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Sole bruising is characterised by the presence of red and sometimes yellow marks or areas on the sole, and often occurs where the sole is particularly thin.
Any disturbance in blood flow to the corium can result in the necrosis of the corium tissues, bleeding and swelling - often referred to as 'laminitis' - which eventually manifests itself in areas of sole bruising. It can also lead to separation of the soft tissues of the foot and the pedal bone can become misplaced, compressing the soft tissues within the foot, causing sole ulcers. The clinical signs may be observed in calves fed diets that are too high in concentrates at six months of age, which predisposes them to more severe sole problems as they mature.
Bleeding and necrosis of the corium are seen most often in the white line area of the claw. This bleeding will not become visible until it rises to the surface of the sole after a few weeks; minor signs of bruising are often not noticed until after repeated episodes have occurred and it becomes a chronic issue. Once a cow experiences sole bruising, her foot is not likely to recover fully and may become a source of future problems.
Cattle with chronic sole problems (a condition known as slipper foot) can have overgrown, disfigured hooves. This abnormal hoof growth can lead to uneven hoof wear which predisposes the cow to many other mobility problems. Because the outside claw of the rear foot is most often affected, cows with slipper foot are often recognisable as they tend to stand 'cow-hocked'.
Prevention and Treatment
Sole bruising is associated with cows being housed in systems where they are confined on hard surfaces with poor levels of cow comfort; acidosis is also a leading predisposing factor by disrupting the blood supply to the foot. Reducing ruminal acidosis - by ensuring that diets are consistent and contain the correct balance of concentrates and fibre - will aid in the prevention of sole bruising, as will reducing the incidence of diseases often found around the time of calving such as metritis and mastitis.
Cows with poorly-shaped hooves where a metabolic issue is present may be particularly at risk. Most metabolic causes of lameness appear three to six weeks after the initial insult. Reducing overall stress levels, particularly during the transition period will also help.
Sole bruising is associated with other mobility problems, and so the conditions leading to bruising should be avoided. There is no specific treatment but anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to control pain levels, and over-grown and misshapen hooves should be treated by continuous trimming.