Sheep and Goat Diseases, Footrot, Diagnosis and Treatment
Footrot, or foot rot, is painful, infected animals will be reluctant to stand, or walk, and as such will have a harder time grazing, and moving about in the pasture to get water. It is most common during the warm wetter times of year.
Although I often refer to sheep, this information applies to both sheep, and goats.
Symptoms of Footrot in Sheep and Goats
- Footrot tends to be more common in front feet only, in which case affect animals may stand using their hind feet, but be resting on their knees.
- When the hind feet are infected with footrot the animal may stand with its back legs under its body and appear to stand on its toes.
- In severe cases an infected sheep or goat will resist standing.
- Upon examination of the hoof it will be soft and smelly.
- In some cases the feet will be covered in manure, thus trapping the bacteria.
Causes of Footrot
Dichelorbacter nodosus is a bacteria that lives in the foot of an infected sheep, but cannot survive longer than 2 weeks in the general environment.
What Happens in Footrot?
Again, footrot is more common in warm, wet, weather. Mud and manure gets stuck in the hoof, particularly if it is long and not trimmed. The bacteria trapped with this barrier flourishes and begins to rot the fot, eating away at the hoof tissue, often causing the sole and the hoof wall to separate.
True footrot starts when a sheep infected with Dichelorbacter nodosus bacteria is introduced to the flock. The bacteria is shed into the soil where other sheep become infected via contact. True footrot can cause mild to severe lameness.
How to Treat Footrot in Sheep or Goats
Trim the feet of all the sheep and goats, including those that are not showing lameness or signs of footrot. The hoof trimmers should be disinfected between animals and the lame animals should be separated from those who do not appear to be infected with footrot. In severe cases very lame animals may need to be culled. Those sheep who are infected should be treated with an antibiotic, and their feet trimmed down to healthy tissue. Hand held gardening pruning shears work well for hoof trimming.
The sound (not lame) sheep should be moved to a new, dry, pasture, and kept away from the infected animals. The lame sheep should also be kept on dry ground.
Sheep and goats infected with footrot should have their feet soaked in 20% zinc sulfate (available at livestock supply and feed stores, as well as from livestock veterinarians) solution; made to stand it in for 1 hour per week, for 8 weeks. They should even be soaked twice within the first week. The solution is toxic so the animals must not be allowed to drink. Adding dish detergent will help the solution stick to the hoof. The animals should have their feet trimmed again at 4 weeks into the treatment.
Sheep and goats who are not infected should have their feet soaked in a similar way for 3 weeks, again with 2 soakings for the first week.
How to Prevent Footrot in Sheep and Goats
- Proper drainage of the pasture is very important.
- Be careful when buying new animals, avoid buying from unknown sellers, never buy a lame animal.
- Keep the feet well trimmed (this can be done at shearing time).
- Avoid having animals standing in damp manure.
Note there are other conditions involving bacterial infections of the hoof in both sheep and goats, including foot scald and abscesses, however different bacteria is involved in these infections. A veterinarian can test to see what kind of bacteria is present.