by: Isaac Jumper, DVM
Population Medicine Resident, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University

Winter is firmly upon us, and with the anticipation of spring ryegrass growing, most producers will still need to feed hay or other stored forages for a few more months. Since cattle have been on hay-based diets that may contain coarse forages, stems, sticks, thorns, plant awns, or other abrasive materials, it's a good idea keep an eye out for the early signs of Lumpy law.

Lumpy Jaw, or Bovine Actinomycosis, is a bacterial infection of the bone and soft tissues of the mouth and jaw. Lumpy law is caused by the bacteria Actinomyces bovis, which is a normal inhabitant of the ruminant mouth. When cattle ingest abrasive feedstuffs, small wounds or punctures may occur in the mouth that allow the bacteria to enter the tissues and bone below. Bacteria may also enter through cavities in the teeth of older animals that occur due to wear. Once inside the tissues of the mouth and jaw, the bacteria incite inflammation and overgrowth of bone, resulting in the characteristic hard, immovable, bony mass that leads to the name "Lumpy Jaw." Producers may observe a firm growth on the side of the lower jaw, or may notice a cow getting thin because it is painful for her to chew. Some cases may appear to be an abscess that drains constantly, but never gets smaller or goes away. Important rule-outs for Lumpy Jaw include tooth root abscesses, tumors, and tooth fractures.

Producers who suspect they have an animal with "Lumpy Jaw" should contact their veterinarian, as Lumpy Jaw can be successfully treated if caught early. Extensive bony abnormalities resulting from long-term or chronic cases cannot be reversed through treatment. If caught early, however, small growths can be prevented from getting larger. If the bony mass has progressed to the point of involving teeth, or if it has created a chronically draining tract, medical management may not provide significant improvement. Treatment of Lumpy Jaw involves exposure of draining tracts and copious flushing with a povidone- iodine solution. Your veterinarian may elect to remove affected teeth or aggressively curette draining tracts or pockets in order to facilitate flushing of the lesion. Additional therapy includes the use of intravenous sodium iodide and a systemic antibiotic. Side effects of sodium iodide therapy may include excessive tearing, diarrhea, severe dandruff, and lethargy. Caution should be used when treating pregnant animals with sodium iodide, as abortions may occur.

Woody Tongue is another condition that can be seen when cattle ingest abrasive feeds. Woody Tongue is caused by the bacteria Actinobacillus lignieresii, which is also normal flora of the ruminant mouth. As described by the name, Woody Tongue typically affects the tongue, but other soft tissues in the mouth may be involved as well. Puncture wounds and abrasions from rough feedstuffs allow the bacteria to enter the soft tissues of the mouth, resulting in granulomatous inflammation and abscesses similar to Lumpy Jaw. Cattle with Woody Tongue display difficulty eating, anorexia, excessive salivation, and in severe cases a grossly enlarged tongue is visible protruding from the mouth. Swelling of the entire jaw may be seen as well. Treatment of animals with Woody Tongue is similar to that of Lumpy Jaw, including Sodium Iodide and antibiotic therapy. Typically, Woody Tongue only affects animals sporadically, however herd outbreaks have been described in animals housed in close confinement and fed abrasive diets.

Successful treatment of Lumpy Jaw and Woody Tongue is based on early detection of disease. lf caught in the early stages, both diseases have a good prognosis for recovery. Since A. bovis and A. Iignieresii are both normal inhabitants of the bovine mouth, the best method of prevention is to avoid feeding overly abrasive feedstuffs. For more information regarding Lumpy Jaw and Woody Tongue, as well as treatment and prevention, please contact your herd veterinarian.

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