Common Diseases in Goats
Kipp Brown-Area Agent-4-H Livestock/Meat Goat-Mississippi State University Extension Service
Ketosis (also known as pregnancy toxemia) may occur in pregnant does late in their pregnancy.
The doe may be depressed, weak, uninterested in food, and have poor muscle control and
balance. If untreated, death follows within a few days. Early in the disease, many does will show
a positive test for ketone bodies in the urine. Ketosis may occur when the doe is carrying two or
more kids, or when the doe is very fat. This disease is caused by the sudden extra demand for
energy by the fast-growing kids in the pregnant goat and the inability of the goat to eat enough of
her normal diet to provide this energy (due to the kids taking up room in the body). The doe will
rapidly metabolize fat from her body stores producing ketones (a toxic by-product) and the
symptoms of the disease. Treatment with propylene glycol at two to three ounces twice a day
will help. If the doe lies down and cannot stand, treatment is usually not successful unless she
delivers at that time. As a preventive measure, do not let the doe get fat early in pregnancy and in
the last month of pregnancy provide 1-2 pounds of grain in addition to hay.
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Syndrome (CAE)
CAE is a viral disease. In young kids symptoms include a weakness in the rear legs, with no
fever, or loss of appetite, However, the unused legs lose muscle strength and structure and the
infected kids eventually die. In older goats, the same disease is seen as swollen joints,
particularly the knees. The disease develops slowly, and after 2 or more years, the animal has
difficulty using its legs properly. Infected goats have no fever, remain alert, and eat well.
However, they do not recover from the arthritis. An inexpensive blood test can be used to
diagnose CAE. The disease is spread from older infected goats to kids, perhaps by contact or
through the milk from an infected doe to her kid. There are no corrective procedures or
treatments. Isolating kids at birth and raising them on pasteurized goat milk is done to prevent
the spread. It's a good idea to make sure a goat is CAE free before purchasing. However, the
blood test only checks for antibodies, and it's possible that an animal is infected and not (yet)
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland (udder or milk-giving gland) of animals,
usually caused by bacteria. The symptoms of mastitis are heat, pain, and swelling of the udder.
Usually you will notice some discoloration of the tissue and abnormal milk. The infected udder
will change in color from slightly more pink to a bright red, or to a black and cold udder. The
milk from an infected udder will vary in color, texture, and thickness. The California Mastitis
Test (CMT) is a good test for subclinical mastitis, but is not 100% accurate. Laboratory culture
or growth of the bacteria causing the mastitis is the best way to determine the exact diagnosis.
The causes of mastitis are most commonly rough treatment and unclean milking practices. Wash
the goat's udder before milking, and dip (or spray) the teats after milking with a teat dip. Wash
your hands before milking each goat to prevent the spread. The treatment consists of an
intramammary infusion of antibiotics, sometimes accompanied by additional antibiotics.
Consulting a vet is important for this disease since there are many different bacteria that cause
mastitis and different antibiotics are best for each. If untreated the infection spreads and the goat
may die or lose the udder.
A drastic change in feed and possibly too much corn in the goat’s diet most commonly
causes acidosis. When goats eat high concentrate rations, not only do the starches
produce more acid, but the lack of roughage causes a decreased amount of saliva.
Symptoms of acidosis include: Bloat, rapid breathing and/or lethargic behavior (staring
out into "space"). If your goat is diagnosed with Acidosis, you should treat him or her
immediately. Acidosis is potentially fatal, and if it does not kill your goat, it can burn the
rumen and kill good bacteria leading to other diseases. Allow the animal to drink lots of
water, use antacid preparations like milk of magnesia, oral tetracycline to prevent
bacterial overgrowth, probiocin or rumen contents from a healthy ruminant and thiamine
or B-complex vitamins.
Enterotoxemia (Over-eating disease)
Enterotoxemia, also known as "over-eating disease", is caused by the bacterium
Clostridium perfringins. This bacterium is a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tract of
goats and normally, is not a problem. However, there are certain conditions which trigger
excessive bacterial growth in which lethal amounts of toxin are produced, resulting in
death of the animal. Enterotoxemia can have no symptoms or symptoms such as diarrhea
that are commonly confused with other diseases, so prevention is a MUST. Vaccinate
kids once a month from the time they are 1 month old until they are 5-6 months old. Be
sure to use a vivalent C&D vaccine. Treatment for the disease can be unrewarding, if
your goat has already been diagnosed. Recoveries are rare, but affected goats can be
treated with Clostridium antitoxin, pencillin and flunixen.
Goats have both biting and sucking lice. Many sprays are effective but resistance can
occur to any of them. It is best twice 10-14 days apart to remove young lice before they
mature. Cylence is effective and also works well for flies. The avermectins and
moxidectins also help kill lice. Mange can be treated the same way but also treat topically
with Prolate (hog spray) or a Permethrin product. Treat every 5 days till the hair starts to
grow back(mange) or you see no sign of lice. Slick shearing a goat will also help kill the
lice population. Be sure to treat or remove bedding in sheds and pens.
This disease is usually caused by Chlamydia or Mycoplasma in goats, and is not related
to Moraxella bovis, which causes pinkeye in cattle. It is contagious, but species specific.
Pinkeye can be brought on by stress. Early signs of Pinkeye include runny, red, and
swollen eyes. The dark part of the eye (cornea) becomes hazy and then turns opaque
(clouds over). The goat begins to lose its sight. If left untreated, blindness can occur.
Most goats recover without any treatment however, so be certain the treatment you
choose does not cause any harm. If the eye looks like it is going to rupture, a
conjunctivial or third eyelid flap should be used to protect the eyeball. If your goat has
been diagnosed with pinkeye, there are a few means of treatment. If the eye has not
ulcerated, apply tetracycline (Terramycin) ophthalmic ointment three or four times a day
(minimum twice a day) , using disposable gloves to prevent spread of the infection.
Powders and aerosols are not recommended because they can be more irritating
especially if the eye is ulcerated. In severe cases of Pinkeye, injectable oxytetracycline
(LA200 or equivalent) may be used in addition to topical eye ointments. If the goat is
pregnant, however, remember that oxytetracycline is known to interfere with bone and
teeth formation in the unborn kid.
Soremouth is spread by a parapoxvirus that is highly contagious. It is more commonly
found in sheep than goats, however goats are still susceptible. It affects primarily the lips
and noses of young animals. If they are nursing off dams which have not previously had
the disease or been vaccinated, the dams will also display identical sores on the teats and
udder where it may cause mastitis. The sores start as small red spots which form blisters
that burst to form ulcers. These are followed by characteristic grayish-brown cauliflower-
like scabs. There will be spontaneous healing and the scabs will fall off in about three
weeks. The skin at the corona of the hooves can also be affected. To prevent the disease,
there is a soremouth vaccine that is available, but because it is a live virus vaccine, many
farmers have mixed feelings whether the vaccine helps or hurts. We suggest you speak
with your vet to see if the vaccine would be beneficial to your goat or flock. If your goat
has been diagnosed with soremouth, immediately isolate him or her from the rest of the
herd. You can apply antibotical cream to the infected area to prevent secondary diseases.
(Antibiotics WILL NOT kill a virus, they only work on bacteria.)
Coccidia are tiny intestinal parasites, actually protozoans, which can cause foamy, bloody
diarrhea or a dull, dry coat. Sometimes a goat with coccidiosis (coccidia infestation) has an on-
again-off-again soft stool or no obvious symptoms at all. You might not suspect a problem until
you notice that your kids are not growing as well as they should. Coccidiosis is characterized by
a foul smelling diarrhea and along with diarrhea comes dehydration and fever. The organism,
which causes Coccidiosis, is an intestinal parasite named Coccidiosis and the oocysts are present
to some degree in all goats. Babies are particularly susceptible to the disease because their
immune systems are not developed. It is passed through fecal-to-oral contact, usually as babies
first begin to eat solid foods. If your goat has been diagnosed with Coccidiosis, Banamine
(prescription required) should be administered intramuscularly (IM) at a rate of 1 cc per 100
pounds of body weight. Banamine should not be used but once every 36-72 hours, because it
causes stomach ulcers if used too frequently. A severely dehydrated goat should receive Re-Sorb
electrolytes, both in an oral drench and in the water bucket. Young kids up to four months of age
are at highest risk and should be treated at least once with the medication Albon or Corid. Our
veterinarian recommends that they receive Albon or Corid for one week beginning at about three
or four weeks of age and again if they are very stressed, such as when separated from their
mother. If in doubt, take a stool sample to a veterinarian who regularly treats goats.
Male goat (buck) kids that are not being kept as future herd sires are usually castrated so that
they will no longer be fertile. It is less traumatic to castrate the kid when he is very young but
this will make him more susceptible to urinary calculi because his urethra (the tube that carries
his urine from his bladder to the opening in his penis) will not develop to its full size and is
easier to clog up.
Urinary calculi occur when the urethra gets blocked up with mineral deposits and urine cannot
pass through it. If the deposits or "stones" are not somehow passed or dissolved, the kid’s
bladder will burst and he will die. Ideally, you should wait until your kid is 10 weeks old to
castrate him but this is not always possible. Other preventions for urinary calculi that you should
1) Feeding a ration with a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio,
2) Adding ammonium chloride to his feed at a rate of about 15 lbs. per ton of feed or else giving
him about ½ ounce (about a tablespoon) to 1 ounce (2 tbsp.) per day depending on his size
unless his feed already contains it,
3) Making sure he gets plenty of exercise and drinks lots of water (keep his water in the shade if
hot and unfrozen if cold, always have salt available to him), and
4) Checking daily to make sure he is urinating easily without straining and has no blood in his