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Foot rot (necrotic pododermatitis, foul foot) can be a very annoying problem in cattle. Once started in a herd and "seeded" in the soil, it may persist for quite a long time. Although the incidence of foot rot may not be high at any one time, it requires constant observation to prevent serious economic loss. The bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum has been reported to cause foot rot. However, researchers have not been able to reproduce typical foot rot lesions with this organism. Recent research at the University of Missouri indicates that a combination of Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacteroides melaninogenicus are the predominant bacteria isolated from foot rot. When mixtures of these two bacteria were applied to the broken skin of the foot or injected into the tissue between the toes, typical lesions of foot rot were reproduced. Both bacteria were re-isolated from the experimentally-induced lesions.
Other organisms commonly isolated from animals with foot rot include streptococci, staphylococci, corynebacterium, and various fungi, all of which are common in our environment, especially where moisture is present. Cuts, bruises, puncture wounds, or severe abrasions permit these bacteria to enter the tissue of the foot where they start an infection. Foot rot can be a seasonal disease, occurring during periods of extreme moisture, sudden freezing of muddy yards, or severe drought.