Sheep lameness: causes, sorts and choices for remedy

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This text offers an summary of the principle causes of lameness in sheep by specializing in the three commonest ailments current within the UK – all of that are infectious in nature: interdigital dermatitis, foot rot and contagious ovine digital dermatitis. The latest and related findings relating to the aetiological brokers are mentioned. Additionally, a recent have a look at the choices accessible for prognosis and management – particularly the position of the vet – in coping with lameness at a flock degree, is offered. Lastly, a abstract of the alternatives accessible for remedy is offered.

Sheep lameness is rightly recognised as one of many main well being, welfare and production-limiting situations.

Table 1. Other causes of sheep lameness identified in the UK.
Desk 1. Different causes of sheep lameness recognized within the UK.

The principle causes of sheep lameness within the UK are infectious ailments. Interdigital dermatitis (ID) and foot rot have been on “the rostrum“ for a while, though contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) appears to have turn out to be extra prevalent1.

These three situations account for greater than 90% of circumstances of lameness within the UK2 and are virtually all the time described at a flock degree. Different causes of lameness generally encountered in medical apply – however both have a lot decrease prevalence or account for particular person issues – are white line illness (shelly hoof), toe abscess and toe granuloma. Desk 1 offers an summary of the opposite causes of sheep lameness recognized within the UK.


The dogma we have now turn out to be conversant in by means of lectures and textbooks is ID is brought on by Fusobacterium necrophorum, and benign foot rot, though clinically indistinguishable from ID, is brought on by Dichelobacter nodosus, with virulent strains inflicting a extra extreme medical presentation, with under-running of the only and publicity of delicate tissue.

Newer proof, although, appears to recommend ID and foot rot are two phases of the identical illness. The causative agent, in each circumstances, is D nodosus, with F necrophorum appearing as opportunistic pathogenthree.

What’s necessary to recollect about D nodosus is, with out the fitting situations – comparable to a moist and heat atmosphere, excessive stocking charge and preliminary injury to the interdigital pores and skin – it’s not in a position to trigger illness.

Moreover, the micro organism can solely dwell on ruminant ft, and may survive within the atmosphere for as much as 14 days. This has necessary implications for management of the illness, as with out introducing sheep carrying the micro organism, no foot rot/ID needs to be within the flock. Moreover, it is very important bear in mind not all strains current the identical virulence and, due to this fact, the identical severity in medical indicators.

With CODD, the final consensus appears to be Treponema species is the causative agent of the illness. Once more, D nodosus has additionally been remoted from circumstances of CODDfour, in addition to Treponema been remoted in circumstances of foot rotthree, which suggests what we describe as foot rot may truly be a multifactorial illness with a number of microorganisms concerned having a synergistic position and, probably, completely different medical displays.


Figure 1. Interdigital dermatitis. Inflammation and sloughing of the superficial layers of the skin is seen at the interdigital space.
Determine 1. Interdigital dermatitis. Irritation and sloughing of the superficial layers of the pores and skin is seen on the interdigital area.

Whatever the causative agent, one of many predominant challenges is the immediate and efficient recognition of lame sheep, to permit for speedy remedy of as many circumstances as potential, in addition to having the ability to determine those who reoccur after remedy.

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Though foot rot is significantly the most important downside, it’s also the commonest lesion incorrectly named by farmers – as proven in a survey the place many farmers would have a tendency to call any hoof horn lesion as foot rot – with white line illness being probably the most misdiagnosed situation2. This implies veterinary involvement ought to search to verify prognosis, and, clearly, implement a remedy and management plan. The medical facet will normally be adequate for a prognosis (Figures 1 to three), however, for definitive affirmation, the best choice is to submit a swab from the lesion for PCR or bacterial tradition.

One other basic level is understanding the extent of the issue. Earlier than embarking in any management programme, it’s essential to have a transparent thought of the prevalence of lameness. The variety of sheep affected, age group, velocity of onset and diploma of lameness are all necessary questions that have to be addressed. The prevalence of lameness appears to have dropped from 10% to five% prior to now few years1, which is in keeping with the 2011 Farm Animal Welfare Council opinion and possibly an excellent indicator of an achievable goal for business flocks.

An extra discount to 2% was set as a 10-year aim. Curiosity has additionally been rising in using fashionable applied sciences to enhance farming apply, with strategies comparable to infrared applied sciences5 and radar sensors6 exploited to help the popularity of lameness.


As soon as a medical prognosis is reached and the extent of the issue is obvious, some sensible questions needs to be thought-about:

  • How typically ought to sheep be noticed for lameness and gathered for remedy?
  • How can all lame sheep be recognized at every single remark and the way sensible it’s to catch them?
  • What diploma of lameness is “acceptable” earlier than prompting intervention?
  • Is that this going to be a flock remedy or a focused particular person?
Figure 2. Virulent foot rot. The disease has progressed into under-running of the sole and separation of the hoof wall from the underlying tissue.
Determine 2. Virulent foot rot. The illness has progressed into under-running of the only and separation of the hoof wall from the underlying tissue.

The scientific proof suggests catching mildly lame sheep inside three days of first turning into lame is related to a decreased prevalence of lameness1. It additionally suggests focused particular person remedy is significantly higher than flock remedy utilizing a foot bathtub7. From this, it could be really useful to repeatedly (for instance, as soon as to twice every week) examine sheep for lameness, at every remark catch each sheep exhibiting even a light diploma of lameness (scored one and above) and individually deal with them.

Whereas this is perhaps the gold customary of a lameness management programme, it won’t work for all farmers. The important thing, as all the time, is to work with them in setting achievable objectives, and suggest options which might be sensible and match inside their present system.

Different choices that needs to be thought-about are included within the “5 Level Plan”eight. One is the all the time basic quarantine of all incoming inventory (together with each bought and returning inventory) and which needs to be utilized anyway as a baseline biosecurity measure in each flock. A licensed vaccine for foot rot can be accessible, with the advice to vaccinate all inventory applied at a essential time of the yr (for instance, housing).

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Culling repeat and worst offenders, in addition to breeding from extra resistant animals, is an alternative choice to scale back incidence of lameness within the flock.

Figure 3a. Contagious ovine digital dermatitis. Lesions start with inflammation and ulceration at the coronary band.
Determine 3a. Contagious ovine digital dermatitis. Lesions begin with irritation and ulceration on the coronary band.

Relating to foot bathing; if finest apply is adopted, it will probably positively play a task within the management of lameness7. Dealing with services (race and penning) must be glorious. All sheep ought to stay within the bathtub for the really useful size of time (relying on the chemical substances used and the addition of a surfactant), and all sheep are required to face on a clear, dry and probably onerous space for at the very least half an hour after foot bathing. If all these measures are usually not in place, this apply could make the issue worse by growing unfold of the illness.

The frequency of foot bathing is one other level to contemplate, with recommendations of a weekly frequency being an answer for elimination/remedy of the illness9 and common (just a few occasions a yr, at housing and gathering) for prevention.

Lastly, chemical substances that can be utilized are both formalin or zinc sulphate.


Robust proof suggests early remedy of particular person sheep affected by foot rot with parenteral antibiotics is the very best and probably most cost-effective possibility10. The energetic rules which have proven efficacy are oxytetracycline (20mg/kg), gamithromycin (6mg/kg), tilmicosin (10mg/kg) and florfenicol. Topical antibiotic sprays containing oxytetracycline are additionally an possibility for delicate circumstances and to scale back additional environmental contamination.

Figure 3b. Contagious ovine digital dermatitis. The lesions progress to the separation at the skin-horn junction of the coronary band and under-running of the horn down to the sole.
Determine 3b. Contagious ovine digital dermatitis. The lesions progress to the separation on the skin-horn junction of the coronary band and under-running of the horn all the way down to the only.

On the similar time, an absolute ban on trimming ft as a remedy possibility for foot rot11 is properly established, with a really constructive farmer uptake on this message1. Though analysis has centered primarily on foot rot, it’s cheap to imagine comparable recommendation can be relevant for CODD.

Avoidance of trimming affected ft to restrict the unfold of the illness and to goal as a substitute for focused parenteral antibiotics is probably going the best choice. Instances of CODD don’t appear to answer both formalin or zinc sulphate foot bathing, whereas long-acting amoxicillin (15mg/kg), oxytetracycline (20mg/kg) and tilmicosin (10mg/kg) have all proven efficacy.


As for every other illness to sort out, you first must know your enemy. Veterinary involvement is essential in coping with lameness – each for definitive prognosis, in addition to tailor-made recommendation. As regular, the necessity for a well being plan with clear pointers of first-line remedy and management measures (from biosecurity for infectious ailments to particular lameness management) is a should. It additionally must be acknowledged we’re working with our purchasers, and no matter recommendation can be given has to suit with an present system and busy schedule.

Knowledge assortment (prognosis, prevalence of lameness and lameness scoring), a transparent thought of the assets (routine remedies, dealing with services and accessible labour), and a set of smart and achievable objectives are the idea for a profitable collaboration, and for the management of this vital production-limiting situation.

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