How to Treat Foot Rot in Cattle, Goats, and Sheep

How Yeast Can Present in Chickens and also Cause Horse Hoof Problems

How to Treat Foot Rot in Cattle, Goats, and Sheep

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thrush and an overgrowth of yeast are often behind a case of foot rot in cattle and other livestock. Foot rot in cattle and all livestock needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Sheep foot rot can happen if the sheep are pastured in muddy fields. Standing in mud while grazing leads to the perfect conditions for foot rot. Goats kept in areas where they have no dry spot to stand often get thrush. The hooves have a distinctive, unpleasant odor. The animal may become lame from the inflammation caused by bacteria and yeast. Even poultry can suffer from illness relating to thrush and yeast overgrowth. Since we cannot control the weather, and many of us cannot add dry pasture land during the rainy season, how do we treat and care for animals with foot rot?

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How Hoof Rot in Cattle Begins

Take a look at how the hoof rot in cattle occurs. Bacteria and fungi need a few things in order to flourish. Warm, moist conditions are the favorite of fungi. The particular fungus most often seen in cases of foot rot in cattle is Chrysosporium spp.

The initial problem can be caused by wet conditions or foot injury. This leads to lameness and pain. Bacteria gain entry and cause further problems and lead the way for fungi to cause thrush, a smelly irritating condition in hoof rot.

Signs of Hoof Rot

In cattle, the back claw portion of the hoof is often involved. Also, the inflammation can be seen between the two sides of the cloven hoof. It is extremely painful for the animal to walk on and the cow will start to bear weight on different parts of the hoof. This leads to more lameness.

How to Treat

The most often used remedy for foot rot in cattle is copper sulfate foot baths. It should be noted that thrush and foot rot in cattle is one of the highest causes of economic loss for the cattle industry. Animals that are in pain do not eat well, convert feed into meat as well, or breed as well as healthy animals.

Hoof Rot in Sheep, Goats, and Horses

Just as with foot rot in cattle, other ruminants can suffer too. Sheep hoof rot and sheep illnesses resulting from hoof rot need to be addressed immediately. Proper and frequent hoof trimming does help control the conditions in which yeast thrive. The organisms most likely to cause sheep foot rot and goats are Fusobacterium necrophorum and Dichelobacter nodosus. Certain times of the year when moist, wet ground is likely, give the organisms just the right conditions to grow. An overgrowth of bacterial hoof rot then invites yeast organisms to also flourish. A small irritation between the digits of the hoof is all that is needed for the organism to gain entry and cause disease.

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How to Recognize and Treat Hoof Rot

The animal will exhibit lameness as a sign of hoof rot. If you are doing routine hoof trimming, you may notice a reaction from touching the tender spots. Sometimes the hoof rot area is hiding between the digits of the hoof. It looks like a red, irritated scrape and is tender. The animal may pull away and act very agitated when being treated.

As with foot rot in cattle, treatment is often copper sulfate foot baths. In addition to using copper sulfate or the commercial product known as Thrush Buster, I will also spray the irritated tissue with an antibacterial wound spray.

Hoof rot in horses is less serious although horses do need to be treated for thrush infections as soon as possible. The organism causing thrush in horses is Spherophorus neaophorus. Thrush in horses is primarily seen on the area referred to as the “frog” on the underside of the horse’s hoof. This horse hoof problem needs to be treated so that the hoof does not deteriorate. Lameness, limping and tenderness are signs that need to be checked. Your farrier can offer helpful treatment options and perform more frequent trims to keep the problem from recurring. The stalls should be kept dry and free from urine and feces build up. A diluted bleach solution is sometimes used to treat the thrush infection. Essential oil users have told me that they use a diluted solution of tea tree oil to treat thrush. In any cases of alternative treatment, consult your veterinarian.

Thrush and Yeast in Poultry

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Thrush caused by yeast and bacterial infections is not limited to animals with hooves. Controlling yeast and bacteria during wet rainy seasons is important to many species on the farm. Last winter we had a challenge from a yeast infection in our chickens resulting from the cold, wet conditions followed by warm wet muddy conditions. Two of our hens exhibited sick chicken symptoms and we discovered they had contracted sour crop which led to yeast growth in their throats. The yeast spores can accumulate in the throat and cause blockage. Removing the yeast growth manually using tweezers was the vet’s recommendation. Finally, I had the vet come out to the farm to see what I was dealing with. I was told that the yeast was forming a membrane that was keeping the hens from swallowing any food or water. As soon as I would clear their throats, the membrane would regrow, again closing off the esophagus. While the vet did prescribe an oral medication, the treatment did not work. The hens were lost. Thankfully, it was not a contagious strain that could be passed among the flock. The ground was covered as best we could with dry wood chips. This was the only time we have ever seen this phenomenon occur and it was quite time consuming and sad.

Can Problems Like This be Prevented?

Keeping your animals strong with good nutrition and optimal living conditions are the best ways to prevent infections leading to hoof rot and yeast infections. Feeding garlic and herbs to poultry, and adding raw apple cider vinegar (1 tbsp to 1 gallon) to the poultry waterers helps keep their immune systems strong and less attractive to bacteria and fungi. Treat all irritations in the hoof area quickly and improve the conditions as best you can, to prevent foot rot in cattle and other ruminants.

Have you dealt with foot rot in cattle or other thrush and yeast problems on your homestead? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published in 2016 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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