• Open Access

Review of Pododermatitis Circumscripta (Ulceration of the Sole) in Dairy Cows


Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996–0001.


Sole ulcers are among the most frequent causes of lameness in dairy cattle. They are found most commonly in the hind lateral claw, are frequently bilateral, and have a high rate of reoccurrence. The pathogenesis of sole ulceration is primarily based on mechanical injury by the 3rd phalanx to the corium, basement membrane, and basal layers of the sole epidermis as a result of failure of the suspensory apparatus in the claw. The main pathways in the failure of the suspensory system include inflammatory (dermal vascular changes followed by disruption of keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation caused by local and systemic mediators) and noninflammatory (hormonal and biochemical changes in the peripartum period resulting in alterations of connective tissue in the suspensory system) pathways. Sole ulcers tend to occur in specific locations; the most reported site is the junction of the axial heel and sole. Other locations include the apex of the toe and the heel. Varying degrees of lameness may result, and the most severe are seen with complicated cases in which ascending infection affects the deeper structures of the claw. Pathologic changes at the ulcer site include dyskeratosis and dilated horn tubules with microcracks. Vascular changes include dilatation and thrombosis of capillaries with “neocapillary formation.” Areas of dyskeratosis may remain for as long as 50 days at the ulcer site. Treatment includes corrective trimming and relief of weight bearing. Complicated cases may require surgical intervention.