Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Digital dermatitis (Farmer Factsheet)

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, XLVets , Nick Bell

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  • Bovine Digital Dermatitis (BDD) is a common cause of infectious lameness worldwide.
  • BDD is a major cause of lameness in dairy herds, but has also been identified as a growing issue for beef cattle in the UK.
  • Severity of the foot lesions, combined with the high herd prevalence, make BDD a cattle industry welfare concern.
  • The negative financial impacts of the disease (milk drop, treatment costs, labour costs) and effects on herd health parameters, such as reproduction, make BDD a costly disease to ignore. Conservative estimates of costs range from £50 - £100+ per case of BDD.
  • There is need for an integrated prevention and control strategy for calves (4 weeks old) to heifers, to milkers, to dry cows.
Signs of BDD
  • Many infected animals do not appear lame (ie not always AHDB mobility score 2&3 or equivalent). 
  • The classic BDD lesion is found above and between the heel bulbs of the hind feet.
  • Ulcerative BDD lesions are extremely sensitive and readily bleed (ulcerative lesions). It is this sensitivity which causes lameness.
  • Lesions can be described as:
    • Active: red, ulcerated or early granulomatous lesion. Acutely painful. Some experts divide into lesions >2cm and <2cm (named M1 and M2).
    • Healing: covered by a dark scab. 
    • Dormant: often warty but some cows with normal or thickened skin are carrier cows. These cases act as an important reservoir for infection.
    • Reactivating (recurring): these start as small areas of ulceration in warty lesions or previously infected skin.
  • Cows are often seen shaking the affected foot once placed and may appear to walk on the toe.
  • BDD has been reported in calves as young as 4 weeks old.
Image courtesy of Nick Bell.
Image shows an M2 digital dermatitis lesion.

Cause

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How are bacteria (Treponemes) transmitted between individual cows and farms?

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Monitoring

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