5 Tips For Preventing, Diagnosing & Treating Foot Rot

July 31, 2014

4 Min Read
5 Tips For Preventing, Diagnosing & Treating Foot Rot

Editor's note--This article was written based on information prior to the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), Under the VFD, the use of chlortetracycline is illegal.


Summer can be a relief for cattlemen -- no ice to chop out of water tanks, no snow to move, no calving cows to check, and usually no hay feeding. However, the summer grazing season can present another spectrum of worries ranging from pinkeye, to flies, to heat stress, to noxious weeds and foot rot. We have treated a few cows for foot rot the last couple of weeks, so I thought it would be timely to discuss this summer woe on today’s blog.

According to the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cooperative Extension Service, “Foot rot occurs in all ages of cattle, with increased case incidence during wet, humid conditions. When case incidence increases in hot and dry conditions, attention must be directed to loafing areas, which are often crowded and extremely wet from urine and feces deposited in small shaded areas.

“The first signs of foot rot, following an incubation period of 5-7 days, are lameness, acute swelling of interdigital tissues, and swelling evenly distributed around the hairline of both hooves. Eventually, the interdigital skin cracks open, revealing a foul-smelling, necrotic, core-like material. Untreated, the swelling may progress up the foot to the fetlock or higher. More importantly, the swelling may invade the deeper structures of the foot such as the navicular bone, coffin joint, coffin bone, and tendons.”

Here are five tips for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot rot from John Kirkpatrick, DVM and OSU associate professor of medicine and surgery; and David Lalman, PhD, OSU Extension beef cattle specialist.

1. Cause

Kirkpatrick and Lalman say foot rot is caused by the softening and thinning of the interdigital skin by puncture wounds or continuous exposure to wet conditions, which provides an entry point for infectious agents and bacteria.

2. Transmission

“Once loss of skin integrity occurs, bacteria gain entrance into subcutaneous tissues and begin rapid multiplication and production of toxins that stimulate further continued bacterial multiplication and penetration of infection into the deeper structures of the foot,” they say.

3. Diagnosis

They recommend looking for the characteristic signs of foot rot, including lameness, elevated body temperature, swelling of the foot, and separation of the skin. Ulcers, abscesses, abrasion, fractures and inflammation are also key indicators of foot rot.

4. Treatment

If caught early, treatment of foot rot is usually successful. Clean the area to be certain lameness is actually due to foot rot, and use a topical treatment on the affected area. Kirkpatrick and Lalman write, “Most cases require the use of systemic antimicrobial therapy. LA 200®, Bio-Mycin 200®, Procaine penicillin G, Tylan 200®, and Sustain III™ (sustained release Sulfamethazine) boluses are over the counter pharmaceuticals that have proven effective as a treatment of foot rot. Naxcel®, Micotil®, and Albon S.R.® (sustained release Sulfadimethoxine) boluses are antimicrobials restricted to the use by the order of a licensed veterinarian, and have also shown to be effective in the treatment of foot rot.”

If possible, they recommend keeping cattle in a dry area until healed.

5. Prevention

Finally, they say that low level feeding of chlortetracycline (CTC) at about 350 mg/head/day can help to prevent foot rot. Many mineral mixes and commercial supplements are formulated to provide that dose.

Additionally, zinc supplementation can reduce the incidence of foot rot as zinc is important in maintaining skin and hoof integrity, according to Kirkpatrick and Lalman.

Also consider commercial vaccines that are available to help control foot rot. Consult a veterinarian for your best options.

Have you had any foot rot problems this summer? What is your preferred method for treatment and prevention? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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