Digital dermatitis appeared in the UK around 1987 and has since become one of the most serious causes of lameness (>25%), 90% of cases occur on the hind feet.
Digital dermatitis is caused by 3-5 different spirochaete bacteria (Treponema spp.) and it is most common on the underside of the hind foot above the heel. The infection causes circumscribed, eroded, painful lesions surrounded by hyperkeratosis and hypertrophied hairs. In long standing cases these hairs can become very marked and are known as ‘hairy warts’.
Affected cows are lame and slow and often stand and constantly lift the foot as is the pain appears to be sharp and stinging. Slurry heel or heel/horn erosion often progresses from the initial lesion.
The spirocheates thrive in wet conditions especially slurry; it is likely that the irritant effect of urine in slurry allows the organism to attack the skin. Cattle from affected farms carry the infection and most farms became infected due to the purchase of infected cows. Contaminated foot trimming equipment can also spread the disease.
The disease is controlled on a herd scale by foot bathing. Individual treatment may be required in more severe cases; we treat these with our ‘digital dermatitis cream’ and bandage plus in some cases antibiotic treatment.
The cost of each case of digital dermatitis is approx £106 Young, S., MDC Study. An average 38% incidence in a 100 cow herd gives a total annual cost of around £4.028.