Digital dermatitis

Digital dermatitis is a highly contagious, erosive infection usually affecting the skin on the bulbs of the heel but it can also be found between the digits or in the area of the coronary band.

Contact with slurry is essential for the development of digital dermatitis. The disease is more prevalent in housed herds with poor hygiene and wet conditions. NADIS data shows a higher instance of digital dermatitis during September - November.

What are the clinical signs of the disease?

The disease presents as lesions which follow 5 stages:

  • the paintbrush lesion: a few matted hairs
  • the pink lesion: loss of hair and skin damage
  • the red lesion; more severe skin damage
  • the white lesion: longer term lesion with the skin producing white keratin plugs
  • the black lesion: a scab over the damaged skin

Digital dermatitis causes pain and discomfort and can result in lameness. The majority of cows with the disease will withdraw their foot rapidly if pressure is applied to affected area eg, water pressure from a hose.

Prevention & control measures

Digital dermatitis thrives in damp dirty conditions, so keeping passageways clean and minimising cow contact with slurry reduces the risk of infection.

Stock coming onto the farm should be treated appropriately and kept seperated for 2 weeks before being footbathed again and mixed with the existing herd.

All possible hygiene measures should be taken to ensure against cross contamination eg, with foot trimmers.