Diseases that cause lameness in sheep

Find out about the main causes of lameness to help you to identify, prevent and treat disease.

Back to: Reducing lameness in sheep

What are the main causes of lameness?

There are six main causes of lameness in sheep. These are:

  1. CODD (contagious ovine digital dermatitis)
  2. Footrot 
  3. Scald
  4. Toe granuloma
  5. Toe abscess
  6. Shelly hoof

Effective management of lameness depends on correct identification. Our descriptions and illustrations on the pages below will help you to assess lameness.

You can also see our decision tree for lameness to help to in diagnosing the cause.

CODD (contagious ovine digital dermatitis)

CODD initially occurs at the top of the hoof (coronary band) and often results in severe lameness. It is essential to seek veterinary advice for the latest recommendations as soon as CODD is suspected.

Find out more about CODD


Footrot, like scald, is caused by the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus, which lives on sheeps’ feet. The bacteria are present on about 97% of farms.

How to spot the signs of footrot


Scald is an early presentation of footrot and sheep can be very lame with only minor lesions. Find out more about the symptoms and how to treat it.

Scald in sheep

Toe granuloma

Toe granulomas are more likely to occur on farms where footrot and CODD are also present. Read how to treat and prevent this disease.

Managing cases of toe granuloma

Toe abscess

Puncture of the hoof, or separation of the white line, can lead to infection and abscess formation in the foot.

Find out how to treat toe abscesses

Shelly hoof

The cause of shelly hoof has not been identified. However, associations with damage from rough or wet ground, stony standings or nutritional imbalance have been implicated.

Learn more about shelly hoof

Useful links

Reducing lameness in sheep

Lameness in sheep: the five-point plan