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Lameness in sheep is largely caused by either scald or footrot and is one of the most common and persistent problems for sheep. Incidence of lameness should be attended to as soon as possible.

Scald and footrot share the same primary cause, the bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum, which causes damage to the superficial layer of the skin between the claws and enables the establishment of other bacteria, including Dichelobacter nododus, which causes footrot.

Scald is the most common cause of lameness in sheep occurring whenever conditions underfoot are wet. At grass, the incidence is generally greater in lambs than in ewes, but scald can become problematic in housed ewes, when straw bedding becomes wet and warm.

Footrot is extremely painful and affected sheep and lambs lose weight rapidly. Animals with virulent footrot are very lame, remain recumbent for long periods and may carry the affected leg.

First signs of footrot are swelling and moistening of the interdigital skin. A break occurs at the skin horn junction from where infection spreads under the horn tissue so that the wall of the hoof becomes separated and the sole under-run. There is a characteristic foul-smelling discharge.

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