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United Kingdom

Foul in the foot

Foul in the foot, sore foot, foul foot, footrot

Foul in the foot is an acute and highly infectious disease of cattle characterised by swelling and lameness. This extremely painful condition can become chronic if treatment is not provided, allowing other foot’s structures to become affected.

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  • Foul in the foot results when the interdigital skin is injured.

    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 Bacteroides melaninogenicus to enter the tissue of the foot, where they can start an infection

    • Pain, sudden lameness with swelling of the interdigital space and coronet
    • Fever, loss of condition, reduced milk production (dairy cattle), loss of appetite and resulting loss of gain (beef cattle)
    • Cellulitis and liquefactive necrosis in the interdigital space with a foul odour

    Without treatment, inflammation develops into necrosis, which may extend to the surrounding tissues, including even the bone of the digit, 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.

    • Early administration of systemic antibiotics
    • Local treatment:
      ▪Foot trimming
      ▪Topical medications
           ▫Spray
           ▫ Footbaths
      ▪Bandage
    • Oral therapy: anti-infective, zinc - especially if the diet is zinc-deficient
    • Surgical: amputation in severe cases
    • Environmental hygiene is a key component in preventing foul in the foot

         ▫Minimize abrasive surfaces and wet areas, especially around feeding and watering areas
         ▫Remove manure regularly
         ▫Place slabs along water tanks and feed bunks
         ▫Promote drainage by using mounds of soil or composted manure

    • Footbaths
    • Good nutrition
         ▫Vitamin A 
       ▫Organic iodide: zinc
    • Economic impact on a dairy herd includes:
      ▫Lower milk yields
      ▫Reduced reproductive performance
      ▫Poorer detection of oestrus
      ▫Higher involuntary culling rates
    • Economic impact on a beef herd includes: 
      ▫Reduction in live weight gain
      ▫Subsequent delay in marketing

    When the pathogens have become "seeded" in the environment, foul in the foot may persist for an extended period. Constant observation is necessary to prevent serious economic loss.