FORMALIN AND ITS MULTIPLE USES
Hoof Rot/Scald, Caseous Lymphadenitis, Soremouth, Disinfectant
Formalin, a 10% buffered formaldehyde solution, has been discussed in previous articles by this author as a method for controlling Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) abscesses in goats. As a disinfectant and a preservative, this over-the-counter product has many other uses that are beneficial to goat producers.
Hoof Rot/Hoof Scald/Hoof Abscesses:
For hoof rot and hoof scald, thoroughly remove the visibly infected area of the hoof with a #10 disposable scalpel and, using disposable gloves, paint the infected portion of the hoof with formalin. If the infected area is between the claws (toes) or has abscessed, soak a piece of cotton with formalin, place it between the toes or in the abscess, and secure it with vet wrap. Use a livestock "boot" to protect the hoof and change dressings daily.
Caseous Lymphadenitis Abscesses:
This writer has detailed articles on both Caseous Lymphadenitis (with a diagram of common CL sites) and on all types of Abscesses (including CL) on the Articles page of her website: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Caseous Lymphadenitis is a contagious bacterial infection that appears at lymph gland sites as abscesses. Not all abscesses are CL, but those occurring at typical CL sites (often but not always under the ear) should be considered suspect and investigated. Because this bacteria is resistant to antibiotic treatment (see details later in this article) , Caseous Lymphadenitis should be considered neither curable nor completely preventable. This article provides an alternative method for managing and controlling it.
Caseous Lymphadenitis is a fact of life in meat-goat herds. If you buy and sell goats or have any significant numbers of them, you are going to encounter CL at some point in time. A wise producer will have a plan in place for handling it.
The CL vaccine made for sheep has not been approved for goats. The manufacturer, Colorado Serum, recommends against its usage with goats for several reasons, including painful injection-site reactions and the lack of empirical proof that it works. Goat producers who choose to use this sheep vaccine on their goats do so at their own risk. Colorado Serum is diligently working towards developing and getting approval for a safe, effective CL vaccine for goats for release during 2005. How it can be used effectively will be the subject of much discussion when this vaccine becomes available. As is the case with most vaccines, it will not work in goats already infected with Caseous Lymphadenitis. This writer is proud that in some small part her efforts to convince the good folks at Colorado Serum to produce a CL vaccine for goats is seeing results. Formalin, by the way, is used as an approved, safe, and effective preservative in drug and vaccine manufacturing.
When I first began writing about CL, my opinion was to destroy any goat infected with it. Since then I've held many discussions with goat producers, serum manufacturers, lab technicians, veterinarians, and others involved in the meat-goat industry. I've discovered that there are effective methods available for handling Caseous Lymphadenitis that permit producers to keep and not cull or kill valuable goats.
I used to recommend confining the infected goat, lancing the knot, draining the exudate (pus), and flushing the abscess with 7% iodine. I've learned that if this procedure is not done at precisely the right time and under the right conditions, the situation can actually be made worse. If the abscess is cut too soon, its contents are solid and it cannot be cleared. At one stage of development, no pus is present but lots of hard-to-contain and very liquid fluid emerges. In both instances, the abscess has not matured to the stage at which the pus is soft enough to be removed. If the cutting is done too late, the risk incurred is that the knot may rupture on its own -- contaminating other goats and their environment. In each instance, this very infectious bacteria has a great chance of finding a home on your property.
The optimum time to cut and clean an abscess is when the knot is becoming soft and immediately before the hair is beginning to come off. The producer's dilemma is that this occurs in differing timeframes from goat to goat. While some CL abscesses seem to appear almost overnight, most goats have knots appear slowly and literally take weeks or months to "come to a head." Some abscesses encapsulate into several knots, while others become a single knot. Pregnant does are a special problem; newborn kids should not be exposed to the CL bacteria. A producer running a large number of goats has a huge problem trying to isolate every infected goat, while watching and waiting for that *right time* to clean the abscess. However, a breeder who checks his herd's health on a regular basis should be able to see a CL abscess forming and have adequate time to take action before it gets to the hairless, thin-skinned rupturing stage by using formalin to control this disease.
For years on ChevonTalk, the Internet meat-goat discussion group of which I am owner, Dr. Rosemarie Szostak has explained how she gained control over Caseous Lymphadenitis in her herd. Dr. Szostak, a PhD in chemistry and a goat owner, injected formalin into the abscesses. Formalin, a well-known-in-professional-circles disinfectant, is a 10% buffered solution of formaldehyde. I have concluded that my original rejection of this course of treatment was wrong. While formalin usage will not cure CL (nothing will, at present), it does provide an attractive management/control alternative. A veterinarian friend who attended the February 2004 meeting of the Western States Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada told this writer that no less a renowned goat health expert than Dr. Mary Smith of Cornell University spoke to the group about injecting formalin into CL abscesses.
Note: This writer is not a vet and the usage of formalin is not FDA-approved for this specific purpose. Producers may find difficulty in locating and purchasing this product. This is an off-label/extra-label usage, as are so many of the products that are used on goats. Keep in mind, however, that CL abscesses encapsulate; a thick wall is created around the exudate (pus), isolating the infected material from the rest of the goat's body. Systemic injections of antibiotics are unsuccessful because these medications cannot get through the abscesses' thick walls. It is highly unlikely that formalin would be able to migrate to any other part of the goat's body; indeed, it would probably kill the animal instead. When the goat is slaughtered and the hide is removed, sub-cutaneous (under-the-skin) abscesses peel off with the hide. Internal organs that are occasionally susceptible to abcesses, such as udders and lungs, go into the trash bucket as parts of the goat that are not consumed by humans. Such abscesses are quite visible to meat inspectors, making them easy to recognize and condemn.
Injecting formalin into a CL abscess requires the use of a Luer-lock syringe (so the needle does not slip off the syringe, back-spraying formalin), a 25-gauge needle (the very small size used for dogs and cats), disposable gloves, paper towels, eye goggles, and a strong person to hold the goat very still. The small-diameter needle is necessary because formalin is the consistency of water, so it runs out easily if larger-gauge needles are used. (The higher the gauge number, the smaller the diameter of needle.) Think of the abscess as a clock face and inject downward into the knot at 12:00 o'clock (when the goat is in an upright position) as close to the goat's body as possible but stay inside the abscess. Avoid veins, arteries, and nerve endings; formalin injected into the goat's body will kill or cause nerve paralysis. On a small knot that is about the size of a dime or a nickel, start with 1/2 cc formalin. For larger knots, use 1 cc to 3 cc. Using too much formalin can result in tissue swelling both at and surrounding the injection site. Hold a paper towel lightly over the injection site when the needle is removed to stop the fluid from running out, much like a lab technician does when blood is drawn from a human arm. Too much pressure will cause the fluid to run out of the abscess. The producer may have to inject formalin a second time, several days later, if the knot has not hardened. The goal is a hard ('embalmed') knot. This means that sufficient formalin has gotten inside the abscess and mixed with the pus. Be careful when re-injecting a partially-hardened knot; the formalin may blow back if the plunger is unable to push it into the hardened abscess. If formalin does get onto skin or into eyes, generously flush with clear water and there should be no adverse reaction. Formalin was used as a fresh-milk preservative in the early 1900's; generations of Americans consumed it, so don't be overly concerned if it gets on skin or in eyes. Flush well with water. Formalin is currently used in multiple consumer products as a preservative.
Chest abscesses seem to be the hardest to control with formalin, since the chest wall allows space for huge knots to develop. In such instances, the producer must use several cc's of formalin over a period of multiple days to make sure that the abscess is fully saturated with the product. In cases of very large orange- or grapefruit-sized abscesses, lancing and cleaning the abscess may be necessary; sufficient amounts of formalin are difficult to diffuse throughout such large abscesses.
After four to six weeks (sometimes longer), the abscess begins to shrivel and dry up and then peel off, much like a corn on your foot to which you've applied corn remover. This 'embalmed' material should not be infectious if treatment has been done properly.
The plus side of using formalin to manage CL abscesses is no exposure of the bacteria to either the environment or other goats, no long-term isolation of the treated animals, and less stress on the producer.
The negatives include off-label usage and the possible objection of some people to this application.
Each producer must do his own due diligience and decide which course of action to follow when dealing with Caseous Lymphadenitis. It is this writer's opinion that unless goat breeders want to continue destroying animals and incurring the financial losses that such decisions bring, then we all had better learn how to manage and control Caseous Lymphadenitis when it appears in our herds.
Soremouth can be treated topically with formalin by applying it carefully to the affected areas with a Q-Tip or similar applicator. Soremouth is contagious to humans; use disposable gloves.
Formalin is a wonderful disinfectant, particularly on solid surfaces like concrete, wood, and PVC. Goats can be treated for hoof rot/hoof scald, CL, or soremouth on such surfaces and then formalin can be used full strength to disinfect the area. Producers in third-world countries (that don't have access to the wide variety of medications and supplies that we Americans have) routinely use formalin.
Formalin comes in a variety of strengths. Use only the 10% buffered solution and nothing stronger. Always use disposable gloves. Have a roll of paper towels and plenty of plastic bags available for material disposal. Do not inject or otherwise put formalin into healthy tissue, because it can paralyze nerves or even kill the goat. Flush generously with clean water if formalin gets on skin or in eyes. Use common sense and reasonable precautions and formalin will perform a host of jobs in your goat-ranching operation.
The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)
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