A Highly Effective Protocol for the Rapid and Consistent Induction of Digital Dermatitis in Holstein Calves

Krull, Adam
Cooper, Vickie
Coatney, John
Plummer, Paul
Shearer, Jan
Gorden, Patrick
Plummer, Paul
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Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive MedicineVeterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine

Bovine Digital Dermatitis (DD) is a leading cause of lameness in dairy cattle. DD is reportedly increasing in prevalence in beef cattle feedlots of the US. The exact etiologic agent(s) responsible for the disease have yet to be determined. Multiple studies have demonstrated the presence of a variety of Treponema spp. within lesions. Attempts to reproduce clinically relevant disease using pure cultures of these organisms has failed to result in lesions that mirror the morphology and severity of naturally occurring lesions. This manuscript details the systematic development of an experimental protocol that reliably induces digital dermatitis lesions on a large enough scale to allow experimental evaluation of treatment and prevention measures. In total, 21 protocols from five experiments were evaluated on their effectiveness in inducing DD lesions in 126 Holstein calves (504 feet). The protocols varied in the type and concentration of inoculum, frequency of inoculation, duration the feet were wrapped, and type of experimental controls need to validate a successful induction. Knowledge gained in the first four experiments resulted in a final protocol capable of inducing DD lesions in 42 of 44 (95%) feet over a 28 day period. All induced lesions were macroscopically and microscopically identified as clinical DD lesions by individuals blinded to protocols. Lesions were also located at the site of inoculation in the palmer aspect of the interdigital space, and induced clinically measurable lameness in a significant portion of the calves. Collectively these results validate the model and provide a rapid and reliable means of inducing DD in large groups of calves.


This article is published as Krull, Adam C., Vickie L. Cooper, John W. Coatney, Jan K. Shearer, Patrick J. Gorden, and Paul J. Plummer. "A highly effective protocol for the rapid and consistent induction of digital dermatitis in Holstein calves." PloS one 11, no. 4 (2016): e0154481. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154481. Posted with permission.