All hoofed animals are susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections of the hoof. Horses often suffer from mud fever, greasy heels, and thrush, while our cloven-hoofed friends – sheep, cattle, and goats – are all prone to hoof rot.
Whether you’re battling with an outbreak of hoof rot in goats or sheep, or wondering how to treat hoof rot in cattle, this article can give you some useful pointers.
Signs of Hoot Rot in Goats
It’s difficult to ignore a serious case of hoof rot – the stench alone should be enough to alert you to the problem. If you want to be sure that you’re dealing with a case of hoof rot, however, look for the following symptoms:
- The smell!
- Inflammation and pinkness between the two toes
- Separation of the wall from the rest of the foot
- The goat is limping or grazing on its knees
- The hoof is sensitive to the touch
If the hoof rot is particularly severe, pus will be visible between the two toes, and the affected animal may show signs of discomfort, be running a fever, and lose its appetite. In the most serious cases, the horn or walls of the hoof can become completely detached or they can be attached only at the coronet.
This can lead to secondary infections, abscesses, and flystrike, which, in turn, can cause septicemia or toxemia.
What Causes Hoof Rot?
Footrot is caused by two bacteria – Fusobacterium necrophorum and Dichelobacter nodosus.
Fusobacterium necrophorum is a common bacteria that is found all over the world. It is found in both soil and manure and “is a natural inhabitant of the large intestine of small ruminants.” This bacteria, alone, can’t cause hoof rot in goats, sheep, or any other ruminant – it needs the second bacteria, Dichelobacter nodosus, to do this.
Dichelobacter nodosus can only survive up to 14 days in the soil and “yet can survive in the hoof for extended time periods given the right anaerobic environment.”
Add a little interdigital irritation to the mix and you’ve created the perfect environment for foot rot. Hard or frozen surfaces can irritate the soft tissue in the goat’s hooves, as can mud and manure. Similarly, moving a herd from a muddy paddock to a very dry one can cause the skin between the toes to crack, giving the bacteria a chance to attack.
Is Hoof Rot in Goats Contagious?
Whether or not hoof rot is contagious seems to be something of a bone of contention. One article I read stated clearly at the start that “foot rot is defined as a contagious disease” but, a couple of sentences later declared, “Because foot rot can be caused by a ubiquitous bacterium, it is not considered contagious.”
Can Hoof Rot Be Cured?
While foot rot is curable, some strains are more stubborn than others. The benign form of hoof rot is relatively easy to treat, whereas the virulent strain is more challenging and could require you to quarantine your affected animals.
Effective treatment of foot rot requires a multi-faceted approach that can be both costly and time-consuming. Most farmers, homesteaders, vets, and other goat enthusiasts recommend prevention over cure.
How to Treat Hoof Rot in Goats
The first step is to identify the affected animals and separate them from the rest of the herd, ideally moving them onto a dry pasture or enclosure.
Once that’s complete, you can embark on your hoof rot treatment program. To being with, you need a clean hoof so you can see the extent of the infection. Then you can start trimming your goat’s hooves and cutting away any infected tissues.
Once you’re happy with your trim, scrub the area with a medicated product like Dr.Naylor’s Hoof ’n Heel.
Another easy solution to try is No Thrush hoof treatment. This product was design to treat thrush but it is also effective for treating rot, scratches, and fungus.
You can also create a foot spa for your goats with water and 10% copper or zinc sulphate. The footbath approach requires a lot of patience from both you and your goats as each one needs to stand in it for 5 to 15 minutes, making it a time-consuming process for those with a large herd.
You can make this process a little easier with a poultice boot, which keeps the solution around the hoof without you needing to hold your goat’s hoof in a bucket.
A quicker hoof rot treatment is to simply walk your herd through a 3 or 3.5% formalin solution, although you may need to get this from your vet, making it potentially more costly.
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Similarly, antibiotics can be extremely effective in treating goats, as well as sheep, and eliminates the need for topical treatments and foot baths. The most effective antibiotics are procaine penicillin and oxytetracycline.
Some goat breeders also recommend supplementing your herd’s diet for a day or two with a mixture of copper sulphate, dolomite, and vitamin C.
How to Prevent Hoof Rot in Goats
As with most things, when it comes to hoof rot in goats, prevention is much better than the cure which is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and potentially costly.
There are a few steps you can take to make sure you never have to experience the stench of hoof rot ever again. These include:
- Checking all potential livestock purchases for signs of hoof rot or lameness
- Quarantining all new animals for 30 days
- Regular hoof maintenance, including trimming every 6 to 8 weeks and topical hoof rot treatment every four weeks.
- Maintain good drainage in your goat pastures and enclosures
If you don’t mind spending an arm and a leg on your goat’s feet, then vaccinating is an option. There are various vaccines available and you should seek advice from your vet before making a purchase.
Most vaccines provide 4 to 6 months’ prevention and have “a 60% to 80% success rate.” Unfortunately, vaccines aren’t effective in all situations, and withdrawal periods need to be carefully observed for both meat and dairy goats.
- Read more: 17 Fun facts about goats you didn’t know
Prevention Beats Cure
Hoof rot is an unpleasant condition for goats and goat owners alike. It can be time-consuming and expensive to treat, making prevention the better option where possible. Although foot rot in goats can be just as effectively treated as hoof rot in horses, it can affect the profitability of your herd, as well as their general well-being.
Those with muddy fields and sodden enclosures have a particularly tough time preventing hoof rot and would be well-advised to use topical treatments every few weeks or consider vaccination.
Although unlikely, in a large herd, culling may be the only way to control the spread of the disease, especially if some animals are so badly affected that they don’t respond to treatment. The key point to take away from this article is to never overlook the importance of regular hoof maintenance.