8 January 1999

Sheep and cattle foot disease link

DIGITAL dermatitis in cattle and a new type of highly infectious foot-rot in sheep are caused by similar bacteria and may be linked, according to a report in Vet Record, Dec 19, 1998.

Shrewsbury-based VLA scientific officer Roger Naylor says bacterial investigation shows the causal group of bacteria involved in this type of foot-rot is spirochaete, which is similar to bacteria causing digital dermatitis in cattle.

Despite links between digital dermatitis and the new strain of foot-rot, there is no evidence yet to suggest it can be transferred from one species to another, he says.

The new strain differs significantly from traditional infections in that it is much more virulent and does not usually contain the bacteria – D nodosus – normally responsible for foot-rot, says Mr Naylor.

It spreads quickly within a group of sheep, normally affecting only one claw of one foot. In some cases it leads to under-running of the whole horn case which eventually comes free, leaving a bleeding stump of soft tissue.

"It is worse than normal foot-rot and is extremely debilitating and painful, but does have the same unpleasant smell," says Mr Naylor. "Isolate infected sheep as soon as possible, because it spreads so fast, and treat accordingly."

Shrewsbury vet Chris Lewis advises producers with infected sheep to consult their vet because specialist products are needed. &#42