Many pastures in the Eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma are now soggy from repeated rains and thunderstorms. Standing water and muddy conditions can increase the likelihood of “foot rot” in grazing cattle. Mechanical injury or softening and thinning of the interdigital (between the toes) skin by puncture wounds or continuous exposure to wet conditions are necessary to provide entrance points for infectious agents. Fusobacterium necrophorum is the bacterium most often isolated from infected feet, but is also frequently isolated from non-diseased interdigital skin. The majority of F. necrophorum isolated belong to biotypes A and AB which produce toxins that cause necrosis (decay) of the infected tissues.

Feet infected with F. necrophorum, serve as the source of infection for other cattle by contaminating the environment. Disagreement exists on the length of time F. necrophorum can survive off of the animal, but estimates range from 1 to 10 months. Once loss of skin integrity occurs, bacteria gain entrance into subcutaneous tissues, begin rapid multiplication and production of toxins that stimulate further continued bacterial multiplication and penetration of infection into the deeper structures of the foot.

Diagnosis of foot rot can be made by a thorough examination of the foot and characteristic signs of sudden onset of lameness, usually in one limb; elevated body temperature; interdigital swelling; and separation of the interdigital skin. There are numerous other conditions causing lameness and affecting the foot that may be confused with foot rot. Cattle grazing endophyte-infected fescue pastures occasionally develop fescue toxicity with loss of blood circulation to the feet and subsequent lameness. These cattle are sometimes mistaken as having foot rot.

Treatment of foot rot is usually successful, especially when instituted early in the disease course. Most cases require the use of systemic antimicrobial therapy. Learn more about treatments and prevention of foot rot by reading OSU Fact Sheet ANSI-3355 “Foot Rot in Grazing Cattle” by John Kirpatrick, DVM and David Lalman;

Visit with your veterinarian and determine the best antibiotic treatment for your cattle that have become infected with foot rot.

Because mature cows often are infected with foot rot and therefore treated with an antibiotic, it is extremely important for cattle owners to follow the label instructions completely. Do NOT market any treated cattle before the specified withdrawal time listed on the label of the product admininstered. Also keep treatment records with animal identification, date given, product name, lot or serial number, dosage, route of administration, and person giving the treatment.

Source: Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Extension Animal Reproduction Specialist (adapted from OSU Fact Sheet ANSI-3355)