In this article we cover the most common goat diseases and health conditions that farmers should be aware of (especially new farmers – know what you’re getting into before you get into it!).
We’re constantly updating this page, so let us know if we’ve missed anything!
Table of contents
- What is the Normal Temperature of Goats?
- What Are The Common Causes of Hair Loss In Goats?
- What Are The Common Causes Of Coughing In Goats?
- What Causes Constipation In Goats?
- What Are Potential Reasons For Appetite Loss In Goats?
- What Are Common Symptoms That Indicate Illness In Goats?
- What Are Causes of Sudden Death In Goats?
- Common Goat Diseases
- Goat Parasites
- Worming Goats
What is the Normal Temperature of Goats?
The normal body temperature of goats ranges from 101.3–103.5F ( 38.5–39.7C). The temperature might be higher during hot weather or when the goat has a fever. Very low or very high body temperature may indicate a serious, life-threatening issue and needs prompt veterinary intervention.
What Are The Common Causes of Hair Loss In Goats?
Hair loss or alopecia is quite common in goats. There are various factors that could cause hair loss in goats. These include the following:
The nutritional status of goats directly affect their hair coat. Hair loss can occur when there is a lack of specific nutrients that play a primary role in the growth and integrity of the hair coat.
- Zinc Deficiency – Zinc plays an important role in the function of the immune system, stress management, and protein synthesis. Inadequate intake can lead to parakeratosis, joint stiffness, hair loss, and lowered libido in goats.
- Copper Deficiency – Goats with copper deficiency show distinct symptoms that include hair loss on the tip of the tail and face, particularly around the bridge of their nose and around the eyes. There is also a change in the shade of the goat’s hair coat.
- Selenium over-supplementation– The overabundance of selenium in a goat’s diet can cause hair loss in the animal’s beard and flanks coupled with cracked hooves and horns.
- Vitamin A deficiency – A lack of vitamin A can cause poor reproductive performance, coughing, diarrhea, decrease in milk production, and hair loss.
- Iodine deficiency – Goats that eat goitrogenic plants, like soybean meal, or those with severe iodine deficiency can develop an enlarged thyroid gland with poor reproductive ability, weak newborn kids, and hair loss.
- 2Skin problems
- Dermatophytosis (Ringworm) –This is a fungal infection in which the hair loss in affected goats can occur as the hair fibers easily break and fall out.
- Dermaophilus congolensis (Dermatophilosis) – Aside from hair loss, affected goats develop crusting lesions and reddening of the skin.
- Staphylococcal Dermatitis – Chronic cases of this bacteriaL infection are characterized by the inflammation of the hair follicles, hair loss, and scaling.
- External parasites – Heavy parasite infestation of external parasites can result in skin irritation, ulceration, and secondary infections. The parasites feed on the host’s blood, skin, and hair. The major external parasites of goats include red and blue lice, ear mange (Psoroptes cuniculi), Demodectic mange (Demodectis caprae), Chorioptic mange (Chorioptes sp), and Sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes sp).
- 3Periods of stress, such as during lactation, drought, illness, etc., can upset the physiological balance of a goat’s body and one of the important effects is hair shedding or alopecia.
What Are The Common Causes Of Coughing In Goats?
Coughing is a prominent symptom of pneumonia in goats. Other symptoms include breathing problems, fever, lethargy, and nasal discharge. Some of the most common causes of pneumonia in goats include Pasteurella multocida, Mycoplasma mycoides, and lungworm.
- 2Upper Respiratory Tract Disease
There are several causes of upper respiratory tract disease in goats, the most common of which are Oestrus ovis larvae infestation, nasal tumors, and foreign bodies in the nasal passages. Clinical signs associated with these diseases include nasal discharges, lack of airflow in the nostrils, sneezing, coughing, and mild respiratory distress.
- 3Inhalation of irritants
Long-term or constant exposure and inhalation of environmental irritants, such as dust or ammonia, can cause coughing and sneezing brought about by the inflammation of the respiratory passages. Nasal discharge may also be present.
- 4Tracheal injury
Incorrect use of balling or drenching guns can possibly lead to the injury of a goat’s trachea and eventually respiratory problems.
What Causes Constipation In Goats?
Goats with constipation are unable to defecate or they may pass dry, hard droppings causing them to strain during elimination. The most common causes of constipation in goats include:
Indigestion occurs when there is a problem in the normal movement of the rumen. High feed intake causes a form of acidosis that leads to the slowing down of the rumen motility. Affected goats appear depressed, separate from the herd, and display muscular tremors. There may be constipation which may be followed by diarrhea. Fever and increased heart and respiratory rates may also be present.
- Poor water intake and feed intake
A lack of water intake can lead to dehydration which can have an impact on the stool of goats. This is also what happens when the goat is not eating enough fiber.
What Are Potential Reasons For Appetite Loss In Goats?
Loss of appetite in goats can be an important symptom of infectious and non-infectious conditions. Infectious causes include diseases caused by bacteria, virus, fungi, as well as internal and external parasites. Non-infectious causes include nutritional problems, poisoning, gastrointestinal problems, metabolic disease, and mouth and dental problems.
Appetite loss may also be exhibited during pregnancy and lactation.
What Are Common Symptoms That Indicate Illness In Goats?
Goats that are ill exhibit a variety of symptoms depending on the systems that are involved or affected, as well as the underlying cause. A goat that is exhibiting any of the following symptoms should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian immediately:
- Abnormal vocalizations
- Swollen abdomen
- Abnormal gait or posture – limping or staggering
- Pale gums
- Dull coat
- Weakness or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Poor water intake
- Mouth blisters
- Head pressing
- Abnormal ear conformation
- Not urinating or difficulty urinating
- Pale or gray gums or eyelids
- Udder feels warm to the touch
- Swollen belly
- Runny nose and/or eyes
- Respiratory problems
- Abnormal vocalization
- Lying down for several hours
- Isolation from the herd for a considerable length of time
What Are Causes of Sudden Death In Goats?
Sudden death in goats is a major concern for goat farmers. Considering that there are many potential causes, early detection and medical intervention is important to prevent death and losses. Among the top causes of sudden death in goats are the following:
- Enterotoxemia (Clostridium perfringens Type A and B)
- Uterine gas gangrene (Clostridium septicum)
- Pneumonia (Pasteurella hemolytica)
- Prussic acid poisoning
- Cardiac glycoside poisoning
- Urea poisoning
Common Goat Diseases
Enterotoxemia in goats (Overeating or Pulpy Kidney Disease) is caused by the bacteria Clostridium perfringens Type D. Typical symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. There may be neurological symptoms and sudden death may occur. Treatment generally involves administering Clostridium perfringens C&D antitoxin, antibiotics, antacids, pain relievers, probiotics, and supportive therapy.
- Pink Eye
Pink eye in goats is caused by Mycoplasma and Chlamydia organisms. The eyes of affected goats appear reddish and inflamed and there is eye discharge. The eyelids may appear closed. Most cases resolve on their own with time even without treatment. In severe cases, there may be a need to administer antibiotics.
- Goat Udder Problems (Mastitis)
Mastitis is the most common problem affecting the udder or mammary glands of goats. It is characterized by the inflammation of the mammary glands which is caused by a variety of pathogens including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even injury.
Signs of mastitis include a change in the color, smell, taste, and/or texture of milk, lameness, and drop in milk yield. Serious cases of mastitis include hard bag and blue bag. In hard bag, the udder appears inflamed and abscesses and milk clots may be present. Blue bag is also called gangrene mastitis and is characterized by a change in the color of the udder to grayish or bluish. The mode of treatment depends on the severity of the mastitis but mainly involves broad spectrum antibiotic treatment.
- Caseous Lymphadenitis
This is a highly contagious disease that affects goats and is caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. The symptoms that are manifested depends on whether it’s the external or internal type. External infections are characterized by the formation of abscesses that are filled with pus in the lymph nodes of the neck, head, limbs, and torso. Internal infections are characterized by the formation of abscess in the visceral organs such as the lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, etc. There is no successful treatment regimen for CL infections.
In adult goats, CAE is manifested as a form of arthritis while in kids it is characterized as progressive paresis. Common symptoms include distension of the joint capsule and lameness. Affected kids show weakness, depression, circling, and ataxia. There are no specific treatments for CAE. Affected goats are only given supportive treatment.
Listeriosis causes encephalitis in goats. The bacteria Listeria monocytogenes is responsible for the infection. Affected goats manifest incoordination, facial paralysis, circling, loss of appetite, and depression. Early aggressive treatment with antibiotics can possibly help with recovery which is, however very rare.
- Goat polio (Poleioencephalomalacia)
This is a type of metabolic disorder that causes neuro-muscular changes in affected goats. It is associated with thiamine deficiency. The clinical signs include convulsions, depression, incoordination, muscle tremors, and temporary blindness. Treatment during the early stages can help reverse the symptoms, however, a goat’s response to treatment depends to a large extent on the extent of the lesions in the brain.
- Johnes Disease (Paratuberculosis)
This is a fatal disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract of goats and caused by species of Mycobacterium. Unfortunately, Johne’s disease cannot be cured with antibiotics. Persistent diarrhea is a prominent symptom.
Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a type of bacteria. Signs of infection include an incoordination, stiffness of the muscles, ears and tails that are erect, voice changes, and unable to eat and drink as the muscles of the mouth and neck become paralyzed. Even with antibiotic treatment and administration of tetanus anti-toxin, tetanus can be fatal.
- Urinary calculi in goats (Water Belly)
This is a common metabolic disease of male goats. It is characterized by the formation of stones (calculi) that lodge in the urinary tract. Affected goats have difficulty voiding urine causing them to become restless and anxious. The treatment will depend on the where the obstruction is located. Surgical intervention may be necessary in advanced cases.
- Sore mouth in goats (Contagious Ecthyma)
This viral condition causes the formation of painful scabs and sores on the lips and gums of affected goats. Most infections, however, resolve on their own within 1-4 weeks. Antibiotic treatment may be needed if secondary infection is present.
- Goat diarrhea (Scours)
There are many potential causes of goat diarrhea–infectious or non-infectious. Diarrhea can possibly lead to depression, dehydration, anorexia, and weakness. Without prompt medical intervention, death can occur.
- Coccidiosis in goats
A prominent symptom of coccidiosis in goats is diarrhea. The condition is caused by a group of protozoan parasites. It’s the most common cause of diarrhea in young goats. The treatment for coccidiosis include drenching with amprolium (coccidiostat) and sulfa-drugs.
This involves several disorders that cause weakness, depression, dehydration, and recumbency in affected kids. The treatment regimen involves providing an external heat source, nutritional support, and correcting dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Pneumonia in goats
Pneumonia in goats can be caused by certain types of viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, environmental irritants, and aspiration of liquids. The common symptoms include respiratory problems — difficulty breathing, mouth breathing, fever, nasal discharge, coughing, and mobility problems. The treatment will depend to a large extent on the underlying cause. Broadspectrum antibiotics may be administered to combat primary or secondary infections caused by bacteria.
- Goat hoof rot (Foot Rot)
Foot rot is an aggressive inflammatory condition that is characterized by the formation of a painful moist, raw lesion on the skin between the toes. Affected goats suffer from severe lameness. Treatment involves systemic treatment with antibiotics.
- Goat bloat
Bloat occurs when a goat is unable to get rid of the buildup of gases in the rumen. Gas is a normal by-product of fermentation of food in the rumen that is usually released by belching. The two major causes of bloats in goats are esophageal obstruction and inappropriate food or a change in diet. Affected goats have a noticeable bulge on the left side of their abdomen. The pain and discomfort cause them to engage in excessive bleating and listlessness. Bloat is a medical emergency and should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian ASAP.
- Pregnancy Toxemia (Ketosis)
The problem occurs when there is incomplete metabolic breakdown of fat in the body which can lead to the accumulation of ketones in the blood of affected goats. It is called pregnancy toxemia when it occurs before kidding, while it’s ketosis when it’s after kidding. Clinical symptoms include depression, loss of appetite, isolation from the herd, muscular tremors and seizures, head pressing, mobility difficulty, teeth grinding, rapid breathing, and the doe’s breath and urine may have a distinct fruity sweet smell. The treatment protocol usually includes giving molasses, propylene glycol, vitamin B-complex, and calcium gluconate.
A heavy infestation of worms or liver flukes cause the formation of a hardened swelling underneath the jaw of affected goats. In most cases, worming can alleviate symptoms while eliminating the primary causative agents. Your veterinarian may also recommend vitamin B12 injections.
Anemia occurs when the number of hemoglobin or red blood cells is abnormally low. There are various causes of the condition including improper nutrition, infestation of blood-sucking parasites. It can also be a result of internal bleeding or external bleeding with significant blood loss. There are also certain plants that cause anemia in goats. Affected goats appear lethargic and off-feed. The eye membranes (conjunctiva) appear pale pink to white instead of being bright pink or red. Treatment involves administration of vitamin B12 injections, proper nutrition, and frequent deworming.
There are 2 types of parasites in goats — internal and external parasites. The internal parasites mainly include those that are inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract, stomach worms, liver fluke, coccidia,barber pole worms, tapeworm, meningeal worm, and deer worms. Goats can also harbor lungworms.
On the other hand, external parasites include those that infest the skin and hair coat of goats. These include ticks, biting lice, keds, mites, fleas, and different species of flies (stable files, horn flies, biting flies, blow flies, and nose bot flies).
Best Dewormers for Goats
- Ivermectin (Ivomec) is indicated for the treatment and control of gastrointestinal nematodes (including hypobiotic Ostertagia fourth-stage larvae), lungworms, and certain other nematodes, sucking lice, and mites.
- Moxidectin (Cydectin) is a second-generation macrocycliclactone, which is aactive against internal and external parasites
- Levamisole (Prohibit) is effective against roundworms.
- Albendazole (Valbazen) is indicated for the removal and control of liver flukes, tapeworms, stomach worms, intestinal worms, and lungworms and for the treatment of adult liver flukes in non-lactating goats.
- Fenbendazole (SafeGuard) is effective against roundworms and against some tapeworms.
- Morantel (Rumatel) is indicated for the elimination and control of gastrointestinal nematode infections of goats including Haemonchus contortus, Ostertagia and Trichostrongylus.
Vaccines are the best way to protect goats against specific life-threatening illnesses. While some vaccines like CDT or CD&T (Clostridium perfringens Type C and C, Tetanus) are required, there are vaccines that are given only after taking the goat’s risk factors into consideration. These include caseous lymphadenitis, contagious ecthyma (sore mouth), Pasteurella multocida, and Mannheimia hemolytica.
Goat Vitamins & Supplements
- Calcium and phosphorus should be given in the proper ration (2:1) for better bone development. Calcium is also important in muscle contraction, conduction of nerve impulses, and blood clotting.
- Phosphorus is an essential component in energy metabolism and maintaining acid-base balance.
- Sodium and chloride are important electrolytes in the body. They are important components in maintaining osmotic balance, movement of water between cells and tissues, and pH balance of the body. They also serve an important function in the transmission of nerve impulses.
- Sulfur is an important component of many types of amino acids. The mineral is important in milk production, hair growth and development, protein synthesis, enzymes, connective tissues, and hormones.
- Magnesium is a major component of bones. It’s also present in the liver, blood, and muscle. It’s essential in the development of the skeleton, nervous system, and the muscular system.
- Copper is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, connective tissue, and enzymes. It is also important in hair pigmentation and normal function of the immune system and conduction of nerve impulses.
- Selenium works with vitamin E as antioxidants in the body, protecting the membranes of the cell from oxidation. It also plays an important role in reproduction and the metabolism of important nutrients like copper, mercury, sulfur, and vitamin E.
- Zinc functions in promoting normal skin growth and support immune system function.
- Manganese is essential for bone development and growth, enzyme function, and reproductive performance.
- Vitamin A, D, E, K
Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin and support vision.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and metabolism.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that works in conjunction with selenium.
Vitamin K is an essential factor in the blood clotting mechanism.
Goat farmers should have these medicine essentials on hand to address various health issues.
- Broad spectrum antibiotic – oxytetracycline, tylosin, penicillin- for infections
- Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol for cases of diarrhea
- Clostridium perfringens C&D antitoxin
- Electrolytes are essential during periods of stress, drought, digestive upsets, or illness to prevent dehydration and help correct electrolyte imbalance.
- Coccidiosis medication –Includes sulfa-drugs like sulfamethazine sodium and sulfadimenthoxine, amprolium.
- Activated charcoal and milk of magnesia can be used as first aid for poisoning
- Medications like epinephrine and banamine can only be obtained with a veterinary prescription. Ask you veterinarian about it.
Antibiotics for Goats
- Naxcel® (Ceftiofur Sodium) is indicated for treatment of caprine respiratory disease (goat pneumonia) caused by Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida
- Biosol® (neomycin sulfate) — For the treatment and control of colibacillosis (bacterial enteritis) caused by Escherichia coli susceptible to neomycin sulfate.
- Terramycin® (Oxytetracycline) — For the treatment of heartwater, pneumonia, footrot, joint ill and navel ill.
- LA-200® (oxytetracycline) is a broadspectrum antibiotic that is used to treat a wide range of disease that are caused by both gram negative and gram positive bacteria.
- Nuflor® (Florfenicol) is effective against against Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida
- Excenel® (ceftiofur hydrochloride) is used as treatment of respiratory disease associated with Mannheimia (Pasteurella) and haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida
- Micotil® (tilmicosin phophate) is indicated for the treatment of respiratory disease in goats.
- Coccidiostats are a group of medications that act on the different stages of the life cycle of coccidia parasites. The most popular coccidiostats used in goats include Ionophores – monensin (Rumensin®), amprolium (Corid), toltrazuril (Baycox) , and sulfadimethoxin (Dimethox).