How should foot injuries in sows be handled?

Cause: Foot injuries are primarily a result of poor flooring. Sometimes a toe or dewclaw is caught in the slot and injured. Other times the floor is rough and abrasive and tears up the feet, or the floor may be slippery causing animals to lose their balance and wrench their feet as they fall. Conditions that are either too dry or wet can also contribute to foot injuries.

Signs &
Symptoms: Be suspicious of a foot injury if you see the characteristic movement of foot pain. Sows with injured feet adopt a particular kind of movement typical of foot injuries, when standing they seem to be stepping in place with the injured foot or using it to “tap” the floor.

Treatment: Foot injury – Many foot injuries are extremely painful and the pig’s discomfort and ability to move must be taken into account when determining a treatment plan. Assess the pig’s willingness to bear weight on the affected foot. Watch the pig stand and lie down to determine how agile it is and how well it is able to deal with the injury. Foot injuries have a better chance for successful treatment if they are detected early, otherwise the pig starts to overuse the other limbs, which often results in their breakdown.

Apply an antibacterial ointment and bandaged injectable antibiotic and anti-inflammatory when the foot is swollen or secondarily infected.

Dewclaw injuries – Secondary infection is common because of the dirty environment. Dewclaw injuries have a pretty good prognosis for recovery because the dewclaw does not contact the ground except when sows get up and lie down so the sow should be able to bear nearly full weight on the leg. The damaged dewclaw should be covered with an emollient, antibacterial-type ointment and bandaged. The bandage and dressing should be changed every two days for a total of three dressings. Use injectable antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication in the event of swelling and/or secondary infection.

Cracked hoof – Severe cracks take a very long time-if ever-to heal because new solid hoof must grow down from the top. Hoof cracks occur when the floor is either too wet or too dry. They are extremely painful and sows with hoof cracks are reluctant to use the foot at all. When weight is borne on the affected hoof, it leverages the crack, tending to enlarge it. In general the objective of treatment is to make the sow comfortable so that she can be marketed after weaning. Use an antibacterial ointment and a bandaged injectable antibiotic and anti-inflammatory when swollen or secondarily infected.

Sole ulcer – A sole ulcer develops after prolonged inflammation in the foot that causes granulation tissue to develop. This granulation tissue has a rough appearance and is painful to walk on. The sow should be restrained by tying up her bottom feet. Trim away as much excess tissue as the sow will allow and then apply copper naphthenate to the sole of the foot for three days. This condition probably won’t heal, but trimming back the granulation tissue will make the sow more comfortable.

Overgrown toes – A certain amount of movement on a slightly abrasive floor is needed to wear off the hooves as they continue to grow. When the hooves are excessively long they interfere with normal movement and produce a vicious cycle where the sow doesn’t move much because it is hard to balance on long toes and the toes get longer because the sow isn’t using them. Trim overgrown toes, restrain the sow as described for a ‘Sole ulcer’. Use hoof nippers to start at the top of the toe and trim back small amounts at a time. Stop if you start to see pink in the white hoof wall, or there is blood.