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Goat Diseases

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Goat Diseases Photo © Flickr user Pmarkham, used with a CCC license

Preventing goat diseases by keeping your goats healthy is definitely the first line of defense. You should also know about these goat diseases when buying a goat so that you are able to avoid buying a diseased goat. You should always inspect records and know that you're purchasing CAE-free and CL-free goats, while with the other diseases listed you will be inspecting the herd for signs and symptoms rather than looking at test results.

Establishing care with a farm veterinarian is another important step to take when you are a small farmer. Once you've identified one of these diseases in your own herd, you may need to get medication from your vet or enlist his or her help with treating your animals. Certain medications, like antibiotic ointment for pink eye and CD antitoxin for enterotoxemia, are best to have stocked in your farm medicine cabinet, ready to go as soon as you see the symptoms.

In general, if a disease is contagious, you will want to separate the sick goat from the rest of the herd. It is a good idea to have a pen or two set aside for sick animal quarantine.

This is not a comprehensive list of goat diseases, just some of the most common ones. And it's important to note that I'm not a vet and nothing here should be taken as advice for how to treat your animals. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Common Goat Diseases

  • Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE). CAE is incurable, contagious, and devastating to goat herds. It is similar to the human AIDS virus and compromises goats' immune systems. You should purchase only CAE-free goats. CAE can be tested for.

  • Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL). This is a chronic, contagious disease that is also called "abscesses." Pus-filled infections, or abscesses, form around goats' lymph nodes. When the abscesses burst, the pus can infect other goats. You should purchase CL-free goats as well, although the test is sometimes said to be inaccurate.

  • Coccidiosis. A parasite that most goats have, young kids are susceptible to getting diarrhea (sometimes bloody) from it, as well as rough coats and general ill health. Albion is often used to treat it, and some farmers feed a coccidiostat as a preventative.

  • Pink eye. Exactly what it sounds like, goats can get pink eye too. The same rules as humans apply: keep the sick goat away from the rest of the herd, wash your hands well after handling a goat with pink eye, and treat it.

  • Enterotoxemia. This is caused by a bacterial imbalance in the goat's rumen. It can result from sudden feed changes, overfeeding, sickness, or anything that causes a digestive upset. Enterotoxemia can kill a goat, so make sure to vaccinate your herd against this and have the treatment - CD antitoxin - on hand for emergencies.

  • G-6-S. This is a genetic defect that affects Nubian goats and Nubian crosses. Kids with this defect will fail to thrive and die young. Only some breeders test for this and will sell their goats as G-6-S Normal.

  • Sore mouth, aka Orf. This is a contagious viral infection where blisters form in the goats' mouth and nose. This can be passed to humans so use care and cleanliness when handling! Sore mouth heals in a few weeks, although the scabs from the blisters can be contagious for years.

  • Urinary calculi. Mineral stones can sometimes form in the goat's urethra. It can occur in males or females, but in males it is a problem. These stones can result from a diet imbalance, so consult with your vet if you experience these in your herd. You may need to adjust your calcium to phosphorus ratio.

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