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Footrot on goat hoof

Footrot is a contagious disease of the hooves in goats and sheep. This disease is most common in the Southern region of the United States due to wet and humid climate conditions. Footrot is primarily caused by the microorganisms Dichelobacter nodosus and Fusobacterium necrophorum, which can be found in contaminated soil.

Foot Scald, also referred to as benign footrot or interdigital dermatitis, is inflammation between the toes caused by Fasobacterium necrophorum. Persistent moisture on the skin between the toes can increase susceptibility to foot scald. A significant proportion of the herd will show signs of the disease under ideal environmental conditions. These conditions include persistent rainy weather along with hot temperatures. Foot scald can lead to footrot if animals go untreated.

How Footrot and Scald Spreads

How can footrot and foot scald spread in a herd or flock?

  • Introducing an infected animal into a non-contaminated herd can create herd contamination. Direct transmission of footrot can occur between cattle, sheep, and goats sharing the same pastures.
  • Foot scald and footrot outbreaks occur most often during persistent rainy weather, along with high temperatures. Animals can contract the disease walking across wet pastures and muddy soil. If untreated, these animals can become permanently infected.
  • Overgrown hooves will also predispose an animal to foot scald or rot.
  • Footrot microorganisms can also be carried to soil on the shoes of visitors.

Diagnosis 

  • The first signs of hoof/footrot or scald are limping, holding limbs above the ground, grazing on knees, and reluctance to walk.
  • Footrot can be mild or severe. Animals with severe footrot might show fever, loss of appetite, and hoof deformity.
  • Foot scald is characterized by interdigital inflammation. The skin between the toes is pink to white in color, raw, moist, and very sensitive to the touch.

Treatment 

  • Isolate affected animals for treatment and trim hooves. Check for signs of rot or scald and rule out other possible causes of lameness.
  • Treat the feet with a solution of 10 percent copper sulfate or zinc sulfate or use 7 percent iodine on the feet.
  • When a substantial number of animals in a herd are affected, the use of a footbath may be the best treatment option. Animals must stand in a zinc or copper sulfate solution every 5 to 7 days for 15 minutes to allow absorption into the hoof wall.
  • Keep treated animals in a dry environment for 24 hours after treatment. Hooves should be trimmed as needed to expose the infected tissue to oxygen.

 Prevention 

  • Cull highly susceptible animals and enhance selective breeding for resistance to footrot.
  • Trim hooves regularly. Trimming prevents hoof overgrowth, which creates an environment for foot rot.
  • Check animals for foot lesions before purchasing.
  • Give animals a footbath upon returning from shows or after purchasing, and prior to their re-entry into the herd.

Summary

If not well managed, footrot and foot scald can cause significant economic loss for sheep and goat producers. Eradication of the diseases requires much labor and effort through hoof trimming, soaking, and regular checking of animals for any signs of hoof infection. Purchasing animals from a trusted source and consulting a veterinarian before using any drugs can help to prevent or eradicate footrot and foot scald on your farm.

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