What is Digital Dermatitis or Mortellaro?

Dermatitis or Mortellaro

When it comes to your cow’s hoofs, it’s not just leaving them be because neglecting proper upkeep can lead to significant issues in the long run. One example is Digital Dermatitis (DD), also known as Mortellaro (M), which is increasing in herds worldwide. Digital Dermatitis is a bacterial disease primarily affecting the skin in the heel of cattle. 

It causes ulcerative lesions on the skin beside the interdigital cleft along the coronary band of the heel. These lesions lead to pain, discomfort, and lameness. This is a polymicrobial – it involves multiple strains of Treponema bacteria. The disease progresses through five distinct stages: M1, M2, M3, M4, and M4.1 – each with its own set of challenges and symptoms for the afflicted cattle.

The M stages of Digital Dermatitis

Dr. Dörte Döpfer from the University of Wisconsin, Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, USA, developed the M stages scoring system as an effective tool for monitoring and managing DD. There’s one more M stage – M0, which is a class for healthy cows. For the others:

  • The M1 stage: early stage with a small red/grey focal point of broken skin.
  • The M2 stage: acute stage with a bright red/grey ulcerative lesion, that is commonly painful to touch for the cow and that can produce a pungent odour.
  • The M3 stage: healing stage following treatment, with a painless lesion covered with a black/grey scab.
  • The M4 stage: chronic stage with painless lesions of various sizes and irregular proliferative overgrowths.
  • The M4.1 stage: chronic stage with a new M1 stage lesion in the middle of the M4 scab-like growth.

Repeated cases of M2 lesions often don’t respond well to topical treatment, leading to recurrent, painful M2 lesions in affected cattle. The M4 and M4.1 stages can act as reservoirs for the disease, with affected cattle often harbouring various Treponema bacteria species deep in the skin. These bacteria are considered to be the primary causative agents of DD.

As the lesions progress, it has been reported that the proportion of Treponemestends tends to increase, and the variety of Treponemespecies identified has evolved over time. This changing landscape complicates treatment, emphasising the need for proactive management and prevention strategies to combat DD effectively.

Don’t forget the Heifers and Dry Cows (Dairy cows)

Let’s not overlook the heifers and dry cows. Factors like stress and a weak immune system during early lactation can make them more susceptible to DD. The presence of DD can lead to reduced milk and fat yields.

Prevention for Hoof Protection

Prevention is key. The type of housing your cows are in plays a significant role. The more time the animals’ hooves are in contact with slurry on the ground, the higher the risk of developing DD. Shed cleanliness is an important factor in minimising the risk of DD.

Transmission of the disease mainly occurs through infected animals shedding the causative pathogens into the environment. Even though spending more time on pasture decreases the risk, it’s also important to be cautious of hoof trimming tools and maintain good biosecurity practices to prevent the spread.

Preventative Hoof Trimming and a Planned Footbath Programme

Hoof conformation can also affect susceptibility to DD, as the disease spreads through direct contact between the heel and slurry on the ground. Implementing regular preventative hoof trimming and maintaining a consistent footbath programme using Healmax Footbath solution for dry cows and in-calf heifers are key management practices to reduce the on-farm incidence of DD.

DP Hoof Care At Your Service

Caring for your cow is a complex task that requires attention to detail and being proactive. After all, healthy hooves equal happy cows which equals better farm productivity.

DP Hoof Care offers top-notch hoof care products. From the Vet Wrap Bandages to the Footbath Programme, we have everything you need to keep your cows’ hooves healthy. Our expert advice and support ensure your animals stay happy and healthy. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services.

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