Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Animal Disease Center » Infectious Bacterial Diseases Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #312492

Title: The etiology of digital dermatitis in ruminants: recent perspectives

item Wilson-Welder, Jennifer
item Alt, David
item Nally, Jarlath

Submitted to: Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/24/2015
Publication Date: 5/4/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Wilson-Welder, J.H., Alt, D.P., Nally, J.E. 2015. The etiology of digital dermatitis in ruminants: recent perspectives. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports. 2015(6):155-164.

Interpretive Summary: Digital dermatitis is an infectious disease and leading cause of lameness in cows. This manuscript provides a review of recent advances in our understanding of the digital dermatitis complex, a disease which is now also recognized in sheep and elk. Whilst a definitive etiological agent had yet to be described, data suggests a significant role for the bacteria treponemes. There is an urgent need to develop animal models of infection in order to critically assess disease progression, prevention and treatments.

Technical Abstract: Digital dermatitis is a multifactorial polymicrobial infectious disease originally described in dairy cattle but is increasingly recognized in beef cattle, sheep and more recently, elk. Clinical bovine lesions typically appear on the plantar surface of the hind foot from the interdigital space and heel bulb to the accessory digits, with a predilection for skin-horn junctions. Lesions present as a painful ulcerative acute or chronic inflammatory process with differing degrees of severity that likely reflect disease progression, as reflected in a number of different clinical descriptions with overlapping pathologies but which ultimately have a related bacterial etiology. The goal of this review article is to provide a concise overview of our current understanding on the digital dermatitis disease complex to facilitate clinical recognition, our current understanding on the causative agents, and recent advances in our understanding of disease transmission.