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J Vet Diagn Invest. 1998 Jan;10(1):67-76.

Papillomatous digital dermatitis (footwarts) in California dairy cattle: clinical and gross pathologic findings.

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School of Veterinary Medicine, California Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, University of California-Davis, San Bernardino Branch Laboratory, 92412, USA.


Clinical, gross pathologic, and therapeutic studies were performed on a contagious, painful, wart-like digital disease of unknown etiology in California dairy cattle. The disease was called papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD). Survey indicated that the disease spread geographically throughout southern California over the past few years. In 1991, 31% of herds had papillomatous digital dermatitis, whereas in 1994, 89% were affected. Increased incidence occurred during late spring and summer, 1-3 months after the rainy season. Within-herd morbidity ranged from 0.5% to 12% per month. Study of 93 cows in 10 drylot dairies revealed that 91% had characteristic circumscribed, erosive to papillomatous, intensely painful lesions often surrounded by a ridge of hyperkeratotic skin bearing hypertrophied hairs. Lesions were 2-6 cm across (88%), circular to oval (78%), and raised (59%) and had surfaces that were uniformly erosive and granular (31%), uniformly papillary (28%), or composites of both appearances (41%). Lesions were most frequently seen in lactating heifers (31%) and 3-year-old cows (43%). Clinical signs were characterized by lameness, with walking on toes and clubbing of hooves. Lesions exclusively involved the hind limbs in 82% of cows and the plantar/palmar regions in 84% of cows. Lesions had high (89%) prediliction for plantar/palmar skin bordering the interdigital space. Lesions exclusively involved either the medial or lateral digit in 10% and 28% of cows, respectively. In 50% of cows, both medial and lateral digits of individual limbs were involved; in most cows (31%), lesions apposed each other across the plantar interdigital space, whereas in others (19%), lesions confluently involved the entire plantar/palmar commissural skin folds. In another 12% of cows, lesions were axial. High proportions of lesions showed complete therapeutic responses to antibiotics: parenteral penicillin (9/9) and ceftiofur (41/44), and topical oxytetracycline (4/4). Recurrence or new lesion development occurred in 48% of cows reexamined 7-12 weeks after complete therapeutic response was observed. Overall, the findings indicated that PDD is a distinct disease entity of economic importance in which bacteria may play an important pathogenic role.

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