February 2015 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.


Commonly known as Wooden Tongue, Actinobacillosis is a bacteria that lives normally in soil but finds its way into the mouth, tongue, sometimes the lymph glands of the neck and head. Commonly seen in cattle and sheep, Wooden Tongue more rarely occurs in horses, pigs, dogs, chickens, and goats. Granulomas, which are formed when the immune system tries to wall off foreign matter unsuccessfully, develop on the tongue, discharging pus out of the mouth. Wooden Tongue is found world-wide, often in areas of iodine deficiency. As a producer, don't expect your goats to get iodine from animal feed and salt blocks. Salt used in feed and blocks is not iodized.

Onset of infection is usually sudden, with symptoms including drooling saliva, swollen and hardened tongue that hangs out of the mouth, ability to eat only with the lips if at all, nodules (granulomas) on the tongue that produce small hard yellowish to whitish granules, and rapid weight loss. The goat can die from dehydration or starvation quickly. As the disease progresses, the tongue hardens, shrinks, and becomes unuseable, making eating difficult if not impossible.

These tumorous abscesses of the tongue occur when goats are forced to eat rough materials containing sharp stems or thorns (like cactus) that damage the lining of the tongue and mouth, allowing the bacteria entry into the soft tissues.

Microscopic examination of the pus or performing a culture is necessary to identify the organism. The pus contains yellow-to-white colored granules of groups of rod shaped bacteria surrounded by club-shaped structures that are gram-negative.

If diagnosed and treated immediately, Wooden Tongue can be successfully treated. Unhealthy tissue must be removed to promote healing (surgical debridement) and the infected area must be flushed with iodine. Veterinary assistance is advisable; it isn't easy to work inside a goat's mouth. Potassium iodide can be given orally or sodium iodide can be administered intravenously. An accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment must be done at the onset of the disease to be successful. Additionally, certain antibiotics can be helpful. While streptomycin is considered the best antibiotic, tetracycline can be effective. CAUTION: Do not use any drug containing tilmicosin with goats. Tilmicosin is the active ingredient in the drug Micotil, which causes heart attacks in goats almost instantly.

There is no vaccine to prevent this disease. Early treatment is critical. Relapses are common. Veterinary help is recommended but insist that the drug tilmicosin not be used. Many vets don't know that it causes heart attacks in goats. The best prevention is to make sure that you don't make goats eat rough forage, abrasive weeds, or stemmy hay, causing damage to tongue and mouth tissues, therefore creating easy entry by the bacteria to soft tissues .

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 2/14/15


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