These information sheets are provided for your interest. They should not replace veterinary advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Whilst every effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information provided at the time of writing, your specific circumstances must be discussed before advice can be given.

Wooden tongue (Actinobacillosis)

Actinobacillosis, more commonly known as ‘Wooden Tongue’, is caused by the bacterium Actinobacillus lignieresi, which is commonly found in the soil and is a normal inhabitant of the bovine mouth. The bacteria can penetrate the skin or mucous membranes through cuts or abrasions caused by coarse feed, traumatic injury etc. It is usually seen as sporadic cases, but some herds have a more frequent occurrence of the disease.

Clinical Signs

  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Hard, swollen tongue which may protrude from the mouth
  • Painful mouth
  • Dropping of food due to inability of the tongue to move properly
  • Formation of granulomas (soft tissue areas of inflammation) on other parts of the body due to spread of infection to the skin
  • Enlarged or infected lymph nodes of the head and neck
  • Dehydration and/or weight loss due to inability to eat properly


If treatment is started during the early stage of disease, it can be very successful. Antibiotics (penicillins or tetracyclines) are appropriate. Intravenous sodium iodide given on days 0, 7 and 28, can be beneficial. Prognosis is good if disease is identified and treated early. Once the disease progresses to chronic, the prognosis becomes poor.