Contagious foot rot is a major production problem in many areas of the United States. Though it is generally more prevalent in temperate climates, foot rot is becoming more widespread in western states. Foot rot is one of the most devastating diseases in sheep. It is much easier to prevent than it is to control or eradicate.
Foot rot is caused by an interaction between two bacteria, one that is found in the animal’s foot and one that is a normal inhabitant of soil and sheep manure. Though the course of this disease the skin between the toes becomes wet, macerated and infected by the bacteria that is found in the soil. This then allows the bacteria that are normally dormant in the animal’s foot to become established in the deeper layers of the skin where it produces an infection. This infection can cause the heel, sole, and wall of the hoof to separate from the foot, causing inflammation, lameness and odor. This disease is spread from an infected sheep to the soil and then to non-infected sheep.
Lameness is usually the first observed symptom of foot rot though not all sheep with an early infection will become lame. The animal should be checked to see that there is no foreign object in the foot that might be causing the lameness. The first visible lesion is a moist, reddened area between the toes. The infection will then spread under the sole and wall of the hoof and a characteristic foul odor can be detected.
For non-infected animals:
For infected animals:
Foot rot in sheep is a nasty disease that can cause many problems for producers. Simple management changes can do a lot for the prevention of the disease. If an animal or flock does contract this disease it can be treated. The best thing for producers to do to prevent foot rot in their flocks is to educate themselves on how to prevent it and if necessary how to treat it.
Farmnote, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia--
University of Kentucky—
University of Nebraska, Lincoln—
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