Identify cause of lameness

Catch and identify

  • The first lame sheep in a group, even if mildy lame (short stride and nodding / flicking their head) ideally immediately, but definitely within 3 days.
  • Aim to inspect 1/3 flock each day and treat any lame sheep
  • Make sure you can identify the cause of lameness (see below for common causes), contact your vet for help if in doubt
  • Do NOT trim sheep with scald or footrot or CODD, these can be diagnosed by smell, trimming delays healing
  • Only trim if necessary to diagnose the problem

Six common causes of lameness


  • Red, wet interdigital space
  • May be white/grey pasty scum
  • Loss of hair in interdigital space



  • Separation of horn from the underlying live tissue
  • Starts between claws
  • Foul smelling greyish oozing pus



(Contagious ovine digital dermatitis)

  • Loss of hair above coronary band (hair line)
  • Separation of horn from coronary band
  • Blood with some grey scum, no significant smell
  • May be complete detachment of hoof horn


Shelly hoof

  • Some separation of horn from the wall
  • A pocket impacted with soil
  • Half-moon appearance



  • Strawberry-like growth, often at the toe
  • Sometimes hidden under overgrown horn
  • Bleeds when handled


White line abscess

  • Sheep is very lame
  • Swelling of skin or pus oozing above coronary band
  • Hoof horn normal but hot
  • Separation of white line or penetration with
    stone/thorn may be visible

Download our information sheet on the six common causes of lameness.