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    Creating A Vaccine Program For Goat Residents At Your Animal Sanctuary

    a small medicine vial and syringe sit against a blue background
    Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
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    Veterinary Review Initiative
    The information in this resource was reviewed for accuracy and clarity by a qualified Doctor of Veterinary Medicine with farmed animal sanctuary experience as part of the Basic Sheep And Goat Care Part 2 course creation in November 2022. Check out more information on our Veterinary Review Initiative here!

    Vaccines can play an important role in helping to keep residents healthy, but it’s important to work with your veterinarian to establish the most appropriate vaccine protocols based on the specifics of your resident population and your region. You can read more about working with your veterinarian to establish a vaccine program for your residents here. Various vaccines for goats are available at farm supply stores or online, but this does not mean they are all necessary or appropriate for your residents. Currently, the only universally recommended vaccine for goats is one to protect against clostridial disease. However, some sanctuaries also vaccinate residents for rabies, and some with CL-positive residents use vaccination both for protection and to reduce clinical signs. Your veterinarian may recommend additional vaccines based on the diseases that are prevalent in your region and/or the diseases present at your sanctuary. All vaccination protocols (i.e., which vaccines to use, the frequency of boosters, age restrictions, etc.) should be discussed with your veterinarian before implementation.

    Ongoing Communication Is Key!
    Once you establish vaccination protocols in consultation with your veterinarian, be aware that they may recommend delaying or avoiding certain vaccines in goats who are ill. Be sure to check in with them for specific guidance.

    Below, we’ll offer general information about some of the vaccines that tend to come up most often when caring for goats in sanctuary spaces, but you should defer to your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your goat residents. They may strongly recommend other vaccines not listed here based on the diseases prevalent in your area. 

    Clostridium perfringens types C and D and tetanus (Core Vaccine)

    There are many clostridial organisms that can live in the soil and even in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy animals. While a host of clostridial organisms can cause disease in goats, the most common are Clostridium perfringens types C and D and Clostridium tetani. Because of the prevalence of these pathogens and the fact that they produce toxins that often cause fatal disease, vaccination is universally recommended for small ruminants. There is a three-way vaccine, referred to as “CDT,” that protects against all three of these pathogens and the diseases they cause, as well as a seven- and eight-way vaccine that protects against additional clostridial diseases as well. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccine makes the most sense for your residents, as additional clostridial diseases may be a concern in certain regions.

    Also, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about how often residents should be vaccinated following their initial vaccination and booster. Because goats do not develop the same level of protection from vaccination as sheep, your veterinarian may recommend that your goat residents be revaccinated more frequently than sheep. In Goat Medicine, 2nd Edition, Dr. Mary Smith recommends administering CDT to goats at least twice a year. It is especially important to ensure residents are current on this vaccine when they are neutered or after sustaining a wound. To ensure kids receive passive immunity, pregnant goat residents should be vaccinated towards the end of their pregnancy, with specific timing dependent on whether or not they have been previously vaccinated. Your veterinarian can make specific recommendations.

    Individuals may develop injection site abscesses following vaccination. To differentiate between injection site abscesses and another possible cause, it’s helpful to vaccinate everyone in the same spot (and on the same side of their body) so that you can more easily determine if an abscess is at the injection site or if it could be caused by something else (namely, CL).


    In many states, only a licensed veterinarian can administer rabies vaccines. Currently, there is a rabies vaccine licensed for sheep but not goats. However, Merial’s sheep rabies vaccine (Imrab®) has been studied in goats and appears to be effective. Sheep are typically vaccinated annually for two consecutive years and every 3 years after that. However, since the vaccine is not labeled for goats, it is typically recommended that they be vaccinated annually. Be sure to record the date the vaccine was administered and the vaccine brand and serial number. If your veterinarian administered the vaccine, ask them for documentation for your records. Because the vaccine is not approved for use in goats, vaccinated goats may still be considered “unvaccinated” by officials in the case of rabies exposure. 

    Caseous Lymphadenitis

    While vaccination does not eliminate or cure CL, it can offer your residents a certain degree of protection, and in CL-positive individuals, vaccination can reduce the instance of clinical signs. Studies of sheep have shown that vaccination has resulted in fewer abscesses; anecdotally, the same has been seen in vaccinated sanctuary goat residents.

    Commercial vaccines are available, but it is important to only use them for the species for which they are labeled – there have been instances of goats having severe reactions to CL vaccines labeled for sheep. According to Roberson, Baird, and Pugh, anecdotal information suggests that goats do better with autogenous CL vaccines (custom-made vaccines using samples from your sanctuary’s CL-positive residents) rather than commercial vaccines, though adverse reactions are still possible and have been reported by at least one large sanctuary. Be aware that vaccinated individuals may test positive for CL on blood tests.

    A Quick Note On Dosing
    Because goats range in size depending on their breed and age, caregivers may wonder if smaller individuals, such as pygmy goats, require smaller doses than other goats. The answer is that they do not. While you may need to wait for a very young individual to reach a certain age before they receive certain vaccinations (following label instructions or your veterinarian’s recommendations), everyone who is eligible for vaccination will receive the same dose as other members of their species regardless of their weight.


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

    CDT Vaccinations | Maryland Small Ruminant Page (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Vaccinating Goats | Cornell College Of Agriculture And Life Sciences (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.

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