Recognising the signs of foot-and-mouth disease

Livestock owners have a vital role in the early detection of possible cases of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Look at your livestock regularly and check them for clinical signs of FMD. Be aware that:

  • The time between an animal becoming infected with FMD and showing signs of the disease can vary greatly. It can be anywhere from 2 to 14 days, though it is often at the lower end of this scale.
  • Multiple animals within a herd or flock are likely to be infected, but they may not all have the same clinical signs.

Look for:

  • animals appearing listless or depressed
  • lameness
  • reluctance to stand or move around
  • drooling or excessive salivation (especially in cows)
  • reduced appetite
  • fluid-filled blisters ('vesicles'), which break to become open sores
    • between the claws of cattle, sheep and pigs
    • on the snouts of pigs
    • on the teats of cattle
    • in the mouths of all species (including on the tongue and hard palate)
  • reduced production, such as decreased milk yield and weight loss
  • death in younger animals.

The FMD information for veterinarians includes photos of infected animals, which may help you to recognise these clinical signs more easily.

Other diseases may cause clinical signs like those of FMD. The only way to confirm an FMD diagnosis is to have samples from your livestock tested in a laboratory. Learn more about testing of suspected cases of FMD.