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Toe Abscess in Feeder Cattle

April 5, 2016

About Toe Abscess
Toe abscess (toe tip necrosis) is most commonly seen in feedlot cattle and is likely subsequent to excessive abrasive damage to the hoof, especially the toe tip. Feet may become infected when the white line is damaged which opens the claw to bacteria, dirt and manure.

The lateral claw of the hind foot is most often involved, and sometimes both hind feet may be involved. Affected animals may be moderately to severely lame, depending on the extent of the infection into the sensitive tissues Untreated cattle may develop joint infections and ascending leg infections, which significantly limit productivity and the likelihood of recovery.

Careful, prompt examination of lame cattle is important. The condition must be differentiated from foot rot, which is an infection of the interdigital area. Shortened toe tips and thin soles are common in cattle with toe abscess. The claw horn may separate from the sole at the toe tip resulting in an obvious separation. Finishing rations can contribute to softened soles and separation, predisposing cattle to infections. Examination of the sole surface of lame cattle and application of hoof testers is important in the diagnosis of toe abscess and treatments includes careful trimming of affected claws, removal of all undermined hoof horn and infected tissues and application of blocks to the sound claw to provide pain relief.

Only veterinarians and trained hoof trimmers should treat these cattle. Infection of the bone or coffin joint may occur in cases that are not examined and treated promptly. Cases of toe abscess will not be responsive to systemic or injectable antibiotics. Advanced cases have a poor prognosis. In general, lameness, which does not respond to a single dose of a long acting antibiotic, should be examined by a veterinarian.

Dairy cattle develop a similar problem known as toe ulcer. This problem may arise following laminitis, thin soles or from over-trimming. Treatment of toe ulcer is similar to that of toe abscess in feedlot cattle, with trimming of infected tissue being the mainstay of therapy.

Prevention includes good stockmanship, routine maintenance of facilities and the provision of devices which improve traction and prevent abrasion at sites of potential toe injury, such as chute exit areas.
For more information related to toe abscess or other hoof related problems, contact Dr. Dale Miskimins.

Source: Dale Miskimins, DVM, South Dakota State University, and Meredyth L. Jones, DVM, Texas A&M University