Woody tongue

Wooden Tongue

What to look for

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating
  • Excessive salivation/drooling
  • Lump under the jaw
  • Hard, painful tongue

Cause - a bacterial infection (Actinobacillus lignieresi)

This organism is normally present in the mouth of cattle. Under certain circumstances it penetrates into the tongue from an abrasion or an ulcer or a damaged tooth.

Animals likely to be affected

The disease generally occurs in individual mature animals but, on occasion, there may be a number of cases if a group of animals are exposed to circumstances such as rough or spiky feed or other environmental factors that cause abrasions in the mouth.

Other diseases with similar signs

Woody tongue needs to be differentiated from lumpy jaw, abscesses, injuries or foreign bodies in the head and mouth region.

Confirming the diagnosis

Usually, the clinical signs are sufficient for a diagnosis of woody tongue but, if the signs are not clear cut and/or the lesions are in other tissues it is possible to confirm the diagnosis with laboratory tests.

Spread of the disease

It is not spread from animal to animal and, if there is more than one case, it may be the result of cows grazing or feeding on products that can cause injuries to the mouth cavity.


Treatment with sodium iodide injections and/or antibiotics can be successful if the disease is not too advanced.


There is little that can be done to avoid woody tongue other than attempting to avoid rough or spiky feeds that might cause abrasions in the mouth.

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