss.

    "Foot rot and lameness in cattle can cost feedlots an average of $59.94 (U.S.) in overhead loss, loss due to chronically affected cattle, and the cost of treatment for every foot rot incidence," says Dee Griffin, DVM, MS, at the University of Nebraska's Great Plains Veterinary Education Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. Studies conducted by the University of Nebraska of five western feedlots showed 13.1 percent of 1.8 million animals were treated for health problems, and lameness accounted for 16 percent of those health problems and 5 percent of deaths of feedlot animals. Lame cattle accounted for 70 percent of all sales of non-performing cattle.
    -Bovine Veterinarian, October 1999, pp. 4-8.