News & Advice

An Unusual Case of Woody Tongue

Apr 3, 2019 | Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare

Lucy Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

Several months ago, I was called to examine a bull with a growth on its shoulder. The animal was well grown and was not lame despite the large lump over the shoulder blade that had come up over a few weeks (see photo). It was time for the animal to go to the works but of course, he couldn’t be transported with an unhealed wound or active skin infection.

The lump appeared to consist of several infected ‘lobes’ covered by an outer crust. The farmer had previously treated the animal with Bivatop and although it had improved, it had not completely cleared up.

The lump looked like it could be a cancerous tumour and we had a discussion about the chances of it healing if we were to remove it. We decided to take a sample from it first to get a diagnosis before making any treatment decisions.

The lab result came back with an unexpected answer – the lump was actually an infection caused by the bacterium Actinobacillus. We were able to successfully treat the bull with a 5-day course of streptomycin. The lump fell off, the skin healed and the bull could go to the works!

While Actinobacillus normally lives in the rumen without causing any problems, sometimes a local infection can develop in the tongue or cheek following a minor wound in the mouth. Because the infected area becomes as hard as wood, the infection is commonly called Woody Tongue! These animals tend to drool a lot and they lose condition fast because they can’t eat due to the hard swelling.

This was an unusual presentation with a good outcome, so always talk to your vet if you think something strange might be going on in one of your animals and we will hopefully have another success story for you, just like this one!

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