Foul of the Foot

Foul of the foot is a contagious disease of cattle characterized by the development of a necrotic lesion in the interdigital skin. The accompanying infection extends into the soft tissues of the foot causing swelling and lameness. The lesion has a typically foul smell which some find helpful in distinguishing it from other conditions.Incidence appears to be higher during the winter months and in confinement-housed cattle.

Recently a new more severe form of the disease has been observed. It has been termed “Super Foul” which is believed to result from a combined infection with the spirochaetes that cause digital dermatitis; very prompt aggressive treatment is required in these cases if the cow is to be saved.

Environmental factors may cause foul of the foot such as walking through or standing in manure slurry for extended periods or flints and stones in gateways or walkways. The condition is caused by Fusobacterium necrophorus and it lives in the gastrointestinal tract of the cow.

Improving the quality of walkways and alleyways and eliminating debris in these areas to avoid interdigital skin lesions and keeping the cattle environment as dry as possible are major considerations in the prevention of foot rot problems.

Treatment requires systemic antibiotic therapy and simple cases will usually respond to penicillin alone.

Regular foot bathing helps to control the infection reduce the incidence of foul of the foot.