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29 Sep 2022

Footpad dermatitis on turkey flocks

Footpad dermatitis (FPD) is a contact dermatitis of the plantar surface of birds' feet, considered the most common welfare indicator...

Footpad dermatitis on turkey flocks

Footpad dermatitis (FPD) is a contact dermatitis of the plantar surface of birds' feet, considered the most common welfare indicator, which gives information about the birds' health and well-being.

The FPD is associated with husbandry and highly correlated with litter quality. This alteration has grades of severity and affects either the surface or the subjacent structures.

It has been pretty common in commercial turkey and broiler flocks and has lesions prevalence that goes from:

  • 20 to 41% of ulcers (Severe lesions)
  • 59 to 78% of discoloration, erosion (Mild lesions)

Some of the indicators of FPD are:

Cobbcares INT

The evaluation of this condition usually is done by scoring scales that allow the classification of the lesions according to a subjective assessment of the size of the alteration. One common method is the standard scoring system for turkeys at slaughter reported by Hocking et al., 2008. This score has 5 categories based on the lesion size.

[caption id="attachment_139462" align="aligncenter" width="447"] Figure 1. Foot pad lesions in turkeys at slaughter with different scores. The lesions for scores 2, 3, and 4 are the minimum size required for each score based on the proportion of the foot pad area that is covered by necrotic cells indicated by a dark scab (Hocking et al., 2008)[/caption]

Researchers from the University of Minnesota in the United States validated the footpad scoring systems to improve turkey's welfare. However, they indicated that few studies had investigated agreement among FPD scoring methods used on the same turkey. Thus, it is unknown whether turkey FPD misclassification occurs and whether welfare is evaluated with this approach.

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How could the footpad be scored?

According to the study, the [register] footpads can be scored externally on live turkeys (live scoring, LS) and postmortem (PS) when pads are clean; or histologically (HS).

One histological FPD scoring system exists for turkeys based on the inflammatory process, although it is clear that injury and regeneration are present.

The results indicated that the "revision of the 3-point external system to better match HS is needed. In addition, components of injury, inflammation, and regeneration were identified histologically, indicating that FPD is a dynamic process."


Furo, G., Y. Li, S. Noll, and C. Cardona. 2021. Is turkey welfare evaluated? – Validation of footpad scoring systems to improve turkey welfare. Proceedings of the 2021 Poultry Science Association Annual Meeting.

Hocking, Paul & MAYNE, R.K. & ELSE, R.W. & FRENCH, N.A. & GATCLIFFE, J.. (2008). Standard European footpad dermatitis scoring system for use in turkey processing plants. World's Poultry Science Journal. 64. 323 - 328. 10.1017/S0043933908000068.

Stracke J, Volkmann N, May F, Döhring S, Kemper N, Spindler B. Walking on Tiptoes: Digital Pads Deserve Increased Attention When Scoring Footpad Dermatitis as an Animal Welfare Indicator in Turkeys. Front Vet Sci. 2021 Jan 6;7:613516. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2020.613516. PMID: 33585603; PMCID: PMC7873931.

Toppel K, Spindler B, Kaufmann F, Gauly M, Kemper N, Andersson R. Foot Pad Health as Part of On-Farm-Monitoring in Turkey Flocks. Front Vet Sci. 2019 Feb 19;6:25. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00025. PMID: 30838219; PMCID: PMC6389698.


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