United Kingdom


beef cows in field

Foul-in-the-foot, also known as interdigital necrobacillosis or foot rot, is an acute and highly infectious disease of cattle characterised by swelling of the foot and resulting in lameness. This extremely painful condition can become chronic if treatment is not provided, allowing other foots’ structures to become affected.

Causes and Spread
Foul-in-the-foot is often associated with injury to the interdigital space.

This provides a portal for bacteria, allowing the infection to spread rapidly to the connective tissue in the digital region.

Cuts, bruises, puncture wounds or severe abrasions permit bacteria such as Fusobacterium necrophorum and Prevotella melaninogenica to enter the tissue of the foot where they can start an infection.


  • Pain, sudden lameness with swelling of the interdigital space and coronary band, forcing the claws apart

  • Split in the interdigital skin, often discharging pus and lumps of degenerating tissue debris

  • Characteristic foul odour

  • Sometimes associated with fever, anorexia and loss of condition

  • Outbreaks can also occur in youngstock, both housed and at pasture

  • In untreated cases, inflammation can develop into necrosis, which may extend to the surrounding tissues, including even the pedal joint itself, leading to chronic arthritis


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


  • Prompt administration of systemic antibiotics

  • NSAIDs

  • Local treatment:
    - Examination of the interdigital space for foreign bodies
    - Foot trimming
    - Topical medications:
         ▫ Spray
         ▫ Footbaths
    - Bandage

  • Surgical: digital amputation in severe cases

Economic Impact

Economic impacts herds include:

  • Reduced reproductive performance

  • Increased risk of culling

  • Veterinary and medicinal costs
  • Reduction in live weight gain

  • Subsequent delay in marketing