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The humble foot abscess

The wet conditions bring significant foot abscess risk across cattle, sheep and horses especially on areas that have retained excessive moisture. Foot abscess is a localised infection within the hoof that causes significant pressure and lameness with associated loss of production. Monitor stock and treat early to prevent unwanted secondary complications including joint infection. In all species, look for severe single limb lameness, usually accompanied by swelling at the coronary band that may extend up into the fetlock.


Treat foot abscess early. Oxytetracycline or amoxicillin are the antibiotics of choice combined with long acting meloxicam anti-inflammatory. Heavy bulls are at particular risk. This is a significant cause of transient bull breakdown at the moment and can cause permanent damage if not addressed early. Foot rot is a key differential. This is different to sheep footrot and has no reporting or quarantine requirement. Isolated cases of cattle footrot can be treated with antibiotics. Foot bathing has a role in feedlot outbreaks.


Individual treatment is based on individual flock management preference, but drug choice and the importance of timeliness mirrors cattle. Focus on rams to prevent joining wastage. Abscesses are often accompanied by poor hoof wear. Targeted paddock selection of rockier/hilled ground can be an important prevention strategy. Sheep footrot is reportable and quarantinable, so high lameness incidence should be followed up/diagnosed.


Poultice to encourage the abscess to break-out and utilise oral bute anti-inflammatories. Systemic antibiotics are assessed on a case by case basis. Update tetanus cover.


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