Digital Dermatitis

Digital Dermatitis (DD), commonly known as Hairy Heel Warts, is a common disease found in dairy cows. It is the inflammation of the skin around the area of cow’s hoof. Usually found on the hind feet at the back of hoof and between the bulbs of heels, this disease spreads into the cleft between the claws. 

It is a painful condition characterized by lameness, reduced milk yield, and less food intake. If not controlled, the disease may become serious, and take a toll on the life of the animal. 

The best way to manage and control DD is to treat warts during the early stages or prevent the cows from developing warts. It will save you from spending big bucks on treating the condition if it gets worse. 

Along with keeping the cows in a clean environment, here is what else you can do-

Keep The Cattle In Healthy Environment

The environment plays a crucial role in the spread of digital dermatitis. The reason is, the bacteria responsible for causing this disease can live for up to a year without a host. If you house the cows in a manure-ridden environment, they are exposed to more bacteria. As this environment is wet, it decreases the amount of oxygen, allowing certain bacteria to develop. 

When the lower portion of the cow’s leg gets caked in manure, it provides the bacteria with sufficient time to infect the feet. Cleaner and drier is the foot maintained; lower is the prevalence of dermatitis. 

Scraping at least thrice a day is necessary to control foot diseases. Automatic scrapers are the best to maintain a clean lower limb cow if operated continuously and over short distances. If you use automatic scrappers over a long distance, the cow will be more exposed to manure. 

Besides, overcrowding must be avoided as it increases the amount of manure in the free stall area. This situation creates competition for the free stall. As a result, timid cows don’t have access to the stalls, increasing the severity of foot problems they experience. 

Pay Attention To Cow Comfort

In addition to maintaining a clean and dry environment, make cow comfort a priority. Give them enough space to lie down, thus reducing the pressure on their feet. Allowing cows to lie down for 11-12 hours per day is considered ideal.

Further, improper stall diameters prevent a cow from using the free stall. It increases the amount of perching and makes the cow stand on concrete. Due to its rigidness, lack of cushioning for the soles, concrete paves the way for foot diseases. 

Also, heat stress is a significant cause of foot problems. If the cows are kept under heat stress conditions, they tend to stand more. To encourage them to use free stalls, install fans to allow convection cooling. In addition to fans, sprinklers that work on a low-pressure system do wonders. Remember, comfortable cows spend more time lying down and chewing their cud.

Another crucial thing to note is that cows shouldn’t be allowed to spend excess time standing in a pen for milking. It compels them to stand on concrete in stressful conditions and may lead to foot issues. 

If possible, use rubber matting in the holding pen to minimize the pressure caused by hard concrete.

Make Sure To Have A Foot Bath Or Spray Program

A foot bath is an important preventative measure for digital dermatitis. As a dairy producer, think of a foot bath as a teat dip that is used to prevent mastitis. A thing to keep in mind is that common solutions, such as copper sulfate or formalin, don’t treat DD.

However, they bind to the proteins present on the surface of bacteria and prevent them from gaining access to the wound. It causes the cells to leak and die, thus stopping the bacteria from proliferating.

Besides, rock salt or mild soaps are quite effective at cleaning hoof and limbs. Lime hardens the hoof. If your dairy is located in cold regions, you can use lime as a foot bath solution when the prevalence of DD increases. It works by drying the skin out.

Use the Right Method To Treat Affected Hoof

Not to mention, it is inevitable for dairy cows to develop digital dermatitis. Antibiotics and hoof care gel prescriptions from a professional veterinarian should be added into the footbath while adhering to the concentration and duration.

Wraps or bandages with aggressive solutions, such as salicylic acid, is another way to treat infected cows in the herd. In a holding pen where DD is prevalent, spontaneous regression is common. Pay attention to slurry removal, manure management, and keeping the housing facility clean.


Digital Dermatitis is a significant cause of cow lameness. However, if you take preventative measures to control and manage this disease, you can tackle the problem. Maintain a clean environment, make the cows feel comfortable, have footbaths ready at the place, and use the right treatment to treat the infected hoof.