Digital dermatitis (DD) is an inflammation of the skin around the cow’s hoof. The disease was discovered in the early 1970s by an Italian veterinarian, Dr. Mortellaro.
It is most commonly found on the hind feet, more specifically at the back of the hoof, and between the bulbs of the heels. The disease can spread around the foot and into the cleft between the claws. It is also characterized as being a very painful condition that results in lameness. This consequently reduces food intake, milk yield, and fertility.
While the acute stage of digital dermatitis is recognized by a ‘strawberry’ appearance, either with or without long hairs, the chronic lesions of digital dermatitis will be a more grayish colour with a proliferative wart appearance.
Digital dermatitis is most commonly caused by the Treponema bacterial species. The Treponema organisms are characterized by their long but thin shape with a fine, hair-like filament along their length.
Treponemas are able to penetrate deep into the skin of the bovine foot, after which they spread and colonize within skin cells. This is why affected cows show more pain during the early stages of the infection.
Digital dermatitis is an infectious disease. Environmental factors such as housing and hygiene can affect the spreading and stimulation of the disease.
- Early detection: failure to have an early detection program in place may result a minor health problem to turn into a painly lesion.
- Maintain clean alleys to keep feet clean and dry. In addition, we recommend the use of alley scrapers.
- Purchase ‘clean’ animals and know where they come from. Also quarantine, examine and treat new arrivals, especially heifers.
- Avoid overcrowding of facilities.
- Ensure dry bedding and proper ventilation, consequently achieving a fresh barn climate.
- Prevent zinc and magnesium deficiencies.
- Be sure to have a foot bath and/or spray program in place.
- After trimming, apply Hoof-fit Gel and a wrap to the affected hoof. If necessary, repeat this procedure after 3 days.
- Regularly trim all your cows (2–3 times a year).
- Contact us to discuss a spraying protocol and foot bath schedule that fits your herd’s requirements.
- Also check out our Hoof-fit Gel: it is the FIRST non-antibiotic medicine in Canada for Digital Dermatitis in dairy cattle.
Some information obtained from the Ontario Dairy Hoof Health Project’s final report: “Digital Dermatitis and Biosecurity Measures in Ontario Dairy Herds.” This study was conducted by the Ontario Hoof Trimmers Guild.