These two conditions are often mentioned concurrently and seen as one and the same, but are entirely different diseases with different causes, prevention, and prognoses. Both have a detrimental effect on the production, reproduction, and welfare of sheep. Distinction between them can be made on the farm by following these guidelines:
(Remember that it is important to turn over the sheep to properly examine the hoofs.)
- It is contagious. The germ that causes it can only survive in the hoof. In the soil, it cannot survive for longer than a few days. The drier the conditions, the shorter it survives.
- Often occurs as an outbreak, with often more than one foot affected.
- Prolonged wet grazing conditions are the main cause.
- The foot is usually not swollen or warm but issues a dark grey puss with a very foul odour between the hooves.
- In advanced cases, the sole and hoof wall may detach. The hoof crown is not affected.
- The germ that causes it lives in the soil, where it can survive for months. The wetter the conditions are, the longer it survives.
- Foot abscess affects single animals sporadically and usually only one foot. Outbreaks can occur if conditions are particularly favourable.
- Is often associated with lesions on the feet. Ticks and hard, rocky veld play a role here. Prolonged wet conditions can also cause the germ to penetrate the now-soft hoof.
- The affected foot is usually warm, swollen, and the hoofs splayed.
- As the condition progresses, there will be clear swelling of the hoof crown, which may rupture and issue a yellowish, somewhat odourless puss. The affected hoof is thereafter permanently deformed.