December 15, 2014

(Dan) Hey there folks, welcome to Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’m glad that you joined us today. Dr. Dorte Dopfer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine is going to join us today. We’re going to talk about digital dermatitis in cows. Otherwise known as heel warts or hairy heel warts. Thanks for joining us, stay tuned and more right after this break.

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(Dan) Folks welcome to Doc Talk. And Dr. Dopfer, thank you for joining us. (Dorte) My pleasure. (Dan) Folks this is Dr. Dorte Dopfer and she is an associate professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Madison in Wisconsin. And you’re in the Food Animal Production Medicine Section. (Dorte) Correct. (Dan) And we’re gonna talk about digital dermatitis. (Dorte) Right. (Dan) So, tell us a little bit about yourself, just so we can get to know you in the show. (Dorte) I am an associate professor as you said. I am a veterinarian epidemiologist microbiologist by training with a particular interest in infectious diseases in production animals and food animals. I’m very concerned about the well being of cows, whether that be beef or dairy. And digital dermatitis being one of the most common infectious claw diseases causing serious lameness problems in cattle, does apply to dairy and beef, in all intensive husbandry systems for cattle all over the world. (Dan) I think it’s great. And I really appreciate you taking the time to come down, be on the set and spend a little time because this is a serious issue. I mean digital dermatitis is some… when I was in feedlot practice and that we really didn’t see much of. And now we’re starting to see it in beef cattle operations, dairy operations. And it’s something that people out there should really take a look at. (Dorte) It really is a problem that is not recent in terms of having emerged in intensive cattle husbandry. It has been around for more than 30 years. I think it’s a the fact that I am here today, you said taking my time, it is about creating awareness as to how serious this problem is. And that actually there’s some key messages here where we have to make people aware that if you lift a cow’s foot to treat those sores, those ulcers at the skin, horn border that are usually red and raw and very stinky and very painful to the cows, they are already too late. Because the treponemes that are like cork screw shaped, strictly anaerobic. So they hate oxygen, these bacteria, once you lift that foot, they have already descended deep down into the skin where you really cannot reach them anymore by topical treatment. And so to me, creating awareness about digital dermatitis is telling people you have to prevent digital dermatitis and this applies to all life time faces of a cow, really, starting at calf age through pre-calving heifer age, lactating or beef producing animals and goes into the dry cow stage for dairy . (Dan) So what exactly is digital dermatitis? (Dorte) It is an erosion of the surface of the skin, usually at the skin, horn border and it is characterized by a red surface usually, but it can be proliferated as well which means there is chronic recurrent periodic kind of reoccurring lesions that will cause pain to the cows and they go lame. But actually if you rely on detecting digital dermatitis just by the lameness aspect of it you are even much more too late compared to just lifting the cow’s foot to treat them. (Dan) And it’s an infectious disease? (Dorte) It is supposedly transmitted between cows, yes. (Dan) OK. Well, we’re gonna take a break and when we come back we’re gonna talk more with Dr. Dopfer and we’re gonna talk about how we diagnose it, clinically and probably and how we get ahead of the curve before it is clinical. (Dorte) Correct. (Dan) Thanks for being here today. We’ll be back right after this break.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. It’s a pleasure to be here today with Dr. Dorte Dopfer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. And we’re having a great discussion about digital dermatitis. (Dorte) Yes, we were trying to continue talking about how we diagnose, how we detect heel warts in cattle, isn’t it? (Dan) Yeah. (Dorte) And it is very commonly done by observing cattle walking. Observing them while they’re feeding at the feed box. And what they do is what I call the tip toe dance. And cows that are in head gates or walking, tipping that one cow’s claw because they don’t want to over extend their fetlocks where these sores are (Dan) Cause that’s where it’s sore. And then they stretch that skin. (Dorte) Right. And it’s a matter of making people aware and being able to detect that so that they detect these lesions even before the cows become lame. And you can kind of train yourself, train your collaborators to doing that in more strategic ways, a systematic way by observing them in head gates, do so-called in parlor checks because then you have the cows feet up at eye sight. And you can discover these lesions even before the cows go lame which increases the success of topical treatment. (Dan) And I think that that’s been one of our keys, we haven’t done… in the dairy industry you all now have the scoring systems for lameness and the systematic lameness evaluations or assessments. (Dorte) I am gonna surprise you because the system from dairy is actually quite transferable to beef. (Dan) Absolutely. (Dorte) And we are using a tool that is called alley checks. We are gonna crowd our… like a panel feedlot cattle into a corridor and then with the dear help of good farm workers, we make them work in groups of three to four like in front of me and they stop at a gate, I can score the feet and then we let them go. So, there is a way for detecting digital dermatitis before you have these crippled, blocky claws where steers in feedlots are really extremely lame. And actually what we found… (Dan) Yep. (Dorte) Let me finish this because it’s really exciting. We found that even a lesion this size, of a quarter size, will change the gait and the locomotion of these steers significantly. (Dan) Wow. (Dorte) And using these alley checks actually we have a tool that will help the beef industry detecting DD earlier than we used to. (Dan) Well, it’s something that we definitely need to be on top of and when you start to think about something the size of a quarter not only causing the clinical signs but what it probably does to intake, which then goes to feed efficiency which then more days on feed and money. (Dorte) Right, what we find using exoralometers, activity meters, is that even if the tiny lesions are present the steers will lie down less often in terms of numbers, bouts of laying down and they will lie down for more time. And that means that is time that is not spent feeding. And so we are trying to quantify the economic losses that are associated with digital dermatitis and feedlot steers right now as we speak. (Dan) Huh. Well, diagnostically then once you see that, I assume and we’re gonna have to go to a break, then there are ways to test to make sure that that is what we have. (Dorte) Absolutely. You take samples you can quantify the treponemes, you can look into the cross sections of the skin and this all allows you to get a more complete picture of what digital dermatitis is in either dairy or beef. (Dan) That’s awesome. Folks, we’re gonna take a break. More on digital dermatitis when we come back.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson with Dr. Dorte Dopfer. And Dr. Dopfer is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison at the School of Veterinary Medicine where she is an associate professor in the Food Animal Production Medicine Group and you guys have a wonderful group, wonderful campus and you specifically do a lot of great work on animal health, animal well being and digital dermatitis as a focus. (Dorte) That’s correct. Actually I focus a lot on populations of cattle that suffer from outbreaks of digital dermatitis. And then there is always the question of how to diagnose this, how to treat it afterwards. And I think it’s a matter of training ourselves for recognizing it as early as possible and treating it as promptly as possible according to a good practice and standardized protocol. You don’t need anything exotic as far topical treatment you just have to be very persistent, detect early, treat promptly. And you have to be aware that they’re not every foot is alike, not every lesion is alike. We type our cows, we type our cattle according to recurrence of lesions. So we have a cow type one that never has these acute sores and they’re always part of populations. For cow type two- it is treated and never recurs. And we have this cow type three that has possible lesions every fourth night, every 14 days and you have to keep treating them. Those are a big concern to producers, that may be dairy and beef. And you want to be able to use those as indicator animals actually because if those problem animals are deteriorating and developing more serious lesions you know that the other ones will come in their wake and an outbreak is on the way. So, treating digital dermatitis is more than just topically treating these sores, it’s a whole concept that ranges and strategizes across all cow ages and feedlot ages, I would think. (Dan) Sure, and I think that when you start to think about you know, not all animals respond, not all people respond to treatments and that, as we move forward with these treatments what are some of the things that of course, we always recommend to our viewers work with your local veterinarian on diagnosis, treatment and things to that nature. But what are some of the things that we’re doing as far as the topicals or what are some of the products that are most effective that you you’ve seen? (Dorte) There are very commonly used antibiotics that I use, being used topically such as tetracyclines. And the message here is that you don’t need a huge amount of it. Two grams of tetracyclines any of the three types could be used topically on such a lesion after it has been cleaned with a disposable paper towel. And then there is a question about wrapping or not. I think you need not wrap. It is not feasible in feedlot cattle either. Treating the digital dermatitis is preventing these ulcers from becoming prolific recurring lesions. If you treat aggressively, you will provoke your own reservoirs of disease. And people’s awareness right now is like- the more the better. That’s not true any more. We have to train ourselves, make ourselves aware, no, there is an optimum, there’s a customized set of treatments that could be given and what we want to reach in the long run is called the manageable state of disease. Which is actually very much in agreement with our good practice of antibiotic use because if you reduce the prevalence of DD to a minimum where the farmer is very aware you don’t need to use these antibiotics to the extent that an outbreak situation would have. The same is true to hoof baths that can be customized in an ideal shape to the necessities of the farms. (Dan) Wow. It’s impressive and spot on with where we’re going with society and what we’re doing with judicious use of anti-microbials. So, let’s take a break and when we come back let’s get into the prevention. (Dorte) Alright. (Dan) Folks, thanks for watching Doc Talk. We’ll be back after a minute.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Dorte Dopfer. And she is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor in the Food Animal Production Medicine Section. And we’ve talked about hairy heel wart, digital dermatitis and the diagnosis, treatment. But really preventions really where we’re wanting to get to. (Dorte) Absolutely agree. And one message I want to get out there is I’m convinced that our producers care about their animals, so prevention is geared towards people who make their livelihood with these food animals. And prevention really is key. And prevention should start much earlier than what we’re doing. Particularly the pre-calving heifers don’t receive enough attention when it comes to claw health, why they are the future into the productive lives. And we have to take good care that they start their first lactation or their productive cycles as healthy claw wise as possible. Prevention strategy that we have developed is called the Integrated Prevention Control System Against Digital Dermatitis to reach this manageable state of disease. We identify a bunch of heifers that has the largest prevalence. We count about 60 to 90 days back which is the time that is needed to develop these lesions and we start with early detection, proper record keeping. For example using DD pen walks and a DD check app which is a mobile app, which allows you then in the end, if you have repeated measures, to protect outbreaks before they ever happen. We treat according to our standard protocol. We identify certain risk factors and litigate those, that is always part of this integrated strategy. And we look into sustainable hoof bathing that is customized to the dynamics and the needs of a certain farm. So, I would recommend like a standardized hoof bathing protocol and an ideal hoof bath let’s say Monday, Wednesday, Friday using standard chemicals. You don’t need anything exotic, you just have to be very persistent and manage your hoof bath well. And then once you reach this manageable state of disease you could swap out some of the commonly used hoof baths for something more sustainable that does not create worker’s health problems or environmental problems with residues. (Dan) So, do that on your off days. (Dorte) Yes. And you kind of keep exchanging these hoof bathing agents until you still maintain your manageable state of disease, but you use increasing amounts of sustainable hoof bathing agents. And you keep monitoring and since you are able to predict outbreaks before they happen by means of these DD pen walks, or in parlor checks or alley checks, you’re able to intensify your preventive measures before the big problem happens. (Dan) Yeah. I think it’s outstanding. We need to do that more in our beef operations as well and it would be very easy to incorporate into some of our cattle feeding operations. (Dorte) I think you need some training and increasing the awareness that there are tools that are very useful and you don’t need to over do your actions in terms of prevention and control to be successful, you just have to be well trained and very aware and very consistent. (Dan) The eye of the master. Thank you for joining us today. (Dorte) My pleasure, thank you for inviting me. (Dan) And folks thanks for watching Doc Talk. Remember always work with your local veterinarian and if you want to find out more about what we do here at Kansas State University you can find us on the web at Thanks for watching Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here from Kansas State University and I’ll see you down the road.

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