Digital Dermatitis


For those of you who are unsure of what Digital Dermatitis is, let me just give you a brief overview to the condition. Basically, Digital Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin around the hoof of a cow. It appears to be more prevalent at the back of the foot, generally between the bulbs of the heels. Having said that, it can spread, around the foot and into the cleft between the claws. Some reports I have seen show that ninety percent of digital dermatitis cases occur on the hind feet.

Digital dermatitis in cattle is a very painful condition resulting in lameness, which subsequently reduces food intake, milk yield and fertility. It has been reported that on average, a case of digital dermatitis costs around £70.

The Cause of Digital Dermatitis

The disease is infectious in origin. It can be reproduced by applying digital dermatitis lesions to moist damaged skin (although this is not related to natural disease spread).

Spiral bacteria are found in the lesions but not in normal skin. Some strains are consistently found deep in damaged skin.

Antibodies to these bacteria are more common in herds and individual cattle with digital dermatitis However the relationship between antibodies and digital dermatitis in individuals is not good enough to be a diagnostic test.

Treatment with antibiotics can rapidly reduce the severity of digital dermatitis and the associated pain and lameness.

Symptoms of the Disease

I can generally say that the first sign of digital dermatitis is the presence of matted hairs just above the bulbs of the heels. This is often referred to as a ‘paintbrush lesion’. However, in most cows the disease will have progressed from this stage before digital dermatitis is diagnosed.

Controlling Digital Dermatitis in Cattle

Identification of digital dermatitis in cattle can be done as part of the parlour regime, providing the feet can be cleaned and the level of lighting is sufficient.

Inspect cows frequently to ensure early detection.

Wash feet to ensure all lesions are visible.

Examine all stock over 15 months of age.

Provide good handling facilities if you cannot examine in the parlour.

The comments made within this section are my own thoughts and has been based on my experience as a Cattle Claw Technician with over 16 years working experience.

Since starting Hoofman Ltd, unfortunately I have seen more than my fare share of cattle that have had digital dermatitis. However, during this time I have gained a wealth of knowledge on what can be done to treat this condition.

As with all personal views and experiences there will always be someone who disagrees and therefore I would like to hear from such individuals with details of their experiences/comments. If you have any comments then please send me an email, I’m only to willing to hear someone else’s view point and experiences.