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Watch for Foot Rot in Wet Conditions

By Jessica Smith, P.Ag., Regional Livestock Specialist, Swift Current

In wet and humid conditions such as the ones much of Saskatchewan has been experiencing during the late spring and early summer of 2016, diseases such as foot rot could be more prevalent in cattle. 

Foot rot is a bacterial condition that affects the skin of the hoof between the toes.  One way to identify it is by dead or decaying tissue between the toes.  In worse cases, it may extend deeper into the foot and leg area.  It causes swelling of the affected foot, which results in lameness.

Foot rot is caused by specific bacteria entering the skin through a break due to injury or through soft, thin skin due to wet conditions.  The bacteria that cause foot root can commonly be found in the environment, but requires an opening in the skin to cause infection.  Injury to the foot can be caused by things such as rough or sharp ground or by sharp objects and debris. The animal’s foot can become more easily injured if they are standing in wet, muddy conditions. 

It is always best to consult with your veterinarian regarding a diagnosis, but some signs that an animal may have foot rot include:

  • Pain and swelling of both toes often causing the toes to separate;
  • Lesions or cracks in between the toes that have a foul odour;
  • Fever;
  • Animals going off of feed and water; and,
  • The most obvious symptom is lameness.  

Treatment usually includes the use of antibiotics and could include some pain medication.  It is important to check with your veterinarian on what the appropriate treatment is.  It is also important to keep an infected animal in a clean and dry area during treatment. 

Prevention is the best way to keep foot rot out of the herd.  Keeping the environment that the cattle are in as clean and dry as possible is a good step towards prevention.  Removing sharp, hard objects from areas where cattle are can help prevent injury to the foot.  Providing adequate nutrition will help promote good hoof health.  There is also a vaccination available to help prevent foot rot and you can discuss with your veterinarian if this is the right option for your herd. 

Foot rot can cause economic and production losses in your herd.  It could cause animals to lose weight or gain weight at a lower than desired rate due to going off of feed and water.  If a breeding animal has foot rot, it is less likely to breed or become bred. In the end you may need to cull good animals before you would like to. These losses make prevention of foot rot an important consideration on your operation. 

For more information, contact your local Regional Livestock Specialist.

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