Sheep and farm level factors associated with contagious ovine digital dermatitis: A longitudinal repeated cross-sectional study of sheep on six farms

Prev Vet Med. 2015 Nov 1;122(1-2):107-20. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2015.09.016. Epub 2015 Oct 13.


Contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) is a cause of severe lameness in sheep in the UK currently affecting approximately 50% of farms. Six farms were studied in North Wales to investigate (1) the prevalence dynamics of CODD, (2) the association between sheep with CODD and potential risk factors and (3) the impact of CODD on lameness in sheep. The farms were visited at approximately two-month intervals between June 2012 and October 2013 and 6515 sheep were examined. The mean sheep level prevalence of CODD varied between farms (2.5-11.9%). Within farms, prevalence may increase in the late summer/early autumn and after housing. Environmental risk factors included larger flocks, lowland pasture, lush pasture and poached pasture. Co-infection of a foot with footrot was strongly associated with CODD in that foot (OR: 7.7 95% CI: 3.9-15.5 P<0.001) but negatively associated with co-infection of a foot with interdigital dermatitis (OR: 0.04 95% CI: 0.02-0.1 P<0.001). Reinfection with CODD was observed in 78 individual sheep but there was no re-infection at foot level. Lameness on all farms reduced during the study and seasonal changes in lameness followed similar patterns to those for CODD. Infection with CODD leads to a greater increase in locomotion score compared to footrot or interdigital dermatitis and CODD lesion grade was strongly associated with being lame. Sheep with CODD in more than one foot were more likely to be lame (OR: 25.0 95% CI: 12.5-49.9 P<0.001) than those with just one foot affected (OR:10.0 95% CI: 8.6-11.6 P<0.001). The biggest risk factor for CODD is co-infection with footrot and therefore control of footrot should help reduce the risk of CODD on affected farms. Furthermore environmental risk factors for CODD are similar to those for footrot adding weight for control strategies that target both diseases in tandem. The routine repeated gathering of sheep for the purposes of treating all lame sheep might be an effective control strategy for lameness on some sheep farms. Effective systemic immunity to CODD in sheep appears to be lacking, as 78 sheep were observed to be re-infected with CODD during the survey. However, there is epidemiological evidence that there may be some local immunity within the foot warranting further investigation.

Keywords: CODD; Contagious ovine digital dermatitis; Footrot; Lameness; Sheep; Welfare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coinfection / epidemiology
  • Coinfection / microbiology
  • Coinfection / veterinary*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Digital Dermatitis / epidemiology*
  • Digital Dermatitis / microbiology
  • Female
  • Foot Rot / epidemiology*
  • Foot Rot / microbiology
  • Lameness, Animal / epidemiology*
  • Lameness, Animal / microbiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sheep Diseases / microbiology
  • Wales / epidemiology