April 2011 Issue



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Soremouth is a viral disease caused by an epitheliotropic parapoxvirus that is part of the chickenpox family. The virus enters the goat's body via cuts and abrasions. Also known as Contagious Ecthyma, Orf, and "scabby mouth," Soremouth occurs worldwide and there is no known cure.

A goat infected with Soremouth looks like it is suffering from fever blisters. Generally appearing on the hairless or lightly haired parts of the goat's body (lips, vulva, teats, and scrotum), Soremouth can also occur on the face, ears, and coronary band above the hoof of the goat.

Soremouth is a life-threatening disease to nursing kids. Infected lips transmit the virus to the dam's teats, making her so uncomfortable that the doe may refuse to let her kids nurse. Soremouth is highly contagious; a large percentage of an infected kid crop can die from starvation if they can't nurse. Once the virus appears, it is not unusual for most or all of the kids to contract Soremouth. Producers may have to bottle or even tube feed kids until the blisters dry and heal. Heavy-milking dams run the risk of developing congested udder or mastitis as they continue to produce milk but don't let kids nurse their blistered teats.

Soremouth must run its course and this can be as long as three to four weeks per goat. Goats that don't contract Soremouth -- those that are immune to the virus -- are still carriers, therefore they can infect other goats. Most goats that survive Soremouth become immune to it and usually don't contract it again, similar to humans who catch chickenpox.

The producer can do several things to minimize discomfort to Soremouth-infected goats. My preferred treatment is the application of Gentian Violet to the blisters and scabs. Soremouth is very contagious to both humans and goats, so use disposable gloves. Gentian Violet is an old-time inexpensive purple-colored liquid medication used in the past to treat fever blisters and impetigo. It is available without prescription from a pharmacy, but it may have to be ordered by the pharmacist and it probably will be behind the counter rather than on public-accessible shelves. Gentian Violet dries the blisters and hastens healing. Drying scabs sometimes contain staph bacteria or screwworm maggots. Gentian Violet kills bacteria that may cause a secondary infection. Systemic antibiotics are recommended if a secondary bacterial infection exists. The purple color of Gentian Violet gives the producer the added benefit of being able to see which goats have already been treated. Campho-Phenique is another good product to apply topically to blisters and scabs. Campho-Phenique Maximum Strength also has antibacterial properties.

Soremouth vaccine is available over the counter (Jeffers carries it: call 1-800-533-3377) but the value of using it is fiercely debated among goat producers. Because the virus is" live" -- as opposed to "killed" or "modified" - the vaccine purposefully introduces Soremouth into the herd. Producers who use this "live" vaccine administer it before breeding when there are no kids nursing dams in hopes that when kids are born and nursing, the dams will have already had the disease. There is no hard evidence that a vaccinated doe will pass immunity to Soremouth on to her kids.

Some producers who run animals on large acreage and seldom see them routinely vaccinate against Soremouth to try to avoid losing the kid crop. Goats raised under more managed conditions usually are not vaccinated. This is a generalized statement but also a fairly accurate evaluation of how this vaccine is used.

The "live" vaccine is made of ground-up scabs and is applied to a hairless area of the goat (tailweb or inside the ear) after the surface of the skin has been scratched. Within one to three days, scabs will form, signifying that the vaccine has "taken." Goats who do not develop scabs at the vaccination site probably have an immunity to Soremouth but are carriers of the virus. Humans coming into direct contact with the Soremouth vaccine usually contract the disease.

Once Soremouth is on the property, it is there to stay. Clean up of pens, pastures, and paddocks is sometimes possible by bleaching, burning, removing topsoil, and keeping animals off that particular ground for an extended period of time. The size of the area, available manpower, and cost will determine if this approach is practical. The smart producer learns to cope with Soremouth. A good bio-hazard management practice is to require that all visitors to your property place the soles of their shoes in a shallow pan filled with a small amount of bleach.

For many producers, a reasonable case can be made to consciously decide not to vaccinate and instead let Soremouth run its course, using the supportive therapy outlined in this article. This is particularly beneficial if there are no nursing kids in the herd when infection occurs. Unless a herd is closed and isolated from other goats, it is likely that at some time in the goat producer's career, he/she will encounter Soremouth. Be prepared to deal with this disease. Soremouth is far more manageable than many other illnesses that a goat herd might encounter.

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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There is a lesion that mimics Soremouth that can occur on goats in areas like West Texas, where plants with thorns and briars widely grow. Pearmouth mimics Soremouth in appearance, but doesn't produce the blisters and seepage accompanying Soremouth lesions and isn't an illness. Pearmouth usually appears at the corners of the mouths of kids and adults who have been searching for and eating green new growth plant materials that they find underneath yucca and cactus during extremely dry weather. Several years ago, I sold a large number of breeding-stock Tennessee Meat Goats(tm) to a producer outside the USA. After all veterinary testing had been completed, paperwork was submitted and approved by the export authorities, transportation had been arranged, and the goats had been paid for, several goats turned up with sores at the corners of their mouths. After a heart-stopping couple of days on my part, I was relieved when my vet diagnosed the situation as Pearmouth and did the appropriate paperwork explaining it to the export agencies -- and the shipment proceeded as planned.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Onion Creek Ranch
Lohn, Texas 76852



Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.


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Myotonic doeling

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are usually available year round. Contact us for ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

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