Information for veterinarians

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, camelids (camels, llamas and alpacas), bison, water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), deer, antelopes, gazelles, moose, impala, giraffe, wildebeest, eland and warthog. In addition, elephants are known to be susceptible.. FMD does not affect horses, or companion animals such as dogs and cats.

Clinical signs of FMD

  • Note that a wide range of clinical syndromes can occur in different species, ranging from inapparent disease with minimal lesions to severe clinical disease and suffer from blisters or erosions around the mouth, snout, tongue, lips, teats or between and above the hooves or feet
  • Blisters may be intact or, ruptured- exposing raw tissue which is very painful.

Clinical signs in cattle are:

  • A drop in milk production (dairy species)
  • Lameness
  • Drooling or frothy salivation around the mouth. Affected animals may make a sucking or smacking sound.
  • Blisters, burst blisters (ulcers), or sores inside the mouth, on the tongue, cheeks, gums, lips and/or palate up to 30mm in size. Blisters usually burst within 24 hours leaving a raw patch which can become infected.
  • Blisters, ulcers and sores on the teats and udder
  • Blisters and sores between the claws of the feet and along the edge of the hoof (which may be hard to see if the feet are muddy).
  • Fever up to 41° C
  • Death in calves

In sheep and goats:

  • The signs of FMD are similar, but may be not as obvious as in cattle.
  • Lameness can occur and the animal appears sick.
  • Blisters form around the top of the foot and between the claws but may burst quickly.
  • Blisters or sores in the mouth, on the tongue and on gums, however these may not be easily noticeable.
  • Sudden death may occur in lambs.

Clinical signs in pigs are:

  • Lameness – pigs will want to lie down and may be reluctant to move.
  • Blisters and sores around the top of the foot, on the heels and between claws. Later in the disease, the horn of the feet may split off.
  • Blisters or ulcers around the mouth, snout and possibly teats, that burst leaving sores.
  • Death of piglets

The free Emergency Animal Diseases Field Guide for Veterinarians has further, detailed information about FMD and its clinical signs in cloven-hoofed animals.

To learn about the robust national plan in place for FMD, visit Animal Health Australia’s emergency response arrangements under ‘Disease-specific documents’: AUSVETPLAN

FMD is listed as a prohibited matter under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015. It is an offence for any person to deal with FMD in NSW, including any such carrier. This includes any animal, animal product or other items that may reasonably be suspected of being a carrier of FMD. Penalties apply.

Everyone is required to take actions to prevent, eliminate or minimise risk of an outbreak. This includes a duty to notify authorities if this is suspected to have occurred. Failure to comply with these provisions may be an offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Personal decontamination and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personnel visiting properties may be required to complete personal decontamination and should resource themselves and their decontamination kit accordingly. This personal decontamination guide has information to guide veterinarians before, during and after a property visit.

It is important that the appropriate PPE is used and fitted correctly. This video from the Australian Veterinary Association has information on how to suit up.

A permit to allow the use of specific chemicals as disinfectants for treatment of equipment, fabric, and surfaces in case of an outbreak of FMD has been issued.

Laboratory testing for FMD

Laboratory testing is used to confirm or exclude a clinical suspicion of FMD. This FMD field investigations Primefact summarises information on the collection of samples from all ruminant species and pigs.

Phosphate buffered gelatin saline (PBGS) media required can be ordered free of charge from the DPI Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. Orders can be placed by sending requests to or completing the online order form.

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