December 2010 Issue



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Skin diseases in goats can be classified into four general categories: fungal, parasitic, viral, and bacterial.

Fungal Diseases

Ringworm is the most recognized fungal disease in goats. It is not a worm, but rather a fungus which usually appears during prolonged periods of very wet weather, often when it is difficult to keep the pens clean and therefore less likely to harbor disease-causing organisms.

Ringworm can be located almost anywhere on the goat's body; its appearance is that 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.

Treatment involves donning disposable gloves and thoroughly washing the area with a topical skin disinfectant like Betadine Surgical Scrub. Wipe the cleansed skin surface dry and apply 1% Clotrimazole Cream to the affected area. Repeat this treatment daily for at least two weeks and possibly longer, until the ringworm is gone. While ringworm usually doesn't bother the goat, it can take up to a month to cure.

An even better 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. This product must be obtained from a vet.

Parasitic Diseases

Ticks and Mange (mites) are difficult to eradicate, requiring topical treatment with the appropriate approved external insecticide every two to three weeks until evidence of infection is gone.

Lice infestation is not uncommon in goats. Oftentimes only one or two animals have them. If a goat has a scruffy goat and has been recently de-wormed, it is a good bet that lice are the problem. 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 or similar product topically. Young kids and pregnant/lactating does should be topically treated with 5% Sevin Dust or Diatomaceous Earth (DE), taking care to keep the dust out of body orifices like eyes, ears, and nostrils. For does that are being milked, choose one of several products on the market that has no or very short withdrawal time.

Keds is a wingless blood-sucking fly that burrows into the skin of the goat. Insecticides used for louse control are also effective against Keds.

Screw Worms are fly maggots that are deposited into body openings or wounds. 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 aerosol screw worm control products.

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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Warbles is a condition caused by the burrowing of the heel fly into the skin. I have an article on how to treat Warbles on the Articles page at and in the Archives section of MeatGoatMania. Warbles are not a common condition in goats.

Viral Diseases

Soremouth (contagious ecthyma) is a common viral disease afflicting goats. In most cases, it is not debilitating. However, the appearance of soremouth in a herd when young kids are nursing can be disastrous. Soremouth (sometimes called Orf) affects mucous membranes such as lips and teats, making nursing difficult and sometimes causing the dam to reject her kids because nursing is painful to her.

In such situations, the death of kids can occur if the producer does not get involved.

Blisters appear, usually on the goat's lips, and when they scab over and ultimately drop off, the ground becomes infected. Some goats may be carriers of the disease. The good news is that once a goat has had soremouth, it will not likely catch the disease again. The bad news is that once a producer's property is infected with Soremouth, it is there forever.

Treat Soremouth with topical application of Gentian Violet, an old-time remedy that is both cheap and effective. It is usually kept behind the pharmacy counter. Wear disposable gloves, since Soremouth is zoonotic (contagious to humans) and Gentian Violet stains purple. Some producers use Tea Tree Oil, WD-40, CamphoPhenique, and a variety of improvised products to dry up the blisters so that they scab over and the goat can eat without discomfort again.

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 them. Producers will have to decide for themselves whether they wish to vaccinate against Soremouth. This writer chooses not to do so.

Caprine Herpesvirus is occasionally seen in goats and generally has to run its course. Be aware that this virus, if present in pregnant does, is likely to 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 enough, neither the goats' ability to reproduce nor their conception rates are negatively affected by this disease.

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 the form of pustules on a doe's udder. Generalized infections should be treated with long-lasting Benzathine Penicillin (five cc's per one hundred pounds of body weight for five consecutive days), in combination with cleansing the affected area thoroughly with chlorhexidine shampoo or Betadine Surgical Scrub. Then apply an antibiotic cream topically. The use of injectible steroids is sometimes applicable in treating Staph infections. For localized infections such as the surface of the udder, the antibiotic treatment can be eliminated and the cleansing/antiobiotic cream regimen can be solely used.

Summary and Conclusion

The hardest diseases to diagnose properly are skin diseases. If you mis-diagnose and treat a fungal infection with steroids, you will make it worse. The producer should get a vet to take skin plugs, put them under a microscope, and diagnose the problem accurately before treatment is begun. This can save a lot of time and end the goat's suffering more quickly.

This article is by no means a complete list of all the skin diseases which can affect goats. It is intended to provide producers with an overview of the most commonly seen caprine skin diseases.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Revised 11-21-10

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

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Bending Tree Ranch
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