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Doctoral thesis1998Open access

Foot-pad dermatitis in broilers and turkeys : prevalence, risk factors and prevention.

Berg, Lotta


Foot-pad dermatitis is a condition characterised by lesions on the ventral foot-pads of poultry. It is a type of contact dermatitis, which in an early stage results in hyperkeratosis, erosions and discoloration of the skin. The erosions can develop into ulcers. In severe cases, the foot-pad lesions may cause pain which together with a deteriorated state of health constitutes a welfare issue. It has also been indicated that broilers with severe foot-pad dermatitis show slower weight gain. The aim of the present work was to improve the knowledge concerning the epidemiology of foot-pad dermatitis in meat-type poultry in Sweden. The studies were focused on surveying the occurrence of foot-pad dermatitis on Swedish commercial broiler and turkey farms, identifying endogenous and exogenous risk factors for foot-pad dermatitis in meat-type poultry and to evaluate the function of foot health as an indicator of management, hygiene and housing standards. The prevalence of foot-pad dermatitis in Swedish broilers at time of slaughter was estimated at 5-10 % for severe lesions and 10-35 % for mild lesions. The corresponding prevalence of foot-pad dermatitis in turkeys was estimated at approximately 20 % for severe lesions and 78 % for mild lesions. A significantly higher prevalence of foot-pad dermatitis was found in flocks reared on wet litter than on dry litter. In broilers, a significantly higher prevalence of lesions was found in flocks reared on thick layers of litter material than on thinner layers. There was an association between litter material and turkey foot-pad dermatitis. Type of drinker system, which is related to both water spillage and water consumption, was significantly associated with the prevalence of foot-pad dermatitis in both broilers and turkeys. There was a significant seasonal effect on the prevalence of broiler foot-pad dermatitis, with the highest prevalence found during October to January. The prevalence and severity of foot-pad dermatitis in broilers decreased over time when a surveillance programme was initiated and executed. In summary, foot-pad dermatitis in both broilers and turkeys was shown to be linked to a number of management, hygiene and housing factors, and can thus be used as an indicator of the standard of these factors. Surveillance and advisory programmes can be used successfully to decrease the incidence of foot-pad lesions in broiler and turkey populations and thus improve the health and welfare of the birds.


broiler; chicken; foot-pad dermatitis; housing; litter; surveillance programme; turkey; ulcer; welfare

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae. Veterinaria
1998, number: 1998:36
ISBN: 91-576-5442-5
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences