(Dr. Dan) Hey folks, welcome to Doc Talk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson, I’m glad you joined us today. We’re gonna talk about digital dermatitis and our guest will be Dr. Brian Lubbers. We’re gonna talk about what can happen when it gets into the feedlot situation, how you can prevent it, how you can treat it, many different aspects of this crippling disease for cattle.
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(Dan) Hey folks, welcome to the show. Brian, welcome back. (Brian) Thanks. (Dan) Always good to have Dr. Brian Lubbers who is the Director of Microbiology of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab here at Kansas State
University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And Brian, you’ve had some experience with digital dermatitis. Not you personally. (Brian) Not me personally no. (Dan) But you’ve had some cases, whether it’s on dairies. But today, we want to hone in on the feedlot situation a little bit. What exactly is digital dermatitis? (Brian) So, it’s papillomatous digital dermatitis. It has a whole bunch of names actually. Strawberry foot rot, Mortellaro’s disease, that’s the guy that found it the first time. Hairy heel wart. Any of those we’re all talking about the same thing. And what it is, is it’s actually a pretty new disease. It was first described in the early 1980’s, was a while ago. But in diseases, that’s pretty early. We don’t really know what causes it. We think it’s caused by a bacterial pathogen. There’s probably many conditions so the environment, the pathogen itself, the animal that kind of plays into whether an animal is actually affected or not. But we think it’s a bacteria called treponema. (Dan) OK. So, describe a treponema. Because that doesn’t sound like just a normal bacteria. (Brian) Sure. It’s not. And probably the closest thing that most cattle producers would be familiar with, it would be relatively close to like a leptospirosis. (Dan) OK. (Brian) It’s actually in the same family as what causes trench mouth in people. So, it is a kind of an unusual pathogen on the veterinary side. (Dan) So, I mean, trench mouth and hairy heel wart and things like this. Is this captured in the environment? Is this something that is in the soil? (Brian) It probably maintains itself in the animal. So, we need an infected animal to bring it into a new environment. But what we know about it, which is actually pretty little, because it is a relatively new disease, is it probably persists in the environment for a long time. So, once you get it into a place, moist soil will maintain this bacteria for quite a while. (Dan) OK. And so… and that’s what I was also gonna say, when you hear heel rot or heel wart, trench mouth, things like that. It lends itself to moisture. Not necessarily an arid climate, I’m gonna assume. (Brian) Not necessarily. And what we know, we’re specifically talking about feedlot is animals that are pasture grazing in large settings are at lower risk than animals that are confined. And we think that probably has to do with moisture and mud and things like that. (Dan) And so, typically I’ve always thought of digital dermatitis or hairy heel wart, as more of a dairy…. (Brian) And that typically is the case. It was first described in Europe and the United States primarily in dairies. And so that’s kind of what we… and it was typically kind of started most of the original research and case reports were coming out of the large western dairy. And so originally we thought it was a large dairy herd problem. But now we know it’s pretty much spread across the United States. And like you said, we’ve seen it in some feed yards and are seeing it increasingly in feed yards. (Dan) Yep. Well, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back we’re gonna talk more with Dr. Lubbers about some of the clinical signs and what you’ll see in the feed of these animals that get digital dermatitis or hairy heel wart. We appreciate you watching the show. We’re gonna take a break and we’ll see you right after these messages.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Brian Lubbers. We’re at Kansas State University where Dr. Lubbers serves as the Director of Microbiology for our Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and we’re talking about digital dermatitis or hairy heel warts or strawberry foot rot. (Brian) Foot rot. Yep. (Dan) I love all the names. The digital dermatitis sounds a lot more scientific. But anyway let’s talk about the clinical signs. So, what am I gonna see out in the pen. Is it gonna be one animal, is it gonna be multiple animals? Does it… you know? (Brian) Sure. I think really what the challenge is how is digital dermatitis different from foot rot? Cause those are the two… those are probably the two closest things that a producer would see. And so if you’re comparing those to number of animals you know, with foot rot, there may be multiple animals affected at the same time but they’re probably all exposed at the same time. With digital dermatitis you would expect to see a few cases up front and then it kind of spread through that pen. Or even multiple adjacent pens. As far as lesions, the biggest thing if you’re looking at the animal from a distance, with foot rot, typically we’ll see some swelling in that foot above the hoof. We generally don’t see that with digital dermatitis. So, the lesion is pretty much confined to the heel. That’s why we call it hairy heel wart. And it’s usually on the back legs. So, if I’m kind of profiling a case of digital dermatitis, it will be an animal that has a back foot that’s affected. It will be not swollen. And it will be very, very painful. These lesions when you touch them, these animals will pull back their foot. A lot of them in the advanced stages of the disease they’ll do what they call a toe tipping walk, so they’ll just put weight on their toes. They won’t put weight on the heels. But the lesions can be in between the front of the toes, so you may see some unusual… but the typical case will be back foot, very painful and what we see an increasing number of cases. (Dan) Well, and the pain- fulness has to be something that kind of differentiates as well. But as you mentioned, you have to pick up the foot. (Brian) Yeah, to really tell those two apart and to confirm that you have a digital dermatitis case you have to pick up the foot. And if you have a veterinarian that you’re working with that has seen these cases before the lesions are pretty obvious. But it’s always… there may be cases where you’re either early in the stage of the disease or late where it’s starting to resolve on its own that the veterinarian may want to do a biopsy essentially and then we can then look for those… (Dan) Kind of a punch? (Brian) Yep, just take a sample of the skin out. We’ll send it into the lab like I said, we can do some special stainings and we look for those bacteria. (Dan) And does it smell as bad as like a foot rot? (Brian) Not typically, no. (Dan) OK. (Brian) No, the lesion, it has, it’s called strawberry foot rot for a reason because it actually looks like a strawberry. It gets that kind of red, it’s raised up, it will have little kind of indentations like strawberry skin. And it looks like somebody put a strawberry on the back of their foot. (Dan) So, just in general multiple animals, hind limbs, across multiple pens, different stages of the disease… (Brian) Very painful. (Dan) Very painful. And you gotta pick up the foot. (Brian) Yea, in dairies, one of the tests that we use for this disease is to actually spray the back of the foot with a hose. And if they pull their foot back from that kind of pressure, that’s a positive sign for it. (Dan) Cool. We’re gonna take a break. Folks, after the break, more about digital dermatitis with Dr. Brian Lubbers.
(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson here with Dr. Brian Lubbers. He is the Director of Microbiology at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Kansas State University’s D Lab. We’re talking about hair heel wart, digital dermatitis. And so we’ve gotten through what causes it and what it looks like. (Brian) Right. (Dan) Now, what do I do? I got an animal in the chute with it. (Brian) I think when we talk about digital dermatitis a lot of what we know comes from the dairy industry, cause they’ve been dealing with it a lot longer. And so, the things that we know work are topical antibiotics. And so what they would use in dairy would be either for an individual animal, so a small number of cases, we would take oxytetracycline, lincomycin, there’s a couple of others out there. Put it under a bandage, wrap the foot, put it on there and go away. OK. The other thing with larger number of cases would be to make an antibiotic solution and put it in the garden type sprayer and when they lock up the animals for a preg check or feeding or whatever, is to spray the back feet of the affected animals with that solution. Now when we try to take that into a feed yard. The logistics get a lot more complicated. We’re talking about facilities that aren’t meant to do those kinds of things. And so when we really don’t have good practical solutions for dealing with it in a feed yard on a large number of animals. Obviously, the individual animal when you get the first couple cases, you bring them into the chute. They’re in the chute to maybe even to confirm that that’s what it is. Then obviously those kind of measures, you know oxytetracycline powder, right there on the lesion and send them back either to the hospital pen or the home pen. (Dan) Absolutely. So, yeah, it would be a slightly different situation. We don’t have the back end of the steer looking at us two or three times a day where we could spray that foot, so treatment in the feed yard situation, we gotta go get those animals out of the pen and really that’s one of those things for me when the animal can’t compete any more at the pen level and they’re limping you know, bring them in to find out what’s going on. But in this situation probably better get on top of it, sooner rather than… (Brian) Absolutely. (Dan) Later. (Brian) Yea. And when we first found this disease here at Kansas State in the feed yard setting, it was… we thought… we had a feed yard that thought they were having an unusual foot rot problem and they weren’t responding to the injectable antibiotics, which is kind of another hallmark. There’s not a lot of research, but what we know is, a lot of the injectables are not going to be effective for this disease, and so we have to manage it some different way. So, get on top of it early. Manage it topically. The individual animal level. Really, the other thing we take from the dairies for practical solution is foot baths. (Dan) OK. And so foot baths can be a good way of preventing it from going on to the next animal. (Brian) And kind of managing larger numbers of animals. You know, as far as if we’re trying to treat larger number of animals, foot bath may be a lot more practical. (Dan) What are we putting in the foot bath? (Brian) Oxytetracycline, lincomycin, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, actually formalin also has been something that they’ve looked at for managing foot baths. (Dan) And I’ve seen it too where you bring the pen out and put the foot bath in the drover’s alley, run the group through there, run ’em back, going back to the home pen. (Brian) Yep, yep. (Dan) Different things we can set up. Alright. Well, we’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’ll have our wrap up with Dr. Brian Lubbers. We’re gonna be talking about digital dermatitis, in the feed lot setting. You’re watching Doc Talk and we’ll see you here, after the break.
(Dan) Folks, welcome back to Doc Talk. Dr. Dan Thomson and Dr. Brian Lubbers. Brian is the Director of Microbiology at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. And we’re talking about digital dermatitis. And as we left for the break, we jumped into foot baths. (Brian) Sure. (Dan) So, let’s kind of wrap up with foot baths and the characteristics and how you use ’em and when you use them and things to that nature. (Brian) Sure. And like I said the things you’d put into a foot bath would be antibiotics, zinc, copper, formalin. But it’s probably worth talking about the down side of a foot bath. And when you talk about foot baths, and again, we’re translating a lot of this from the dairy side, but managing a foot bath is a lot more than just putting a foot bath in an alley and walking some cows through. All of those antibiotics, mineral supplements that we would put in that foot bath all of them are deactivated by organic material, manure. (Dan) Right. (Brian) And so, keeping that foot bath clean becomes a very challenging proposition. Especially when you’re talking about tens, to hundreds, maybe even a thousand animals, you’re trying to get through a foot bath. So, you either have to pre-foot bath with a wash, or you just change that foot bath very, very frequently. And then there’s the environmental side too. You know, we start talking about putting zinc, and copper and antibiotics back into the environmental (Dan) And formalin. (Brian) And formalin. We’ve got all those challenges to face too. So, we talk about digital dermatitis in a feed yard and we don’t know a lot about it, and it’s just frustrating because logistically, it’s one of our most challenging diseases to fight. (Dan) Well, and I picture the old west show, the old John Wayne show, crossing the river and running ’em through the foot bath. (Brian) Something like that, yea. (Dan) You know. And just keep maintaining the solution where you want it… can be a logistical nightmare. (Brian) Yep. (Dan) But anyway, the dairies are just much more set up to control it and use products like that. Maybe we should be looking at areas like the processing barn and things like that as well. (Brian) Yep. And even with that it’s just, probably again, it’s one of these things we talk about it all the time get your veterinarian involved so you can talk about the specifics of what works in your specific farm, ranch, feed yard. (Dan) Absolutely. (Brian) You know, because there is no cook book solution for this disease. You know, we can talk to feed yard A and B and we’ll come up with two completely different plans for those yards. (Dan) And one of the things you said during the break is that when you get it, you get it in to your environment. It’s hard to control. It’s hard to prevent and it’s probably going to come back. (Brian) Sure. And we talked about treatment a little bit. The treatments the individual treatments, the topical treatments, there’s been enough research, we know they work. But the problem is the disease comes back. The animals don’t have good immunity to this specific bacteria and we… from what I’ve seen from dairy studies somewhere between 50 to 80 percent of the animals will get a lesion again, two months later or more. (Dan) Well, thanks a million for being on the show. (Brian) You bet. (Dan) It was a great show. As always. Dr. Brian Lubbers, Director of Microbiology here at Kansas State University. If you want to know more about what Brian and I do here at Kansas State University, you can find us on the web at www.vet.ksu.edu. Remember, always work with your local practitioner. Thanks for watching this morning. We appreciate you coming and spending some time with us. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. You’ve been watching Doc Talk. And I’ll see you down the road.
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