Main Hoof diseases

For many cattle farmers, hoof diseases are in the top three main causes of premature disposal of dairy cattle. What's more, cows that are not properly trimmed run the risk to going lame, negatively impacting milk production. Besides good food and housing, proper hoof care is therefore essential for your animals' well-being.

Most common diseases that occur:

Dermatitis Digitalis or Mortellaro's disease

Mortellaro disease is the most common claw condition in dairy cattle. In 1974, this condition was first described by Professor Mortellaro, where the name of the condition comes from.

Mortellaro is an infection of the skin at the transition from skin to horn and can usually be seen between the two claws, in the so-called ball area. Visible is a red - strawberry - like leasie with a characteristic odor. It is a painful condition for the cow. The nature of the condition is divided into five categories, namely M0 to M4, with M4 being described as chronic.

Cause of Mortellaro disease is an infection with the Treponema bacterium. This rolled-up bacterium digs its way into the skin like a corkscrew and will cause inflammation in the deeper skin layers (Lammers 2016). Treatment of this disease consists of treatment of the claws, regular use of foot baths and a dry environment. Eradicating the condition is difficult and is rare, requiring repetition of treatment. Vaccination against Mortellaro disease is already well documented in the literature but only on a small scale and with varying success (Palmer 2015).

Stink paw

Stink paw is an infection of the intermediate claw skin caused by Bacteroides nodosus. It gives a painful swelling and has a typical smell, hence the name stinkpoot. This condition is often a precursor, or comes in combination with, mortellaro (Lammers 2016).

Good hygiene in the barn, clean boxes and little manure on the cocks helps to prevent stinking paw. Treatment of stink paw consists of cutting away the open horn. This in combination with a good foot bath, causes the claw to be disinfected, makes that stink paw gets few opportunities.


Between claw inflammation

Intermittent inflammation is an inflammation of the tissue of the intermediate claw gap. 

It always damages due to damage, for example due to pebbles, uneven floors, scrapers, etc. Damage can cause bacteria, ie fusobacterium, to penetrate and damage the tissue. Cows can get a fever and reduced appetite as a result of the inflammation. Treatment with antibiotics and / or penicillin. Depocillin is a widely used antibiotic (Lammers 2016).


Whiteline's disease

The white line is the connection between the sole horn and the wall horn. Its structure is soft, which is why it is also a vulnerable area. With the white line disease, the claw-horn is often damaged, caused by pebbles from other hard objects. In case of damage, bacteria can easily penetrate and cause inflammation.


By properly infecting the inflammation can come 'loose' and after proper disinfection of the wound it can heal again. Often a block is put underneath to reduce the pressure of this area of ​​the claw (Lammers 2016).


Sole bleeding

Sole bleeding is the most common - non-infectious - claw disease in dairy cattle. Visible are bleeds in the sole horn with the result that in serious cases the cow is visibly crippled. Causes are often sought in food, but the load (cow comfort) also plays an important role. When cubicles give too little comfort, more positions have more pressure on the claws. This stimulates sole bleeding. Pen acidification can also be a major cause of this condition, as are mycotoxins. In the course of time, the hearing growth-related causes can cause bleeding.


Treatment of sole bleeding consists of a combination of blood haemorrhages, blood additions and blockades. Even more important is to prevent sole bleeding by allowing ration and cow comfort to be as optimal as possible. Sole bleeding is also sometimes called a symptom, so with a different underlying cause. It is so important to find out the underlying complaints in addition to treatment of the bleeding.


Sole ulcer

A sole ulcer is less of the final stage of sole bleeding. With a sole ulcer there is a hole in the sole. This can mean that it is easy to get in the claw and cause damage. Usually, a sole ulcer occurs in the outer claw of the hind legs. Often it goes with stink paw. Because excess horn is enlarged in the case of a stink leg, the pressure distribution is unequal, which leads to sole ulcers.

In the case of sole ulcers, the cause is mainly sought in diet and cow comfort. Furthermore, it has been described that the (long-term) administration of biotin has a positive effect.

In conclusion, it can be said that there are multiple claw disorders with multiple underlying causes and also multiple consequences. Treatment focuses in particular on good hygiene and good cow comfort. In addition, a well-balanced ration is a prerequisite for optimal claw quality.