Classification and Treatment of Digital Dermatitis

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

Digital dermatitisHairy Heel Wart - Digital Dermatitis, dairy hoof health, or hairy heel wart, is a widespread and prevalent disease among beef and dairy cattle which can have long term and severe impacts on herd health and productivity. This is a condition that dairy farmers cannot ignore and hope that it goes away. In an October 2015 article by Maggie Seiler, Special Publications Editor for Hoard’s Dairyman, she states:

Management commitments to hoof health are necessary to reduce the prevalence of the disease in the herd.

To care for your cows, you need a long-term strategy that begins with classification of the disease, and a commitment to treatment and management. 

Classification
An excellent method of digital dermatitis classification was introduced by Dörte Döpfer and associates in the 1990s which classifies warts into five different categories:

  • None: No lesions present.
  • Small: Affected area less than 3/4”, red to gray in color, and normal walking.
  • Large: Affected area larger that 3/4”, bright red or red-gray, walking is painful.
  • Healing: Scab covering affected area and becoming smaller.
  • Chronic: characterized by hard and thickened skin and/or continuous warts. Cows with warts in this category can suffer from chronic lameness.

Treatment and Management
Experience teaches that better outcomes prevail when treatment occurs before a large growth appears. Fortunately, there are many treatment options for managing hairy heel wart:

  • Topical salves
  • Antibiotics
  • Footbaths

AgroChem offers excellent options for dairy hoof problems. HealMax® is a biodegradable formula which achieves results without formaldehyde, heavy metals or harsh acids. It is available in a spray, foam, and footbath concentrate formulation, and remains effective in both hot and cold weather. HoofMax® is a footbath additive that can increase the potency copper or zinc sulfate for healthier hooves with more cow passes, less labor and waste, and reduced copper loading on land.

What about prevention?
The bad news is that hairy heel wart is widespread and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate. However, despite its prevalence, the good news is that this debilitating disease can be managed effectively. Producers who aren’t sure where to start might consider beginning their management program with fresh cow groups which are vulnerable to infection. With proper management, dairy farmers and ranch operations can reap the benefits of long term herd health and productivity.

For more information about digital dermatitis, talk to your veterinarian or hoof trimmer today.

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