Treating Hoof Rot in Goats

Hoof rot in goats: What causes foot rot in goats? How can I treat hoof rot in goats?

Hoof rot is a nasty condition that many livestock species can get.  Treating hoof rot is easy if it is caught early.

If you think one of your goats has foot rot, check them ASAP.  The sooner you can get them treated the easier it will be on both you and them.

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What is hoof rot?

Hoof rot, foot rot, foot scald, thrush.  All of these are terms used to describe the same type of problem.

Hoof rot is a condition that is caused by an infection from two types of bacteria.

Goats have cloven hooves and an interdigital space between the two toes. This interdigital space is warm, which is attractive to pathogens looking to set up shop.

Infections don't usually bother animals that have dry space between the toes.  The bacteria that cause hoof rot prefer moist and warm environments.

​Hoof rot is most likely to occur when the goats are on wet pastures for extended periods of time.  The interdigital space becomes moist and warm, which creates the perfect home for bacteria.

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What causes thrush in goats?

Two types of bacteria cause foot rot in goats: Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacteroides nodusus.

F. necrophorum is an organism that lives in the soil where ruminants are.  The F. necrophorum is found in the digestive tract of ruminants and therefore the pastures where they are kept.

It doesn't want to be in the air because it is anaerobic and can only grow in the absence of oxygen.  This is exactly the situation in deep, muddy pastures or stalls.

B. nodosus cannot live in the soil for more than about 10-14 days but can live in the hoof tissue for extended periods of time.

When Bacteroides nodusus is introduced, the two organisms work together and create an enzyme that causes hoof rot.

These two organisms cannot penetrate the healthy tissue of the hoof.  There has to be an 'entryway' for them.  This can be created by moisture or injury.

​Goats that are in frozen pastures often create small nicks and cuts in the skin between the toes.  When the frozen pasture thaws and turns muddy, the bacteria are able to quickly enter the injured areas.

Purdue University has a great PDF printable that goes into more detail about foot rot in sheep and goats.

What are the signs of foot rot?

You may notice your goats limping, holding up a leg or even trying to walk around on their knees.

There are many reasons that goats may have foot problems, but hoof rot is common and should be a first thought.  If you notice any of these symptoms, it's time to investigate.

When you pick up the injured foot you will notice a sick, sweet smell.  The hoof has a distinct, nasty odor when a goat has thrush.

The hoof won't smell like manure or dirt.  The foot often smells strong enough that you can smell it as soon as you pick the foot up.

​You might also notice some bleeding or tissue between the toes that looks 'sticky' or wet.

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Goats with foot rot may have other symptoms such as:

-reduced weight gain
-weight loss
-decreased appetite
-decreased milk or fiber production
-inability to reproduce
-lying down for extended periods of time
​-rubbing the hair off of knees, legs or the side

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Make sure that your goat has hoof rot and not another foot problem like an abscess, founder, or an injury.

Be prepared with a pair of hoof shears, a damp rag and a hoof pick.  Clean the hooves out and trim them back if needed.

Make sure there aren't any rocks or cuts that may be causing the soreness.

Hoof rot causes sticky tissue between the toes. Again, you'll notice a distinct odor if the goat has thrush.

If your goat has hoof rot, you'll want to treat that immediately.

​This video gives more information about how you can recognize different foot problems:

Can foot rot be cured?


Treating foot rot is easiest when you first notice it.

​The bacteria and fungi will continue to eat away at the tissues though, so the longer you wait to treat it, the harder it will be to get rid of.

Treating hoof rot

You can treat thrush at home without a veterinarian most of the time.  Treat it early to prevent injury in the deeper tissues of the foot.

Put the goat in a milking stand or have someone help you as you treat the hoof.  The foot is quite sore and they aren't going to want you touching it.  It makes it easier if you have help that can distract the goat while you work.

Start by trimming the feet up.

Cut off any excess hoof tissue to create a nice clean working area.

​If you notice any rotting hoof or tissue, trim it off.  This exposes it to the air and will reduce the chances that your goat will develop severe hoof rot.

Use a warm, wet cloth and clean up around the foot. Remove any dirt or debris.  Use a hoof rot treatment, such as Hoof n' Heel, and soak the infected area.

Hold the hoof upside down when treating to make sure that the medication gets down into the infected tissue really well before you put the foot down.

Repeat the treatment twice a day until the tissue is healthy and the goat is no longer sore.

For multiple goats with foot rot, it's a good idea to use a foot bath system to treat cases of hoof rot.

You can fill foot baths with zinc sulfate or copper sulfate.  Both of these are chemicals that help to dry out the hoof.

Pare the hoof down and clean it up before putting goats into a foot bath.  Once in the foot bath, keep them in it for 15-30 minutes.

You can add a small amount of laundry detergent to the foot bath.  This will help the chemicals penetrate the hoof tissue.

​Be careful if using a copper sulfate foot bath.  Although it's an effective treatment for hoof rot, you'll want to make sure that your goats don't drink it.  Too much copper can be toxic to goats.

Is hoof rot contagious?


When you are treating a goat for hoof rot, it's a good idea to separate him/her from the rest of the herd.

​The bacteria and fungi that cause infection can be spread through the soil and moist bedding.  There they can get onto the hooves of other goats and cause problems.

Can hoof rot kill a goat?

Hoof rot itself will not kill a goat.

​It can lead to other problems that can kill your goat.  Goats that cannot walk cannot eat and will lose weight rapidly.  If a goat cannot walk to eat, it also cannot walk to drink water.

Preventing hoof rot

Hoof rot is most common during the rainy seasons.

If your goats are on pasture, provide them housing or an area that is dry.  Goats that are constantly on moist ground will develop foot rot really fast.

Giving them a dry spot to escape will help.

Unfortunately, goats that have dry areas to escape to may still develop foot rot.

It's a good idea to have hoof rot treatments on hand so that goats can be treated as soon as they develop signs of foot rot.  If you house your goats indoors, you may want to provide your goats with copper sulfate foot baths as a precaution for foot rot.

Always provide them with clean, dry bedding.

If you're purchasing new goats, don't buy a goat from a farm that is dealing with hoof rot issues, even if the animal(s) you're looking at don't have foot rot.

Hoof rot is contagious and the organisms causing it can get off of an infected goat's hoof and into bedding or the pasture.  This makes it easier for the organisms to infect your healthy goats.

​Hoof rot is a common issue that goat owners have to deal with.

Is there a hoof rot vaccine for goats?

There is a vaccine for hoof rot.

Fusogard is a vaccine that was created for cattle to protect against foot rot.

This vaccine can be used to prevent hoof rot in goats.

Goat owners that have used the vaccine report that they can see results that last as much as 6 months.

It's important to note that the vaccine may not be as effective for everyone.  There are multiple strains of the bacteria and fungi that cause thrush.

The vaccine only works against the more common strains and may not protect against all strains.

​Even though the vaccine needs to be repeated to be effective, it may be worth it for you to give a vaccine two or three times per year rather than try to deal with hoof rot as it appears.

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Hoof Rot in Goats, Livestock Planning Guide

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How do you treat hoof rot in goats?  What are the signs of foot rot in goats that you've seen?

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