Diseases that cause lameness in sheep: toe abscess

Find out how to identify a toe abscess and what treatment methods to use. 

Back to: Reducing lameness in sheep


  • Pus may ooze from the coronary band and at the boundary between horn and skin 
  • There may be a strong smell  
  • Affected hooves may be hot to the touch and painful before pus becomes visible  
  • Sheep will be very lame 


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

The white line

The white line is where the wall horn joins the sole horn. It is made up of a different type of horn, which is particularly prone to separation. Two diseases may be seen when this separation occurs: toe abscess and shelly hoof.  

A toe abscess occurs when infection gets into the white line – for example, with a stone or thorn – and an abscess then develops under the wall or sole horn.  

In shelly hoof, the wall horn comes away from the sole horn and the foot integrity is lost, but sheep are rarely lame. 


Drain abscess and reduce pressure by paring just the sole, as necessary. Treat immediately with antibiotic injection and spray. 


Keep stock away from areas that could cause foot damage, for example, hedge trimmings and thistles, wherever possible. 

Useful links  

Lameness in sheep: the five-point plan

Reducing lameness in sheep