August 2018 Issue



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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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All abscesses are infectious, regardless of the organism causing them.

There are many different bacteria that can cause abscesses in goats. It is a huge mistake to look at an abscess and assume that it is Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), although people do that all the time. The only way to know is to test the pus. Lumps and knots on the body of a goat can be the result of other conditions. It is also very easy to mis-diagnose other health problems as abscesses.

Abscesses serve a vital function in maintaining the health of a goat. The lymph system filters infectious bacteria which could be harmful to the goat into a walled-off capsule (abscess) away from the body's vital organs. The problem arises when they burst in closely-managed herds. Unmanaged herds that are sparsely populated because of limited food supply don't experience extensive problems with abscesses; they burst, sun and other weather conditions mitigate them, and the animals move on.


Types of Abscesses:

Injection site abscesses can occur when vaccines are administered to goats. Vaccines work by tricking the immune system into believing it is attacking the organism that the goat is being vaccinated to prevent. An injection-site abscess can be the result of the immune system's desired response to the vaccine and can be an indication of a well-functioning immune system. An abscess can also occur by using dirty needles or re-using the same needle. Flush a ruptured abscess with 7% iodine (or the strongest iodine available) and pack it with Triple Antibiotic Cream until healed. Injection site abscesses that don't go away on their own within 30 days should be lanced with a #10 disposable scalpel, pus removed, then flushed with iodine. If flies and other insects are common, pack the cleaned and flushed abscess with antibiotic ointment.

Puncture abscesses occur when something sharp penetrates the goat's body and can appear anywhere. Almost anything sharp (thorns, briers, sticks, fencing wire, debris in hay) can cause abscesses. Flushing the wound with iodine and administering a tetanus anti-toxin injection is advisable.

Animal or insect bites or stings can abscess, including bites by dogs (domestic or wild), coyotes and other predators, snakes, etc. Penicillin and tetanus anti-toxin are especially advisable for animal bites. The treatments that I use are in my article on Snakebite on the Articles Page of and generally apply to all animal bites.

Cheek abscesses can occur when the goat bites the inside of its own cheek where the upper and lower molars meet.

Tooth abscesses are usually seen around a molar in the lower jaw and may occur in conjunction with gum disease or broken/loose teeth.

Umbilical abscesses can occur at the site of the umbilical cord's attachment to the kid's body. Aspiration (drawing out fluid with a sterile needle and syringe) is necessary, followed by injected (not topical) antibiotics. Umbilical hernia abscesses can occur internally if the hernia is not promptly repaired by a veterinarian.

De-horning and disbudding abscesses can occur if a scab forms over the open sinus cavity before all infection is eliminated. This is one more reason never to de-horn or disbud goats.

Liver, lung, brain, and rumen abscesses are internal and usually result from bacteria traveling through the goat's system. Goats infected with Tuberculosis can have multiple internal organ abscesses.

Wattle cyst abscesses occasionally occur at the base of one or more wattles or at the site where a wattle was surgically removed. Though normally present at birth, wattle cysts may not be noticeable until the goat grows. Wattle cysts contain a clear liquid which can be thick or thin, and the site may abscess when the liquid is aspirated (removed with a needle and syringe). Wattle cysts, although ugly, are harmless.

gtmed2Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is the bacterial abscess that scares most people, even when they don't know what the causative organism is. THIS IS AN UNNECESSARY AND UNEDUCATED REACTION. CL is a readily-manageable nuisance disease for which we have a great vaccine developed specifically for goats by Texas Vet Lab in San Angelo, Texas. Available since May 2012, Jeffers Livestock (1-800-533-3377) carries this CL vaccine. Call to find out requirements for sale and shipment to your state. Because the Corynebacterium Pseudotuberculosis bacteria is slowly filtered by a young goat's immature immune system, you seldom see CL abscesses in goats before they are about eight months old and why testing goats under eight months of age can produce inaccurate results.

I am serious when I say that I would rather see CL in a herd than soremouth or pinkeye. CL is both treatable and preventable. Soremouth and pinkeye cannot be prevented, must run their course, the only care available is supportive, and the land is contaminated with the organisms, increasing the likelihood of their recurring.

CL infection occurs through wounds caused by head butting, punctures, and shearing, by oral ingestion, and via inhalation on the rare occasion when a goat has developed a CL abscess in its lungs. Internal abscesses are relatively rare in goats but common in sheep. External abscesses occur most often under the ears and along the neck because the mouth is where most CL pus is ingested and the first lymph glands to encounter it are located. Eating the meat of CL-infected goats will *not* transmit CL to humans; external abscesses come off with the hide and internal abscesses found in organs are condemned and discarded.

All abscesses are NOT Caseous Lymphadenitis abscesses. If you think your goat has a CL or any other kind of abscess, contact Bob Glass at Pan American Vet Lab in Texas (512-964-3927) and get instructions on sending pus and/or blood samples for testing. The tests are inexpensive and, in my opinion, more accurate than tests done at university labs. Blood tests for Caseous Lymphadenitis miss one out of every 10 infected goats. False negatives are more likely than false positives because the blood being tested has been removed from the goat's body, making it impossible for the test to stimulate the immune system.

CL is chronic (can be recurring) and technically incurable but highly preventable and treatable by using the Texas Vet Lab vaccine developed specifically for goats. Do not use the sheep vaccine CaseBac; it does not work with goats. Not only does the Texas Vet Lab CL vaccine prevent CL but it also helps reduce frequency and severity of CL's recurring.

To manage an outbreak of ANY abscess in a goat herd, create a "sick pen/isolation pen." Before the abscess is ripe (soft) and the hair is coming off its center, move the goat from the herd to your isolation pen. Don't let any abscess burst on its own and contaminate pen or pasture. With CL and most other abscesses, if you can put your fingers around the abscess and pull it away from the body, it is attached to the back of the hide and ready to clean out. Some A. Pyogenes abscesses can get so big, especially in the chest wall where there is lots of space, that this is not possible. I've seen A. Pyogenes abscesses that, when lanced, disgorged one-half gallon of warm greenish fluid that flowed like syrup with a leading and trailing edge. A. Pyogenes abscesses usually occur when a foreign object (thorn, stick, etc) enters the body and irritates the tissue. Until that foreign object is removed, the irritation continues to produce this fluid; the abscess must be lanced and cleaned out.

Prepare to lance the abscess and remove the pus (exudate). Gather the following supplies: a collection container to place pus to send for testing, single-use gloves and eye protection, a #10 disposable scalpel, several 3 cc or 6 cc Luer slip syringes, tweezers, paper towels, 7% iodine, a shallow "cat litter type" pan, bleach, and several plastic bags into which the used paper towels, pus, and contaminated gloves can be discarded. Obtain a hard-sided container into which the scalpel and Luer slip syringes can be placed for disposal. Before entering and exiting the isolation pen, pour enough bleach to cover the bottom of the shallow pan and place it outside the pen for use as a "sole bath." Mixing one part bleach to 10 parts water will allow you to put a towel on the mixture, allowing footwear to press down into it for better disinfection. Step in it, making sure the bleach covers the soles of your boots or shoes to help prevent the spread of bacteria that may be on the footwear.

Find a strong helper to hold the goat. Cover your exposed body parts with clothing and put on disposable gloves and protective eye gear. In the isolation pen I prefer to place the goat on its side on the ground to better control it. Cut into the ripe (soft) abscess in a cross-hatch pattern (Christian cross). Don't let the pus squirt on you. Keep your mouth closed. Using paper towels, squeeze the abscess until the contents are out and a blood-tinged liquid begins to appear. Apply pressure from several directions, since some abscesses have several chambers closed off from each other. (Antibiotics are not effective because medication cannot reach inside the encapsulated abscess.) A second incision is occasionally required. Don't lance an abscess on an udder or a scrotum; this should be done by a vet.

Flood the interior and the exterior of the incision with iodine using a 3 cc or 6 cc luer-slip syringe. Be careful to keep the iodine from running into the goat's eyes, ears, nose, or other orifice near the incision. Bag all infected materials tightly, step into the bleach shoebath as you leave the pen to prevent bacterial spreading, and burn all items which came into contact with the infected pus. Use Betadine Surgical Scrub or similar product on all exposed parts of your body and change clothes and shoes before going on to your next task.

Keep the infected goat in isolation for several days until the incision begins to heal. With large abscesses, you may want to soak a small piece of gauze in iodine and place it (using tweezers) inside the incision, with the end of the gauze barely hanging out of the cut, so that you can pull it out later with tweezers and re-clean the abscess. This will prevent the incision from healing over so you won't have to cut the goat again. Complete healing, including re-growth of hair over the incision site, usually takes a minimum of four to six weeks. If the abscess isn't leaking, I would put the goat back with its herd. Goats are herd animals that stress easily when kept alone.

Infected areas should be thoroughly cleaned of all contaminated materials. When the goat is out of the isolation pen, spray the ground, feed pans, and other surfaces with an equal parts bleach and water solution using a hand-held pump sprayer.

ALL ABSCESSES ARE INFECTIOUS. Ironically, the CL bacteria of which so many people are terrified is the one bacteria for which we have a specific goat vaccine to prevent, control, and eliminate.



I used to recommend the use of Formalin to control CL abscesses. I no longer do this, because (a) abscesses need to be cleaned out; (b) people won't test the pus to find out what they are dealing with and they need to find out; (c) too much Formalin is injected, despite my best efforts to be very specific about how to use it, and goats suffer; and (d) we have the very effective Texas Vet Lab's CL vaccine for goats that should be used by all goat raisers, whether or not CL is the bacteria at issue in the herd.

Conditions that may be mistaken for abscesses:gtmed1

Cud being chewed causes a bulge in the goat's cheek during ruminal activity that may be mistaken for an abscess.

Salivary cysts are painless swellings on the side of the face that are filled with saliva. Do not lance a salivary cyst, because the salivary system provides vital bicarbonates needed in digestion, and to do so can result in life-threatening ruminal acidosis. Instead, use a sterile needle to aspirate (draw out) the odorless, colorless watery or slightly blood-tinged fluid from the cyst or have a vet perform this procedure.

Arthritis can cause enlarged lymph nodes that may be mistaken as abscesses when in fact Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis is the cause. CAE is incurable and the goat should be culled.

Joint infections may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes.

Lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymph glands) may cause swollen lymph nodes that look like abscesses.

Swellings caused by bites (snake, dog, scorpion, spider) may be mistaken for abscesses.

Bottlejaw (severe parasite infestation resulting in life-threatening anemia) produces a fleshy loose pouch of fluid under the chin. Abscesses are seldom under the chin, but people panic and mis-diagnose.

Fights among goats (usually bucks) may result in swelling near eyes, horns, down the face, neck, and chest.

Goiters occur when the thyroid gland enlarges as a result of low thyroxine output and may be mistaken for abscesses. Goiters are on the front of the throat, not under the ear or under the chin.

Urethral rupture can cause swelling in males when urine leaks into tissues under the skin.

Fungal infections can cause recurring subcutaneous (under the skin) swellings called mycetomas that may be mistaken for abscesses.

Flank and ventral (in front of the udder) hernias usually can be ruled out as abscesses by visual inspection.

I have articles in MeatGoatMania and on the Articles page of on the Texas Vet Lab vaccine for CL and how I use it. I don't follow label directions and my article explains why. My herd was one of three used to test this vaccine prior to submission to USDA in the summer of 2011 and my vet, who was involved in the testing, is a close friend of the vaccine's developer, so I have first-hand experience with this very effective and useful vaccine.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 8/4/18




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