Claw Lesion Identification

By Steve Mason on

In 1982, Dr. Paul Greenough, of the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, published the ‘Hoof Atlas’, an illustrated guide to claw lesions in cattle. Since that time, new claw lesions have been discovered and our knowledge and understanding about the causes, treatment and prevention of different claw lesions have expanded dramatically.

Accurately identifying specific lesions is critical for treatment and prevention plans. In the past, it was common for several different types of claw lesions (white line, sole ulcer or sole hemorrhage) to generically be identified as laminitis. In order to accurately identify the cause of the lesion and determine the proper corrective action plan, it is critical to be more specific and consistent.

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To assist in the accurate and consistent identification of lesions, a poster was developed through the combined effort of Zinpro Corporation, and the International Lameness Committee, a collaboration of researchers, veterinarians, academics and hoof trimming professionals from around the world. Key components of that poster are reproduced below. Claw zones are defined below the lesion descriptions.

SOLE HEMORRHAGE (H)Sole Hemorrhage
Also called: Sole Bruising
Zones Affected: 4, 5, 6
Common signs:
• Slight to significant red (or blue) coloration of the sole
• Not to be confused with natural black pigmentation of claw horn
SOLE ULCER (U)Typical Sole Ulcer
Also called: Pododermatitis
Circumscripta, Rusterholz Disease
Zone Affected: 4
Common signs:
• Raw sore (horn erosive defect) occurring at sole-heel junction on inner side of outside hind claw
• Often occurs in both outside hind claws (when present)
TOE ULCER (T)Typical Toe Ulcer
Also called: Toe Necrosis,
Apicalis Necrotica
Zone Affected: 1
Common signs:
• Black mark, blood stain and/or rupture in white line or sole at the toe
• Caused by rotation of pedal bone within the claw pressing down on the sole or thin soles
WHITE LINE LESION (W)Typical White Line Lesion
Also called: White Line Separation, White Line Disease
Zones Affected: 1, 2, 3
Common signs:
• In mild cases, a void occurs in the junction between the sole and the wall
• In severe cases, abscesses form, generally at the heel-sole-wall juncture (zone 3)
THIN SOLE (Z)Typical Thin Sole
Zones Affected: 4, 5
Common signs:
• Sole is thin and flexible when
pressure is applied
• Caused by insufficient length of toe, excessive wear or over trimming
• Minimum claw length of 3 inches (7.5 cm) does not apply to heifers or animals that weigh less than 900 lb (400 kg)
INTERDIGITAL HYPERPLASIA (K)Typical Interdigital Hyperplasia
Fibroma, Interdigital Growth
Zone Affected: 0
Common signs:
• Rapid growth of skin and/or
tissue between the digits, forming a firm mass
• Secondary infection likely with
severe (large) lesion
HORIZONTAL FISSURE (G)Typical Horizontal Fissure
Also called: Horizontal Wall Fissure, Hardship Groove, Fissura Ungulae Transversalis
Zones Affected: 7, 8
Common signs:
• Claw wall parallel to the hair-line cracks and eventually breaks off
• Caused by nutritional or
metabolic stress
VERTICAL FISSURE (V)Typical Vertical Fissure
Fissura Ungulae Longitudinalis
Zones Affected: 7, 8
Common signs:
• Vertical split in front or side
of claw
• Occurs primarily on outside front claws
• Often the most painful cause of lameness
AXIAL FISSURE (X)Typical Axial Fissure
Also called: Axial Wall Fissure
Zones Affected: 11,12
Common signs:
• Deep groove on interior surface of claw wall parallel to front claw surface
• Bleeding may indicate lesion presence
• Mild to severe lameness
CORKSCREW CLAW (C)Typical Corkscrew Claw
Zone Affected: 7
Common signs:
• Rapid irregular growth of the claw with rotation
• Sole displaced inward and rear
• Causes difficulty walking
DIGITAL DERMATITIS (D)Typical Digital Dermatitis
Also called: Hairy Heel Warts, Mortellaro Disease
Zones Affected: 9, 10
Common signs:
• Raw, bright-red or black circular growth above the heel bulbs, with edges forming a white opaque ring or hard, thin, hairy, wart-like growths or sores
• Affected cattle are reluctant to walk or are lame
INTERDIGITAL DERMATITISTypical Interdigital Dermatitis
Also called: Stable Foot Rot, Scald
Zones Affected: 0, 10
Common signs:
• Discharge and destruction of skin between the claws
• Bulb horn clefts leading to contusion of the corium and ulceration
HEEL EROSIONTypical Heel Erosion
Zone Affected: 6
Common signs:
• Severe erosion of heel in irregular pit-like depressions or “v” shaped grooves causing lameness
• Instability of the claw due to lost or damaged horn resulting in uneven weight bearing
• Heel becomes sore as erosion progresses
FOOT ROTTypical Foot Rot
Also called: Foul in the Foot, Interdigital Phlegmon, Interdigital Necrobacillosis
Zone Affected: 9
Common signs:
• Swelling of the entire foot (equally) including the dew claws
• Separation of digits, infection produces a noticeable foul odor
• Animals will likely have a fever

Claw Zones


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