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Often as vets we are called out to look at cows that the farmer says has woody tongue.  

Sometimes this is the right diagnosis, but often the swelling under the jaw is caused by another disease.  Aside from woody tongue (Actinobacillosis), other localised diseases that can cause the swelling are tooth root abscesses, lumpy jaw (Actinomycosis), salivary gland infections, foreign bodies and occasionally cancer.  

Some of these conditions may require urgent drainage. Systemic diseases such as Johne’s, heart failure or a high parasite burden can also result in swellings under the jaw.  Woody tongue requires specific antibiotic and/or sodium iodide therapy, often using products that are strictly controlled (i.e. we can’t just hand them out!).

Many antibiotics (Bovipen, Tylo) are ineffective against Woody Tongue. So before jabbing with antibiotics, it would be worth consulting with your vet first.

CUD Newsletter - April 2012