Merck Manual

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Professional Version

Impacted or Infected Oil Gland in Sheep


Evelyn MacKay

, DVM, Texas A&M University

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2022 | Modified Oct 2022

Sheep have a sebaceous (oil) gland in the skin of the interdigital space. A thick, oily, translucent secretion is stored in a small pouch between the phalanges and is discharged to the skin surface via a duct in the skin. Occasionally, the gland and its contents are mistaken for an abscess. However, the duct can become occluded, causing distention of the oil pouch. It rarely causes lameness. The oil sac also may become infected, resulting in a local cellulitis or abscess that may be confused with bumblefoot Foot Abscesses in Sheep Bumblefoot is a necrotizing or purulent infection involving the distal interphalangeal soft tissues and sometimes the joint. The incidence is usually sporadic, but as much as 25% of the flock... read more Foot Abscesses in Sheep . Expression of the contents by manual pressure relieves impaction. Infected glands can then be treated with antimicrobials administered locally, systemically, or both, depending on the extent and severity of the infectious process. Unlike bumblefoot, this condition generally responds readily to treatment.

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