Trimming Hooves

Before you start trimming feet, be sure to wrap your thumb with black electrical tape. This will reduce your chances of injury to yourself.

If you start giving attention to the feet when the little kids are born it will more than pay off in labor saved at a later date. The first trimming can occur as young as two weeks. At that time, with a very sharp knife trim off any loose edges, particularly on the inner surfaces. Check for any overgrowth at the back part and sides. Some congenital deformities can be overcome by early correction of the general shape of the foot. Watch for any little pockets that might trap dirt or manure and get them opened up right away.

okfootAfter the first trimming, all the goats can be scheduled for a monthly

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trimming. This is how a healthy foot will look a month after trimming, when ready for another trim. Regularly trim off the outside hard part and heel. I have always done this with a pocket knife, but others prefer shears, nippers or a variety of tools. Carefully clean any mud or dirt from between the back parts and look for areas of rot, inflammation or infection. These can be treated with bleach or extra strenth iodine. Some people use Kopertox® on serious problems, but that product is not approved for use on goats. About every three months or as needed, take a small amount off the dew claws to keep them nicely shaped.

The following drawing shows the angles of a properly trimmed hoof, done so that there is not undue tension on the tendons (thanks Anne!).


Hoof trimming movie

Hoof TrimmingA short movie showing a hoof being trimmed

Foot ailments


This viral disease is very rare in modern goats and characterized by sores in the mouth AND at the coronary bands (where the sides of the hooves meet the skin) and occasionally in the interdigital spaces. There will be a high fever, stringy salivation, smacking of the lips, lameness and decreased appetite. Pregnant does may abort. There are a couple of other diseases that resemble foot and mouth disease, so diagnosis may be difficult. Whenever you find sores in both locations, the mouth and the feet, you should check with your vet because if the diagnosis is conformed this ailment should not be treated; the animal should be eliminated at once since the disease is very contagious.


Unlike other foot problems, foot abscess are distinguished by the ability to sqeeze pus out of the area. There will be severe lameness. The area above the hoof may be hot, swollen and painful. It is usually a sequel to untreated foot rot. Treatment consists of penicillin injections for five days and drainage of the affected area. The pus should be squeezed out if possible.


interdermThis is a severe inflammation of the skin between the back parts of the hooves. It is caused by wet weather, namely, mud particles grinding between the two surfaces. If caught early, the skin will be red and slightly swollen. If more serious, the tissue will become necrotic (dead, rotten). Generally, there will only be an odor of infection, not a sour odor as with foot rot. Treatment takes a long time, especially if the animal cannot be moved to drier ground. Carefully, clean the area as best you can. Bleach is quite effective in cleaning and it also helps to kill some of the infectious organisms. Dry the area and then apply iodine. This treatment really needs to be performed every day if you cannot avoid a muddy environment. We recently had an episode of this which responded only to DAILY dipping in a 50% bleach solution. It oftentimes seems to cure itself if the weather improves and the ground is dry.


Contagious foot rot can be a severe problem in any hoofed animals, especially where rainy conditions dominate the winter weather. It does not appear to be as contagious in goats as it is in sheep. Furthermore, the goat owner is more apt to conduct a periodic check of the feet. Prevention is certainly a better course of action than cure. If feet are trimmed on a monthly basis, severe foot rot cannot take hold in overgrown hooves.

Usually, foot rot will appear as a slight lameness. Closer examination will reveal a separation between the horn and the soft tissues of the foot. This pocket will be filled with a dark gray to black greasy substance which has a characteristic foul odor. There is little or no pus and no swelling.

Unless you have a serious herd-wide problem, each animal can be treated individually. A program of foot bath treatments should be done in consultation with your vet or extension agent. Because of the curiosity of goats, especially little ones, these should be supervised very carefully. We live in a very wet area of the Northwest and have seen tiny pockets of genuine foot rot in animals as young as one week. In short, treatment consists of removing the affected area. The necrotic tissue underneath the black stuff must be exposed to the air in order for healing to begin. At times this may consist of some pretty serious cutting. Some bleeding will occur so be sure to have some blood stopping preparation on hand for emergencies. (Hydrogen peroxide will reduce minor bleeding.) If it looks like an extreme amount of trimming will be needed to get betneath all the dead tissue, it is helpful to divide this into two or three sessions. The blood vessels will seem to draw back so that you can trim a little deeper each time without so much bleeding. If you have severe foot rot and don't draw a little blood in cleaning it up, you probably haven't cut deep enough. For extremely serious cases where there is deep involvement of the flesh, a dehorning iron or heated welding rod can be used to cauterize the wound, which then can be filled with an antiseptic powder.

Try to keep the area as dry as possible. Apply bleach, iodine or Kopertox® as appropriate. If severe, penicillin shots can be given. Spreading hydrated lime (the kind people used to put in out-houses, not the kind you spread on pastures) on the ground seems to help reduce the spread between animals.

WWW Resources

Univ of Minnesota  [Footrot]

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