1. Home
  2. Knowledge Base
  3. Animal Guides
  4. Goats
  5. Potential Goat Health Challenges

Potential Goat Health Challenges

Updated October 5, 2020

When it comes to goats, if you want to ensure that you treat any health challenges as early as possible, you’ll have to spend a lot of time with the herd, so slight changes and symptoms are more apparent to you. By conducting regular full body health examinations, you’ll be able to know what healthy looks and feels (and smells!) like, and when you should be concerned.

Animal Healthcare Disclaimer

This is not an exhaustive list of everything that can happen to a goat, but can help you get a sense of what challenges a goat under your care may face in their lifetime. If you believe a goat is facing a health issue, always discuss with a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible. Reading about health issues does not qualify you to diagnose your residents!

Issues By Afflicted Area

Appetite/Drinking Changes: Anaplasmosis, Anemia, Bloat, CL, Coccidiosis, Enterotoxemia, Grain Overload (Rumen Acidosis, Lactic Acidosis), Internal Parasites, Listeriosis, Upper Respiratory Infection, Urinary Calculi

Blood: Anaplasmosis, Anemia, Anthrax, Barber Pole, Coccidiosis, Internal Parasites

Breathing/Mouth: Abscesses, Anaplasmosis, Barber Pole, Bottle Jaw, CAE, Clostridial DiseaseListeriosis, Lungworms, Sore Mouth, Upper Respiratory Infection, White Muscle Disease

Droppings: Anaplasmosis, Coccidiosis, Internal Parasites, Johne’s Disease, Pizzle End RotTapeworms, Urinary Calculi

Energy/Movement: Anaplasmosis, Anemia, Anthrax, Arthritis, Barber Pole, Bloat, CAE, CL, Clostridial DiseaseCoccidiosisEnterotoxemia, Grain Overload (Rumen Acidosis, Lactic Acidosis), Infectious Foot Rot (Contagious Hoof Rot), Internal Parasites, Joint Infections, LaminitisListeriosis, Mastitis, Overgrown Hooves, Parelaphostrongylus Tenuis (Meningeal Worm, Deer Worm, Brain Worm), Pizzle End RotTapeworms, Thiamine DeficiencyUpper Respiratory Infection, Urinary Calculi, White Muscle Disease

Eyes: Anemia,  Barber Pole, Clostridial DiseasePink Eye, Thiamine Deficiency

Feet/Hooves: Arthritis, CAE, Infectious Foot Rot (Contagious Hoof Rot), Interdigital Dermatitis (Foot Scald), Joint Infections, Laminitis, Overgrown Hooves

Head/Neck: Abscesses, CL, Listeriosis, Sore Mouth

Legs/Joints: Arthritis, CAE, Joint Infections, Laminitis, Overgrown Hooves, Parelaphostrongylus Tenuis (Meningeal Worm, Deer Worm, Brain Worm)

Skin/Coat: Abscesses, Anemia, Arthritis, CAE, CL, Lice, Mange, Parelaphostrongylus Tenuis (Meningeal Worm, Deer Worm, Brain Worm), Sore Mouth

Social Changes: Anaplasmosis, Anemia, Anthrax, Arthritis, Barber Pole, Bloat, CAE, Clostridial DiseaseListeriosisPizzle End RotTapeworms, Upper Respiratory Infection, White Muscle Disease

Udder: Abscesses, CAE, CL, Lice, Sore Mouth, Mastitis

Weight: Anaplasmosis, Anemia, Arthritis, Barber Pole, CAE, CL, Coccidiosis, Internal Parasites, Johne’s Disease, Listeriosis, Tapeworms

Abscesses

Abscesses are pockets of pus that can develop internally or externally. They can develop in any area of the body, but some common sites for goats include their feet, face, and neck. Abscesses can form for a variety of reasons, including infections, poor wound management, and benign reactions to vaccinations or injectable medications. Abscesses can also form as a result of Caseous Lymphadenitis, a highly contagious condition that can cause internal and external abscesses. This disease is spread through contact with the pus, so separating individuals with external abscesses is typically recommended. In the event of a suspected abscess, it should be first evaluated by a veterinarian or experienced caregiver- they can aspirate the lump to determine if it is an abscess or not. Depending on the location, size, and whether or not the goat is displaying other signs of concern, your veterinarian may decide to lance the abscess. In most cases, a culture will be recommended to determine the best course of action. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you about any necessary treatments based on the cause of the abscess. If you have not been trained to identify and lance an abscess, you must work closely with your veterinarian. Not all external lumps are abscesses, and cutting into tumors or other masses could result in serious issues. Also be aware that any abscess on the neck or near major blood vessels should always be evaluated by a veterinarian. In these instances, it may be too dangerous to lance the abscess due to the risk of major bleeding. Back To Top

Anaplasmosis

This is a somewhat rare red blood cell infection in goats. It is caused by a blood parasite that is typically transmitted by insects such as ticks and flies. It may be possible to also transmit the disease in the womb. Anaplasmosis presents itself as anemia, fever, and yellowing mucus membranes. An afflicted goat might also lose weight, suffer from depression, dehydration, constipation, and lack of appetite. A fully recovered goat might remain weak for the rest of their life. If you suspect Anaplasmosis, contact your veterinarian immediately. There are medicinal treatments available for Anaplasmosis. Back To Top

Anemia

Anemia in goats can be characterized by pale skin, especially a pale color in the inner membrane of their lower eyelid. A healthy goat has a pink eyelid. If it is white, they may be very anemic. An anemic goat might also be more lethargic, have a dull or shabby coat, lose weight, or stop eating as frequently. Anemia could be a result of parasites or parasitic disease (especially Anaplasmosis or Barber Pole), lice, fleas, ticks, blood loss, or poor diet. Advanced anemia in goats can lead to Bottle Jaw (see below). Depending on a veterinarian’s recommendation, anemic goats can be treated with high protein food on a temporary basis, as well as additional minerals or iron supplements, probiotics, and vitamin B-12 to help restore red blood cells. An extremely anemic goat may require a blood transfusion. Regularly test for anemia using the FAMACHA systemBack To Top

Anthrax

Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis spores, which can lie dormant in soil for many years. The bacteria is more common in temperate climates and can come to the surface after heavy rains, especially after periods of drought. Animals who graze are susceptible to the disease after eating contaminated grass. Symptoms include depression, incoordination, staggering, trembling, convulsions, excitement, high fever, bleeding, and unfortunately, typically death. If you suspect a goat has anthrax, you must contact your veterinarian immediately. The infected goat can quickly spread the disease to other animals, including humans. Confirmations of anthrax must be reported to government officials. If it is treated very early on with antibiotics, it is possible for goats to survive. There is also a vaccine available for anthrax. Back To Top

Arthritis

Like most animals, goats can become prone to arthritis as they get older. Arthritis can also be caused by Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis, injury, infection, malnutrition, and a lack of space to move freely. Symptoms include less motion, laying down more often, weight loss, shabby coat, strange gait, and swollen joints. Treatment for arthritis differs depending on the root cause, so if you believe that a goat is suffering from arthritis, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. For arthritis caused by old age, there are a number of goat-safe anti-inflammatory supplements and NSAIDs such as Meloxicam available to ease swelling and pain. For a more longterm solution for arthritis, you can administer a Chondroprotective agent such as Adequan to help repair joint cartilage and soothe inflammation. We have also seen success treating arthritis pains with more natural remedies such as Botswella (also known as Indian Frankincense) to successfully lower inflammation. Make extra sure that their environment is as arthritis-friendly as can be, minimizing steep grades or long walks to food or water if you can! Back To Top

Barber Pole

The Barber Pole worm, a stomach roundworm formally known as Haemonchus contortus, is the most dangerous worm that a goat can get infected by. It is a bloodsucker that pierces the lining of the goat’s stomach, which can cause anemia and quickly be fatal. Barber Pole infections can present themselves through other anemia symptoms such as pale mucous membranes, Bottle Jaw, as well as lethargy, weight loss, and collapse. Extreme infections may require blood transfusions to save the goat’s life. You can diagnose Barber Pole infections with a worm test or larval culture. FAMACHA scoring can also help determine the seriousness of an infection; this tool requires training from a veterinarian. Unfortunately, many strains of Barber Pole have become resistant to common treatments, and some infected animals may carry (and spread the disease on pasture) for life. Goats exhibiting signs of resistant infections may have to live separately from the rest of the herd for their life. The best prevention is a regular fecal testing program and rapid intervention if necessary. Back To Top

Bloat

Bloat is a serious issue in goats that is typically caused by a goat having too much gas in their rumen and being unable to expel it, or a mineral imbalance caused by this food such as potassium or magnesium. Symptoms of bloat includes a distended left rumen (the goat’s first stomach, swelling behind their last rib on their left side), heavy or labored breathing, general signs of discomfort like kicking, teeth grinding, loud cries or bawling, and heavy salivation. If you are concerned that a goat might be suffering from bloat, it’s critical that you contact your veterinarian immediately, as late treatment might not save the goat’s life (bloat can stop a goat’s lungs or heart). Someone at your sanctuary needs to be trained in advance to intubate a goat for emergency interventions such as these if a veterinarian is not very close by. It’s very important that when a goat gets access to a new pasture, they should not be allowed to graze on it until their digestive system adjusts to it, especially if the pasture has quick growing plants like clover or alfalfa. You should introduce goats to the new pasture for up to a week alongside their usual hay, only allowing for a few hours at a time, and never if the pasture is wet as this is highly more likely to cause bloat. Avoid feeding a goat old or dusty food as well. Back To Top

Bottle Jaw

Bottle Jaw, also known as submandibular edema, presents itself as a very swollen lower jaw in a goat. This is caused by extreme anemia (especially in the case of Barber Pole infections) resulting in watery tissue in their jaw, and requires immediate intervention to reverse their anemia, which could be life-threatening. Back To Top

Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)

CAE is a retroviral infection that can affect sheep and goats. Once an animal is infected, they are infected for life. It is transmitted almost exclusively from mother to kid in utero and through milk. It can also be transmitted through blood, but this is more rare. There is a good chance that the goat you are caring for is CAE-positive, and it may not affect them visibly for the duration of a long and comfortable life. If a goat is symptomatic, there are five primary forms of CAE. Treatment involves managing the symptoms and providing extra supportive care to affected goats. Check out our article about CAE here. Back To Top

Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL)

CL is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis which can cause localized enlarged pain-free abscesses on a goat’s skin (especially around their head), lymph nodes, and organs. External CL refers to abscesses on the skin, which can become internal through blood or the lymphatic system, moving on to affect a goat’s lymph nodes and organs. If it spreads internally, CL can affect a goat’s lungs, liver, and kidneys.  If a goat has an abscess on their skin, you should separate them from other goats and sheep and have your veterinarian culture the abscess’ pus, which can highly accurately determine whether it is CL. If a goat tests positive for CL, the pus in their abscesses can spread the disease to other residents. Other symptoms of CL can include anemia, lack of appetite, weight loss, and fever. It is possible (though very rare) for CL to spread to humans, so it’s important to maintain good biosecurity when handling goats suspected of having CL. Back To Top

Clostridial Disease

These diseases are unfortunately common if a goat isn’t given a scheduled CDT vaccine. They are found in many environments and can live a long time without a host. This includes Enterotoxemia types C and D (see Enterotoxemia below) as well as Tetanus. Tetanus causes stiffness, lockjaw, convulsions, lack of ability to stand, and their third eyelid blocking vision. Antitoxins and antibiotics can treat these diseases, though not always effectively. The vaccine as a preventative is always better than treatment if at all possible. Kids should get a Tetanus shot prior to neutering. Back To Top

Coccidiosis

Coccidia are parasites which can damage a goat’s small intestinal lining. Most adult goats are infected and immune, but one to six month-old goats are at risk of fatal infestations. An acute infection can lead to anemia, dehydration, fever, hair loss, weight loss, stunted growth, and bloody, mucus-filled diarrhea. Usually Coccidiosis is a result of overcrowding, stress, and poor sanitation. The best prevention is keeping a goat’s living space clean and uncrowded! There are medicines available to treat infections. As a preventative measure, you should have a lab perform a fecal test on goats every three months to ensure that they are not facing a dangerous parasitic infection. Back To Top

Enterotoxemia

Also known as pulpy kidney disease or bloody scours, Enterotoxemia occurs most commonly when a goat or sheep either gets indigestion or overeats. If a feeding source changes suddenly or a goat begins eating too much, a common organism in their gut begins to reproduce quickly and produces a toxin which can cause uncoordinated movement, convulsions, then death. Caught early, Enterotoxemia can be treated with CD antitoxin. There is also a vaccination available to prevent it. Back To Top

Grain Overload (Rumen Acidosis, Lactic Acidosis)

Grain overload, or grain poisoning, occurs when a goat eats large quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods when they are not used to eating such diets. In a sanctuary setting, it is most often caused by residents accidentally gaining access to grain storage areas, but could also occur if residents who require grain supplementation are fed too much or are not slowly transitioned onto this diet. Despite commonly being called grain overload, grain is not the only food source that can cause lactic acidosis, though many of the other problematic foods would not typically be available to sanctuary residents in the amount needed to cause an issue. Fruits, including apples and grapes, as well as sugar beets, potatoes, and bread products can also cause acidosis. How much of a particular carbohydrate-rich food is needed to cause illness is dependent on the type of food, what the individual is used to eating, and other factors. Ingestion of grains with a smaller particle size typically results in more severe illness (compared to the same amount of grain of a larger particle size) because it will be broken down more quickly.

Ingestion of large quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods by individuals who are not used to such diets will result in a change in the rumen microflora and a lower than normal pH (more acidic). These changes result in certain acid-tolerant bacteria to increase, which in turn results in more lactic acid being produced. Rumen motility slows, resulting in stasis and mild bloat. Lactic acidosis can be fatal- prompt intervention is imperative. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if a resident is showing signs of lactic acidosis or if they got into large amounts of grain (or other concerning foods), even if they are not showing signs of illness yet. If you have activated charcoal products such as Universal Animal Antidote, ask if administration is advised.

Early signs of grain overload include restlessness and colic (including kicking at their abdomen). Affected individuals may develop ataxia and have trouble rising due to weakness. Individuals will not want to eat and may extend their neck, grind their teeth, and have a distended abdomen. Breathing is often shallow and rapid. At first they may have an elevated rectal temperature, but as the condition progresses their temperature will drop below normal. While they may show no sign of diarrhea for the first 12-24 hours, profuse diarrhea, often with a sweet- sour odor, often develops after this point. In some cases, removal of rumen contents through rumenotomy (surgical incision into the rumen) or lavage (using a stomach tube) will be required. Both carry risk and your veterinarian will determine the best course of action given the specifics of the situation. Transfaunation (ruminal fluid transfer) to restore healthy microflora, and fluid therapy to address dehydration and metabolic acidosis are important. Your veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics (Penicillin is commonly used) and thiamine or multivitamin injections depending on the severity of the illness. Prevention is key. Make sure all grain is stored out of reach and secured from residents, and talk to your veterinarian about safely introducing supplemental grain to a resident’s diet if needed. Also be aware of other risks on your property such as large numbers of apple trees in or overhanging resident pastures. Back To Top

Infectious Foot Rot (Contagious Hoof Rot)

Infectious foot rot (sometimes spelled “footrot” or used interchangeably with the term “hoof rot”) is a bacterial infection that affects both sheep and goats. Though there are often multiple bacteria involved, Dichelobacter nodosus (formerly Bacteroides nodosus) must be present to be considered true foot rot. The other bacteria most often associated with foot rot, but which is the absence of D. nodosus does not cause true foot rot, is Fusobacterium necrophorum. On its own, F. necrophorum causes interdigital dermatitis (sometimes referred to as “scald”) but can make the foot vulnerable to infection with D. nodosus. There are numerous strains of D. nodosus with varying degrees of virulence. However, unlike in sheep, clinical signs in goats are not always a good indicator of whether or not they have a benign or virulent strain. Goats with foot rot can develop significant lameness, which could result in them walking on their knees, but the condition is usually less severe in goats than in sheep. Signs of foot rot in goats include red, moist, inflamed tissue between the claws, mild to severe separation of the hoof wall from the sole, a foul odor, and a black tarry appearance. Individuals with foot rot often have rot in more than one foot, and both claws are usually affected.   

Foot rot typically occurs in areas with periods of warm, wet weather- with spring and fall being common times for transmission. In addition to wet conditions, overgrown hooves can also make foot rot infections more likely. Sheep and goats with foot rot contaminate the environment with D. nodosus which can then infect other residents. D. nodosus can only survive for between a few days and a few weeks in the environment, but infected sheep and goats can be carriers for years. 

If you suspect a resident has foot rot, be sure to get your veterinarian out to examine the individual(s). Foot rot is usually diagnosed based on clinical signs, though less severe forms may be difficult to differentiate from interdigital dermatitis. Treatment typically involves trimming of the hoof, application of a topical antibiotic treatment (tetracycline is a common one) or medicated foot baths, and possibly systemic antibiotics. It’s generally recommended that individuals with infectious foot rot be separated from other sheep and goats- depending on the situation, your veterinarian may recommend fully isolating the affected individual, or they may recommend taking measures to prevent the spread to other groups of sheep and goats that have not yet had contact with the individual. Prevention is key- be sure to regularly trim your residents’ hooves, keep indoor living spaces dry and clean, and make sure outdoor areas have adequate drainage. Back To Top

Interdigital Dermatitis (Foot Scald)

This condition is sometimes referred to as “foot scald” but that term can be confusing because it is sometimes used to describe benign strains of foot rot. Interdigital dermatitis is caused by the bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum (this bacteria is typically seen in combination with Dichelobacter nodosus, the bacteria that causes infectious foot rot), and often occurs in warm, wet conditions. If the foot is exposed to wet conditions for prolonged periods of time, it can become vulnerable to damage, especially between the claws, which allows bacteria to enter. Goats with interdigital dermatitis could develop severe lameness and may be seen holding up a foot or limping. Individuals with interdigital dermatitis will have inflammation of the tissue between the claws and the skin may be discolored, moist, raw, and sensitive. Individuals with this condition are vulnerable to infectious foot rot. Treatment typically involves limiting their exposure to wet areas and a topical treatment of zinc sulfate or copper sulfate, but if sheep live in the group, copper sulfate treatments should be avoided to prevent possible issues with toxicity. In some cases, trimming the hair around the hoof can help the foot to dry out more quickly. Back To Top

Internal Parasites

There are a number of internal parasites that can affect a goat’s quality of life, and unfortunately a number of internal parasites that are resistant to common treatments. Some internal parasites, such as Lungworms, Barber Pole, and Coccidia, can cause severe illness depending on the severity of the infection. Common parasite symptoms can include lethargy, diarrhea, clumped stools, weight loss, and anemia. As a preventative measure, you should have a lab perform a fecal test on goats every three months to ensure that they are not facing a dangerous parasitic infection and have appropriate treatment policies in place for infected goats. Back To Top

Johne’s Disease

Also known as paratuberculosis, Johne’s disease is a fatal contagious gastrointestinal disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis. It can affect goats, sheep, cows, and other ruminants. The strain that infects cows is not the same one that infects goats. It is usually transmitted when a goat incidentally eats fecal-infected material or while a kid is in their mother’s womb. An infected goat loses a large amount of weight and generally gets worse and worse off over time, and will have a large amount of diarrhea before death. There is unfortunately no reliable medication to treat Johne’s Disease. Back To Top

Joint Infections

If a goat has a swollen, reddened, or hot joint, have a veterinarian evaluate them immediately, and never tap a swollen joint yourself. There are a number of different diseases and illness that could cause joint infections, including CAE or Joint or Navel Ill if young. If untreated, the infection can spread to the bone or cause permanent damage and death. Back To Top

Laminitis

Laminitis can be extremely painful to goats and cause lameness. Symptoms include fever, heat in the feet, lowered mobility, enlarged feet, overgrown hooves, and a reluctance to stand. Laminitis is typically a secondary disease to digestion issues (sometimes from bloat or grain poisoning) or from eating too much grain, or from infection. A recovered goat might end up with permanently inhibited motion. There are other diseases that present similar symptoms to laminitis, such as hoof rot. Back To Top

Lice

Lice infections are very common and very unlikely to cause long term harm to goats in mild infections, though those who are very young, elderly, or have compromised immune systems may get more serious infections. There are a number of goat-safe treatments for lice, but it’s important to begin treatment early on to prevent infestations to get out of control! Untreated, lice could cause anemia. You should be checking for lice every time you conduct a goat health checkup. Back To Top

Listeriosis

Listeriosis is the result of an infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. In goats, listeriosis is also known as “circling disease”, as it causes a goat to become weaker on one side of their body, leading them to only be able to walk in circles until they become completely paralyzed and die. Other symptoms include depression, lowered appetite, fever, stumbling, head pulling in one direction, facial paralysis, a loose jaw, and drooling. If you think a goat is suffering from Listeriosis, it’s critical that you get a veterinary evaluation. It can be treated with an intensive regimen of penicillin for up to two weeks. Back To Top

Lungworms

Lungworms are an internal parasite that infect goats who inadvertently eat food that has been contaminated with infected feces. They enter the lungs and trachea of goats and sheep, but do not typically present symptoms until the infection becomes severe. These symptoms include coughing, runny nose, and fever. More vulnerable goats such as very old, very young, or those with compromised immune systems can potentially die from a serious infection. As a preventative measure, you should have a lab perform a fecal test on goats every three months to ensure that they are not facing a dangerous parasitic infection and have appropriate treatment policies in place for infected goats. Back To Top

Mange

Mange is a skin condition caused by a number of species of very small mites, one of the most common types being Demodectic mange, which can be tough to eliminate, causing nodules filled with whitish material on their face, body, and udders. Mange presents as flaky and scruffy dandruff-like material on the skin as well as irritation. In more advanced cases, a goat may lose some hair and the underlying skin might become thick and hard. Chorioptic mange is common in goats, which begins behind their dewclaws and can spread up their legs and infect an entire herd quickly. Goats are also susceptible to Sarcoptic mange, which causes crusty lesions on their face and head, is contagious to humans but has effective treatments. Any type of suspected mange must be dealt with quickly. There are a number of medications available for mange, but you must make sure that they are goat-safe, as some treatments could cause dangerous or lethal reactions. Treatments usually must be repeated over a long period of time in order to be effective. Back To Top

Mastitis

Also known as acute pasteurella, hard bag, or blue bag, mastitis presents as inflammation to a bacterial udder infection, typically of Staphylococcus aureus or Pasteurella hemolytica. A goat can have either acute mastitis or chronic mastitis, the latter typically undetected throughout a goat’s life. Acute mastitis presents itself as discolored, dark, swollen, and warm udders. An afflicted goat will likely not want to walk, keep a rear foot held up, and might not be able to nurse any kids. Mastitis can also be a secondary infection to sore mouth. Have a veterinarian evaluate the disease to determine appropriate treatment. It is treatable with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Back To Top

Overgrown Hooves

Unless their living space has a great deal of rough or hard surfaces, goats need humans to trim their hooves, typically around every six weeks. Older and less active individuals may require more frequent trimming than that. If goat’s hooves are allowed to grow unchecked, the hoof wall can wrap around their footpads or the tip may curl painfully, causing impaired mobility, a higher risk of getting foot rot, and could even lead to permanent lameness. Extremely overgrown hooves may require several sessions over a period of weeks to trim the hoof without causing damage. Check out our hoof trimming guide for reference here. Back To Top

Parelaphostrongylus Tenuis (Meningeal Worm, Deer Worm, Brain Worm)

Parelaphostrongylus Tenuis (P. tenuis) is a parasitic worm whose natural host is the white-tailed deer. Goats, sheep, and camelids living in areas with white-tailed deer populations can also become infected by this parasite but are considered aberrant, or unnatural hosts. In these species, the parasite can cause significant issues not typically seen in white-tailed deer. There are two common manifestations of this parasitic infection- one presents as neurological issues and the other presents as skin issues. Neurological symptoms typically start with slight weakness or dragging of one or both hind legs, which can then develop into more severe ataxia and even hind limb paralysis. When presenting as a skin issue, symptoms include excessive itching and hair loss- typically in vertical stripes on the body. In rare instances an affected individual may develop a head tilt, walk in circles, have rapid eye movements, and have a hard time chewing. Presumptive diagnoses are made based on clinical signs and exposure risk- a fecal test will not detect P. tenuis in unnatural hosts. In some cases, examination of the cerebrospinal fluid may be recommended to help support the presumptive diagnosis, but this requires anesthesia and will not result in a definitive diagnosis. Absolute confirmation of P. tenuis can only be made during a post-mortem examination. Treatment typically includes a combination of multiple dewormers (often at higher and/or more frequent doses than when treating other parasites) and an anti-inflammatory medication. With prompt treatment, even goats with more severe symptoms can make a full recovery, though some may have residual weakness for the remainder of their lives. If left untreated, paralysis and other neurological symptoms can become permanent. Back To Top

Pink Eye

Pink eye in goats can be a serious disease, and comes in both infectious and noninfectious forms. Infectious pink eye is caused by either a viral or bacterial disease, sometimes via flies traveling from goat to goat. Early symptoms include eye discharge as well as red and swollen eyes. The cornea of the goat’s eye might become hazy or opaque. It is very important to treat all pink eye early in goats as it can lead to permanent blindness. A goat with pink eye should be isolated to avoid spreading the disease and kept in a cool, shady location removed from sunlight. Noninfectious pink eye can come from eye abrasions, vitamin A deficiency, toxins, or stings, which can be treated with ointments (or in the case of Vitamin A deficiency, Vitamin A supplementation). Contact a veterinarian if you suspect a goat has pink eye, as there are a number of treatments available depending on the pink eye’s underlying cause. Back To Top

Pizzle End Rot

Also known as Sheath Rot or Urine Scald, Pizzle End Rot occurs when a male goat’s urine is getting caught in their hair as they urinate, causing scald (ammonia burns) or a bacterial infection on their prepuce. Untreated, this can lead to painful and potentially dangerous scarring and could block urination, and will likely require at least a round of antibiotics to clear up if it goes unnoticed for some time. It is much easier to treat early on. You must have an expert or veterinarian show you how to treat it.  High protein diets can exacerbate urine acidity. Back To Top

Sore Mouth (Or, Orf)

Sore mouth is a highly contagious viral disease caused by a poxvirus that can affect both sheep and goats. It enters an individual through cuts or abrasions of their skin, and a nursing goat kid with sore mouth could also spread the disease to their mother’s udder. Sore mouth symptoms include blister-like lesions in less hairy parts of the goat’s body, often on their lips and mouth, with the blisters eventually becoming scabs. While adults with sore mouth typically continue eating, goat kids with severe lesions may be reluctant to eat, in which case tube feeding may be necessary (this must be performed by a veterinarian or experienced caregiver to avoid potentially fatal consequences). There is no treatment for sore mouth, but the condition will usually resolve within 3-6 weeks barring any complications. In some cases, topical or systemic antibiotics may be recommended to address secondary bacterial infections. While this disease is most common in younger goats and sheep, adults can also become infected. Immunity after infection typically lasts 2-3 years, though after the initial infection, any subsequent infections tend to be less severe. Sore mouth can be spread to humans (though it manifests differently in humans, resulting in a single lesion, often on the hand), so it is imperative that anyone interacting with an individual with sore mouth wears gloves and other protective coverings. Sheep and goats with sore mouth could continue to spread the disease for weeks after lesions have healed, and individuals can be carriers of the disease (and spread it to others) without ever showing symptoms. Back To Top

Tapeworms

One of many parasites that affect goats, tapeworms can be diagnosed by finding yellow to white segments in a goat’s feces. Goats can become resistant to tapeworms relatively early on in life, so they do not pose too great of a health risk. Symptoms can include weight loss, sluggishness, and stomach discomfort. As a preventative measure, you should have a lab perform a fecal test on goats every three months to ensure that they are not facing a dangerous parasitic infection and have appropriate treatment policies in place for infected goats. Back To Top

Thiamine Deficiency

Sometimes referred to as Polioencephalomalacia or Cerebrocortical NecrosisThiamine or B1 Vitamin deficiency affects a goat’s central nervous system. It can cause blindness, lack of ability to stand, and their head turned up against their back. It is more frequently seen in younger goats, and typically caused by plants that prevent Thiamine absorption. A veterinarian can treat a deficiency with a round of injections. Back To Top

Upper Respiratory Infection

There can be a variety of different illnesses and parasites that can affect a goat’s breathing, nose, windpipe, and lungs. Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, increased body temperature or fever, and loss of appetite. If you suspect a goat may have an upper respiratory infection, it’s important to get an immediate veterinary consultation to determine its cause as some infections are considerably more dangerous and harder to treat than others. Back To Top

Urinary Calculi

Urolithiasis, or the formation of urinary calculi (stones or crystals) in the urinary tract, can affect both male and females but is especially common in males and can result in a life-threatening urinary blockage. Urinary calculi often form as a result of dietary issues. Struvite and apatite stones are most commonly seen in goats eating diets high in grain concentrates, while calcium carbonate stones are more common in goats eating diets containing lots of legumes. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about the risks associated with your region and pasture/ forage make-up, because there are other types of stones that can be caused by eating plants containing high levels of certain compounds (such as silica) that may be common in your region. One of the more common causes of urinary calculi is an imbalance of calcium-to-phosphorus in their diet. Your veterinarian may have specific recommendations regarding what ratio is best for your residents, but generally, you should strive for a 2:1 calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. To help prevent urinary calculi, avoid feeding cereal grains (for example oats and corn), legumes (alfalfa and clover), and grain concentrates as much as possible. 

While urinary calculi can develop anywhere in the urinary tract, they can result in a full or partial obstruction when located in the urethra. Goats neutered at a very young age have narrower urethras than those neutered when they are closer to 5 months old and are, therefore, more prone to urinary obstruction if they develop stones. We recommend having a discussion with your veterinarian regarding the best age at which to neuter your male goat residents, specifically asking about the increased risk of urinary blockages in goat kids neutered at a younger age. 

Signs of a urinary blockage include straining to urinate, posturing as if to urinate but not actually doing so, head pressing, lethargy, inappetance, and signs of pain such as vocalizing, kicking at their belly, and teeth grinding. This is a very painful condition, but some individuals will mask their pain until they are no longer able to do so; therefore, it is important to catch the more subtle signs of concern. If you ever have concerns that a resident may have a urinary blockage, as long as they are currently stable and alert, you can spend time watching to see if they are able to urinate. If they seem to struggle or strain to urinate, have bloody urine, are seen dribbling only a small amount of urine at a time, or have crystals or sandy deposits on the hair around their prepuce, these are signs of concern. If you suspect a urinary blockage, contact your veterinarian immediately- if left untreated, urinary blockages can result in bladder rupture and, ultimately, death. Because surgical intervention is often required, we strongly recommend a goat with a suspected urinary blockage be hospitalized as soon as possible. However, in the case of a partial obstruction, if the individual is still passing some urine and is up and alert, your veterinarian may recommend evaluating the individual on-site to determine if hospitalization is necessary. 

In addition to avoiding foods that are known to cause urinary calculi, make sure the minerals you provide offer the proper ratio of calcium-to-phosphorus and consider having your water analyzed so you know the mineral composition. Be sure to look at their food sources, minerals, supplements, and water make-up holistically, working closely with your veterinarian to determine if changes need to be made. If an individual develops urinary calculi, be sure to have the stone analyzed so you know what type of stone you are dealing with and can take appropriate measures to prevent future issues, both for the individual and their herdmates. Back To Top

White Muscle Disease

White muscle disease is a degenerative disease that can be found in both sheep and goats. It is caused by a nutritional deficiency of selenium, Vitamin E, or both. White muscle disease can affect heart muscle, skeletal muscle, or both. When the heart muscle is afflicted, a goat might have fever, trouble breathing, and bloody, frothy nasal discharge. When the skeletal muscle is afflicted, a goat will have an arched back, appear to be hunched over, and move very stiffly. Affected goats will also have a much weaker immune system. Vitamin E deficiencies are typically a result of insufficient forage nutritional quality, and selenium deficiencies are typically found where the soil lacks selenium in appropriate quantities for foraging goats. Treatment involves having a veterinarian giving goats Vitamin E and selenium nutritional booster shots, which should show positive results within a day. If you suspect a goat is suffering from white muscle disease, contact your veterinarian for evaluation and to get the appropriate injections. The best prevention is to ensure that goats have access to nutritional sources that are rich in both vitamin E and selenium throughout the year! Back To Top

SOURCES:

Goat Care | Farm Sanctuary

Common Diseases Of Goats | Merck Veterinary Manual

Meningeal Worm – Deer Worm – Brain Worm | Maryland Small Ruminant Page

Overview of CAE | Merck Veterinary Manual

UAA (Universal Animal Antidote) Gel | Drugs

Footrot | Veterinary Handbook For Sheep, Goats, And Cattle

Sheep And Goat Medicine, Second Edition (Non-Compassionate Source)

Common Goat Health Problems | Life Slice (Non-Compassionate Source)

Goat Diseases: Signs, Symptoms & Testing | Weed ‘Em & Reap (Non-Compassionate Source)

Goat Diseases | The Spruce (Non-Compassionate Source)

Anemia In Goats | The Free Range Life (Non-Compassionate Source)

Anaplasmosis | Goat Wisdom (Non-Compassionate Source)

Goat Anthrax | Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Barber’s Pole Worm | Worm Boss (Non-Compassionate Source)

Johne’s Disease | American Dairy Goat Association (Non-Compassionate Source)

Diagnosing & Treating Listeriosis | Goat World (Non-Compassionate Source)

Diagnosing & Treating Arthritis | Goat Link (Non-Compassionate Source)

Deer Worm Factsheet | Cornell Sheep & Goat Program and Cornell Ambulatory Veterinary Services (Non-Compassionate Source)

Contagious Ecthyma – Commonly Known As Orf | Ontario Ministry Of Agriculture, Food, And Rural Affairs (Non-Compassionate Source)

Urolithiasis in Large Animals | Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

Urolithiasis in Small Ruminants | American College Of Veterinary Surgeons (Non-Compassionate Source)

Grain Overload In Ruminants | Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

Footrot In Sheep And Goats | Purdue Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Foot Rot Or Scald: Which Is It? | University Of Maine Cooperative Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Contagious Foot Rot In Goats | Goats Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Foot Scald | North Carolina Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on October 5, 2020

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Support Our Work
Please consider supporting The Open Sanctuary Project by making a donation today! We are 100% donor-funded and rely on the support of generous individuals to provide compassionate resources to animal caretakers worldwide.
Donate Now