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Understanding Footpad Dermatitis


(Top) Normal footpad compared with a footpad affected by dermatitis (bottom).

The welfare status of animals used for food production remains a concern for consumers and producers alike. Footpad dermatitis is a frequently observed condition in poultry production that can affect profitability, bird performance and well-being. The problem is that existing scoring methods to determine when the condition becomes a problem for the bird’s well-being could stand improvement. 

Footpad dermatitis is a necrotic condition that occurs on the bottom surface of the foot of poultry. It starts as an erosion of the skin of the foot and can lead to lesions and broken, painful ulcers if the skin is damaged. The condition can influence leg weakness development, which is another welfare indicator.

University of Minnesota researchers collaborated with colleagues at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University to evaluate existing scoring methods that attempt to assess the severity and impact of footpad dermatitis. Unfortunately, the methods are not well connected to actual physical changes. More research is needed to better understand how lesions develop and progress to ulcers.

Researchers are currently focused on establishing the relationships between footpad dermatitis and lameness, litter characteristics and productivity under different management models, and determining immune system components that prompt changes in the footpad.

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