Hoof Rot (Foot Rot)
By Keith Smith

The first sign of hoof rot is usually lameness; the goat is limping or holding the hoof off of the ground while standing. Many time more than one hoof on an animal will be infected. Inspection of the hoof will show separation of the horny portions of the hoof from the soft tissue. When the horny surface is trimmed away you will notice a foul-smelling paste in the area.


The bacteria that causes hoof rot (Bacteroides nodosus and Fusobacterium necophorum) work together to cause hoof rot and can be found in the ground just about anywhere goats are raised. These bacteria are anaerobic which means that they can live in free air for only a short time. Wet, muddy ground is a particularly good place for the bacteria to hide.

Insufficient zinc in the diet can result in deformed hooves which crack and provide bacteria a way to enter the hoof.

Overgrown hooves will allow the horny surface to curl inward over the sole of the hoof. This provides an excellent area for bacteria to grow. Routine hoof trimming is vital. My article on hoof trimming will be displayed at the end of this article.

Some breeding lines have a higher rate of hoof problems than others. Include the ancestors' hoof health in your evaluation criteria for prospective purchases.


Individuals with hoof rot
Remove any foreign objects such as nails, small pebbles, etc., from the hoof. Pay particular attention to the space between the horny surface and the soft tissue.
Perform a complete hoof trimming then trim away any horny "toe nail" from the affected area. Thoroughly clean the area to remove all traces of the "pus". Consult your vet for their recommendation of medication. Some vets will advise penicillin or oxy-tet injections while others feel that topical (direct) medication such as Kopertox®, merthiolate, or mercurichrom applied to the infected area is better or perhaps should be administered at the same time as the injectable medication.
Quarantine the infected goat. It's ok to keep a group of goats together that have the same disease - just don't let them out with the rest of the herd and don't let "clean" animals in with them.

The rest of the herd
A preventive measure that seems to work is the use of a daily footbath of zinc sulfate. Mix 8 pounds of fine zinc sulfate with 10 gallons of water. Stir in 1 cup of laundry or dish soap to reduce the surface tension of foreign matter on the hooves and allow it to fall off more easily. For large number of animals you will need to increase the amount of each ingredient proportionately.
Set it up so the herd has to pass through the footbath to get to feed or water. They will be reluctant initially to walk through it but quickly adapt. The solution must be replenished and changed periodically. Good quality drinking water and salt must be made available so the goats are not forced to drink the foot bath solution.
Replenish or replace the solution as needed.

Hoof rot is expensive in the form of increased labor and in money. Animals that cannot walk correctly because of hoof rot will not grow as well as their herd mates and have a decreased value to you as a breeder and to prospective meat market buyers. Such animals will also have a hard time escaping predators. Does will have difficulty standing to be bred and bucks may not be able to mount the doe if a rear hoof is badly infected.