Foot Rot in Swine by Julie Helms

Julie Helms

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Created on: June 20, 2009   Last Updated: June 28, 2009

Foot rot, or septic laminitis, in pigs is not caused by one particular organism. Foot rot is a condition of injury to the soft tissue of the pig’s foot, or claw, which is then invaded by any of a variety of organisms, leading to further complication.

The initial insult to the external part of the claw is called bush foot. This involves a crack to the hoof, splitting of the hoof or penetration of the sole by a sharp object or by erosion through wear and tear. An infection takes hold causing painful swelling and ulceration in the joint, laminae or coronary band. If the fissure and subsequent infection penetrate more deeply into the soft tissue then the condition is called foot rot. At this point, in addition to pain, swelling and ulceration, the pig may develop a life-threatening septicemia or bacteremia. Once the condition has become systemic bacteria can invade other areas of the body including the liver and brain.


Foot rot is usually caused by sharp aspects in concrete flooring, or any other flooring material that can cause a physical injury or tear to the claw. The problem is then compounded if the pig’s area is unsanitary or wet.

Another possible cause is a biotin deficiency. Biotin, or Vitamin H, is necessary for the healthy growth of the hoof wall and for maintaining its integrity. A deficiency could lead to the breakdown of the wall making it more vulnerable to damage and infection. A deficiency can be easily remedied with a supplement in the feed.

*Clinical Signs

-Reluctance to rise or lameness, even to the point of refusal to put any weight on the affected foot may be seen.

-Swelling of the whole claw and intense pain if the infection is advanced.

-Cracks and splits in the hoof sole or hoof wall, possibly with visible necrotic ulcerations.

-A test for organisms present may show Arcanobacterium (Actinomyces) pyogenes , Fusobacterium necrophorum , Borrelia suilla , and a mixture of gram-negative and gram-positive cocci and rods, according to Merck Veterinary Manual.


Once diagnosed, foot rot can be treated with penicillin, tetracycline or other antibiotics or antimicrobials, depending on the type of organism cultured. Anti-inflammatories can also help with swelling and pain management if the sow is not pregnant. This treatment is more effective in the earlier stages of foot rot and becomes less effective in more advanced cases, or the longer the pig has had the problem in cases of chronic infection.

Treatment also includes trimming away damaged hoof wall material. In severe cases, x-rays to determine the extent of the problem are necessary, possibly followed by anesthesia and amputation of the foot. Usually this is not a good option from an economic standpoint so immediate culling is indicated.

As always the best cure is prevention, with smooth floors free of sharp objects or harsh chemicals, clean bedding and generally sanitary conditions. Running the pigs through a formalin or copper sulphate bath several times a week can help with disinfection of the feet and the area. Finally, insure their feed contains an appropriate amount of biotin to support hoof wall health.

-The Merck Veterinary Manual



About Vickie Craig

I an avid horseback rider, animal lover, and Owner/Operator of Creekside Farm Tiny Oinkers or my webpage All of my writing comes from factual information, not just my personal experiences or word of mouth.