Beef Cattle Foot Rot

Timothy Page  |  7/28/2018 9:36:11 PM

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Foot rot in beef cattle (interdigital necrobacilosis or interdigital phlegmon) is an infectious disease affecting the interdigital region of the bovine foot. Foot rot is a prominent cause of lameness in beef cattle which is associated with substantial economic losses for producers due to performance loss and treatment costs.

Foot rot outbreaks occur sporadically and can affect anywhere from one animal to more than 25% of the herd. Cattle of all ages are affected, and cases are seen year round [Just a thought: I don’t know why but it seems to usually affect your best bull(s) and/or cow(s). At least in my experience.] Cattle are more susceptible to foot rot infection in hot, humid environments associated with high-moisture pastures or pens with high accumulations of manure, urine, or mud. This sounds a lot like Louisiana.

Foot rot usually only affects one limb. Infected cattle will commonly present sudden lameness in the affected limb. Foot rot can be extremely painful and the infected animal may be hesitant to move. Other symptoms include decreased appetite and fever. In severe cases, animals may go off feed completely.

Simple lameness observation is not adequate to accurately differentiate foot rot from other lameness diagnosis.The animal must be restrained in order to lift the affected foot and thoroughly examine it. First, the foot should be washed or wiped clean up to the declaw area.Then the limb and interdigital region should be examined for pain, swelling, redness, lesions, necrotic tissue, and odor. Foot rot cases will present symmetrical swelling throughout the foot.

The three stages of foot rot are: Stage 1: Sudden onset of swelling and lameness are evident. The skin in the interdigital space may appear red and the inflammation may start to separate the claws. Stage 2: Within 72 hours after onset of first signs, the interdigital skin ruptures.This lesion can extend from the front to the back of the foot and is characterized by protrusion of necrotic tissue and a distinctive four odor. Stage 3: Characterized by formation of additional tissue in the interdigital space, leading to closure of the interdigital lesion.This can result in corns, wall fissures and abnormal horn production. In chronic or severe cases, swelling may progress up the leg and infection can penetrate deeper, affecting bones, connective tissue, joints and tendons.

Early detection of foot rot is key for improved treatment response. Mild cases may be treated topically, but most cases will require systemic antibiotic treatment. Affected cattle should be isolated and closely monitored. A veterinarian should be consulted to determine the best treatment protocol given the disease severity and withdrawal time.

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