Woody Tongue or Lumpy Jaw?

With the drier conditions upon us and with pastures starting to become more fibrous ‘woody tongue’ in cattle will start to become more prevalent. The classic presentation is a swollen tongue which then results in anorexia, difficulty chewing, excess salivation and swelling under the jaw may be present. It is caused by a bacteria which is naturally found in the mouth of cattle. The organism does not normally invade soft tissue but can gain access by abrasions or low grade trauma to the oral cavity, which can be caused by grass awns etc. Treatment involves correct antibiotic therapy and the prognosis for animals treated is usually good.

Lumpy jaw has a similar aetiology but it is caused by a fungus that also is an inhabitant of the oral cavity, probably gaining access to the bony structures by lymphatic drainage from wounds in the mouth from eating sharp feeds. It results in distortion of the bones of the jaw, resulting in malocclusion of the molars and ineffective chewing. The clinical signs are related to the infection being present within the bone – unilateral swelling and discharging sinuses that drip yellowish, sticky pus that can contain fine granules. Treatment can be difficult especially if there is mass bone destruction and deformity of the jaw.

Although these two conditions are commonly known there are many other possibilities for facial swellings and anorexia including tooth root abscesses, foreign bodies, tumours and abscesses. It is best to consult a veterinarian about these conditions so proper treatment and advice is given.