Wooden Tongue

Wooden tongue is a well-defined disease that affects the soft tissues of the mouth region in adult cattle. The disease is fairly acute. It causes swelling in the affected area as well as under the jaw which makes food intake difficult, so animals weaken quickly.

Common Names

Wooden Tongue disease is the trivial name of Actinobacillosis. The disease is also known by names like Pig Wooden Tongue or Chicken Wooden Tongue – indicating other species that can also be affected.

Causative Organism

Wooden tongue is an infection caused by the bacterium Actinobacillus lignieresii. This microbe lives only in the presence of oxygen which is why it occupies only the upper part of the mouth. Many other Actinobacillus spp like actinoides, suis, pleuropneumoniae and equuli are also pathogens which affect the soft tissue.

Common Symptoms

  1. The most common symptom is that the tongue becomes stiff, puffy and sore
  2. The animals drool excessively and chew gently
  3. Small nodules can be seen on the surface of the tongue
  4. Animals cannot eat or drink properly
  5. The condition of affected cattle deteriorates quickly

How it Affects Cattle

The causative bacteria live in the mouth and so can easily invade tissue through breaks in the lining of the mouth. Rough feeds like sticks or straw or barley awns can also cause wounds that are big enough for infection in the tongue. In sheep, the lips, nose, jaw and neck are usually affected. Animals occasionally die from starvation and thirst in the acute stages of the disease. If the infection is not treated properly, soft tissue is deposited and the tongue becomes small. This makes eating much more difficult. In sheep, the lips, nose, jaw and neck are usually affected.

Regional Impacts

The disease wooden tongue occurs worldwide. It usually occurs in areas with copper deficiency or grazing land with rough weeds.

Risks & Dangers

The causative organism enters the tissues of the mouth. It is important to mention that A. lignieresii is considered to be a normal inhabitant of the stomach of the sheep and cattle. The disease condition is seen as an outbreak in several animals. Single cases of wooden tongue are relatively rare. The risk of the disease becomes progressive, if it is untreated.


The most common treatment of wooden tongue consists of iodine therapy or use of tetracycline. In advanced cases, veterinarians can drain the tongue and apply an iodine solution for several days. The treated animals should be observed regularly so that relapses can be prevented.

Vaccines & Prevention

No vaccines are currently available in the market. The control of wooden tongue disease can only be achieved by early recognition and on time treatment of cattle. The animals that have been affected should be separated and preferably be culled.

References and Resources