April 2022 Issue



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Skin diseases in goats are difficult to diagnose.   You cannot diagnose skin problems by visual observation, especially distinguishing bacterial from fungal infections. If you mis-diagnose and treat incorrectly, you will make it worse.  Example:  If you treat a fungal infection with steroids, the problem gets much worse very fast. You must have a vet take skin plugs, put them under a microscope, and diagnose the problem accurately before treatment is begun. This will save time and end the goat's suffering sooner. Goats are  stoic animals, but skin diseases make them visibly miserable.

Skin diseases in goats fall into four categories: bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral.

Bacterial Diseases

Staphylococci bacteria often invade skin lesions on goats. Infection can be generalized over large areas of the goat's body or localized in pustules on areas such as a doe's udder. Treat by cleaning the affected area thoroughly with Chlorhexidine or Betadine solution, then applying an antibiotic cream topically. Five consecutive days of injections of long-lasting Benzathine Penicillin (five cc's per one hundred pounds  body weight given sub-cutaneously  over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle) is appropriate. Your vet might also recommend the use of injectable steroids in certain cases.

Fungal Diseases

Ringworm is a common fungal disease in goats. It is a fungus, not a worm, and appears during prolonged periods of wet weather.  Keeping the loafing and sleeping areas clean and dry will help reduce the occurrence of this organism.

Ringworm can be located almost anywhere on the goat's body. It takes the form of a rounded patch of hair surrounded completely by a hairless ring. Left untreated, it gets bigger and bigger. Ringworm is contagious both to goats and to humans.

Wearing disposable gloves, you must thoroughly wash the area with a topical skin disinfectant like Betadine solution, then wipe the cleansed skin surface dry and apply  1% Clotrimazole Cream to the affected area. Repeat this treatment daily for at least two weeks until the ringworm is gone. While ringworm usually doesn't bother the goat, it can take as long as a month to eliminate.

An alternative treatment for many fungal diseases involves the use of 97.8% lime sulphur concentrate diluted and applied in dip form to the goat's body. In some areas, this product may require a vet prescription.

Parasitic Diseases

Ticks and Mites (Mange)  are difficult to eradicate, requiring topical treatment with the appropriate external insecticide once a week until evidence of infection is gone. Pierce's All Purpose NuStock in a tube (Jeffers, 1-800-533-3377) works well to get rid of mites.

Lice infestation is common in goats. Sometimes only one or two animals have them, but everyone in the herd must be treated and then treated again in a week. If a goat with a scruffy goat has been recently de-wormed and the deworming has been verified as successful by doing fecal counts, it may be that lice are the problem. (Just because you de-wormed does not mean that it worked.) Lice are usually visible to the naked eye.

There are two types of lice, biting and blood-sucking, and microscopic examination is necessary to determine which kind is present on the goat. Treatment, however, is similar, so assume it is the blood-sucking kind that will cause anemia if left uncontrolled and treat immediately with Synergized De-Lice, Cylence, or similar product topically.

Young kids and pregnant/lactating does should be topically treated with either puppy-safe/kitten-safe flea powder, 5% Sevin Dust or Diatomaceous Earth (DE), taking care to keep the product out of eyes, ears, mouths, and nostrils. For does that are being milked, choose one of several medications on the market that have either very short or zero milk withdrawal times. Jeffers carries a selection of these products.

Keds are   wingless blood-sucking flies  that burrow  into the skin of the goat. Insecticides used for lice control are also effective against Keds.

Screw worms are fly maggots that are deposited into body openings or wounds, including broken horns. Usage of fly repellents and insecticides cut down on the likelihood of screw worm infestation. A screw worm deposit should be cleaned out with a mild solution of pine oil or similar product and a topical antibiotic like Triple Antibiotic Cream applied until the infected area is healed. Then a fly repellant should be used.  Jeffers carries screw worm control products as well as aerosol fly control sprays that are safe to spray directly onto the goat.

Warbles is a condition caused by the burrowing of the heel fly into the skin. Read the article on how to treat Warbles on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and in the Archives section of MeatGoatMania.

Viral Diseases

Soremouth (contagious ecthyma aka Orf) is a common viral disease afflicting goats.   The  appearance of soremouth in a herd when young kids are nursing can be deadly. Soremouth  affects mucous membranes such as lips and teats, making nursing difficult and can cause the dam to reject kids because nursing is painful to her. Kids can starve to death if you don't intervene to make sure that they get fed.  Soremouth is highly contagious.

Soremouth blisters usually appear  on the goat's lips or teats.   When they  scab over and drop off, the ground becomes infected. Some goats may be carriers of the disease but not get sick. Once a goat has had soremouth, it may not become reinfected  again for about seven years because the immune system builds up resistance to the virus. However, once your property has been infected with Soremouth virus, it is there for a long time and there is nothing you can do to eradicate it. Learn to deal with it.

Treat Soremouth with the topical application of Gentian Violet, an old-time remedy that is both cheap and effective. It is  kept behind the pharmacy counter, so you must ask for it.  Wear disposable gloves, since Soremouth is zoonotic (contagious to humans) and Gentian Violet stains purple. Also effective in drying up the blisters are CamphoPhenique and Tea Tree Oil.

A LIVE virus vaccine exists to prevent Soremouth. The downside is that if a herd doesn't already have Soremouth, the vaccine will introduce it to all of them. You will have to decide for yourself if you wish to vaccinate against Soremouth. I will NOT use this vaccine on my goats because I think it causes more problems than it solves.

Caprine Herpesvirus is occasionally seen in goats and generally has to run its course. This virus, if present in pregnant does, can cause abortions. In these cases, high fever accompanies the Herpesvirus infection. There is a genital form that is believed to be venereal and bucks do not have to show obvious signs of infection in order to spread Herpesvirus. Oddly, neither the goats' ability to reproduce nor their conception rates are negatively affected by this disease.

The hardest diseases to diagnose properly are skin diseases.  Topical applications of medication must be done with special care when pregnant and/or lactating does and young kids are involved. Skin diseases are not something you are likely to be able to diagnose accurately without veterinary help.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas  4.1.22

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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