RCVS Knowledge: Treating digital dermatitis

Non-antibiotic treatment of digital dermatitis in dairy cattle is more effective than currently indicated antibiotic spray, according to a study in Veterinary Evidence

Jennifer Parker
12 February 2018, at 3:20pm

Intra Epidine (IE), a topical treatment containing copper and zinc chelate, demonstrated a clinical improvement rate significantly higher than chlortetracycline (CTC) when applied at the most severe stage of the disease (M2).

This potentially ground-breaking finding in the context of reducing antibiotic usage was reported in the paper ‘A randomised non-inferiority trial on the effect of an antibiotic or non-antibiotic topical treatment protocol for digital dermatitis in dairy cattle’.

Minimising antibiotic use

With the growing concern around antibiotic resistance has come a necessity to identify non-antimicrobial forms of treatment. As such, results like those discovered in this trial conducted by researchers in the Netherlands are of vast importance to practitioners in providing alternative evidence-based treatment options.

Following up on a study that showed a gel containing the same active components as the Intra Epidine tested here was at least as effective as antibiotics (Holzhauer et al., 2011), the article, published in December 2017, sought to discover whether an easier-to-apply spray would demonstrate the same efficacy, with a view towards market authorisation.

The authors randomly allocated a total of 231 non-paired legs across seven herds to two treatment groups: 117 received the antibiotic treatment and 114 were treated with IE spray. Clinical improvement – defined as ‘the transition of an ulcerative M2 lesion to any other lesion’ – was seen in nearly 90% (86.8%) of those treated non-antibiotically, while less than half (47.9%) of legs receiving antibiotics improved.

Not only did the non-antibiotic treatment result in a much higher proportion of clinical improvement – adding credence to the 92% success rate reported in the previous study – its effect was also far more consistent (with the exception of one herd, which saw clinical improvement in 61.5% of legs). The range across herds was 83.3% to 100%. By contrast, herds treated with antibiotics saw a range of 17.7% to 85.2%. The full paper should be consulted for details regarding the statistical analysis and the significance of the results.

Long-term control of digital dermatitis

While the study showed a definite and significant reduction in lesions and pain in cattle treated with the non-antibiotic, this does not necessarily equal a bacteriological cure. Because of the persistent reservoirs of the infection – in the environment as well as untreated cattle – long-term management is still required, no matter the treatment choice. 

Full article: ve/article/view/111
Authors: Amarins Dotinga, Ruurd Jorritsma and Mirjam Nielen