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How to Prevent 15 Common Diseases in Goats

How to Prevent 15 Common Diseases in Goats

Knowing how to prevent diseases in your goats, is better than trying out how to fix, eradicate, and protect the rest of your herd. So, there is the Shortlist of the most common you possibly will have to experience. The following diseases which are common in goats and their prevention

Short List of Common Goat Illnesses

  • Bloody Scours
  • Pulpy Kidney
  • Sore Mouth
  • Tetnas
  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Coccidia
  • Lice
  • Mange Mites
  • Ticks
  • Foot Rot
  • Listeriosis
  • Pregnancy toxemia
  • Grain Overload – Ruminal lactic acidosis
  • Mastitis

  Clostridial Diseases:

Enterotoxemia type C, or bloody scours, can occur in two distinct forms. The first form, know as struck, is seen in adults that do not exhibit clinical signs. Ulceration of the small intestines is noted upon necropsy.

The second form, known as enterotoxin hemorrhagic enteritis, occurs in kids within the first few days of life. It causes an infection of the small intestine, resulting in bloody diarrhea or sometimes death without clinical signs. Enterotoxemia is often related to indigestion. It is predisposed by an overabundance of milk, possibly due to the loss of a twin.

Prevention of Bloody Scours

  • The risk of enterotoxemia can be reduced with adequate hygiene at parturition, such as eliminating dung or dirt tags in the hid and cleaning udders. Cleaning the Goats teats

Enterotoxemia type D, also known as pulpy kidney or overeating disease, is seen in goat. It can occur in kids less than two weeks old, those weaned feedlots, those on high carbohydrate diet, or sometimes in animals on lush green pasture.

It normally affects the largest, fastest-growing kids. A sudden change in feed causes this organism, which is already present in the gut, to reproduce quickly, resulting in a toxic reaction. In some cases, animals exhibit uncoordinated movements and convulsions before death.

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Tetanus / Lockjaw

Tetanus, or lockjaw, is caused by Clostridium tetani when the bacteria gain entry to the body through a contaminated break in the skin.

Animals with tetanus become rigid, exhibit muscle spasms, and eventually die.

Treatment is usually successful, but the disease can be prevented with vaccination and good hygiene. Tetanus can be transmitted to humans, so care should be taken when handling an outbreak.

Prevention of Clostridial Diseases

  • It can be prevented with good hygiene practices.
  • It can be prevented with a feeding plan in case of pulpy kidney disease.
  • It can be prevented with a vaccination plan. It is important to vaccinate, especially with CD and T, at appropriate times to utilize the vaccine to the herd’s best advantages.

Sore mouth

Sore mouth, also known as contagious ecthyma, is a viral skin disease. The condition is caused by a poxvirus that requires a break in the skin to enter the body. Clinical signs of a sore mouth infection include scabs or blisters on the lips, nose, udder, and teats, or sometimes at the junction of the hoof and skin of the lower leg.

Sore mouth results in loss of condition, depressed growth rates, increased susceptibility to other diseases and death by starvation, since affected animals are less willing to eat while the infection persists.

The most serious problem with a sore mouth, however, is in susceptible lactating females that have never been infected or vaccinated, as they can get the lesion on the teat. This makes it painful for them to allow their offspring to nurse, which can lead to premature weaning and even mastitis.

Transmission of this disease

  • Sore mouth is transmitted by direct contact with affected animals or contact with equipment, feces, feed, and bedding that have been exposed to the virus.


The condition will resolve on its own but can be treated topically with an iodine/glycerin solution.

Antibiotics may be used for the prevention of secondary bacterial infection.

Often, the best way to deal with sore mouth lesions is to leave them alone and let them clean up over time. If flies or other insects are a concern, treat the affected area with an insecticide.

Prevention of Sore Mouth

  • Prevent direct contact from one animal to another animal.
  • Separate the affected animals.
  • The vaccine is a live virus that, when applied, actually causes sore mouth lesions at a specific location on the body chosen by the handler. A hairless area of the animal, such as the inside of the ear, under the tail, or inside the thigh, is scratched, and the vaccine is applied to this area.

Internal and External Parasites:

Parasites pose a significant threat to the health of small ruminants.

  • Parasites can damage the gastrointestinal tract, and result in reduced reproductive performance, reduced growth rates, less productive animals in terms of meat, fiber and milk; and even death.

Symptoms of Parasites

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss or reduce weight gain
  • Unthriftiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced reproductive performance

Internal Parasites

There are the following types of internal parasites which present in goat:


The most dangerous parasite affecting goats is the gastrointestinal roundworm Haemonchus contortus, also known as the barber pole worm. This voracious bloodsucking parasite has a tremendous capacity to reproduce through egg-laying.


  • Anemia (pale mucous membrane),
  • Edema
  • Protein loss
  • Weak and lethargic
  • And death


Tapeworm can cause weight loss, unthriftiness, and gastrointestinal upset. A tapeworm infection can be diagnosed by yellowish-white segments in the feces.


Coccidia is protozoan parasites that damage the lining of the small intestine. Since the small intestine is an important site of nutrient absorption, coccidian can cause weight loss, stunted growth, and diarrhea containing blood and mucous.

Prevention of Internal Parasites

  • Anthelmintics are drugs that either kill egg-laying adults or kill larvae before they grow into an adult and become capable of laying eggs. An anthelmintic is normally administered as an oral drench, a think liquid suspension deposited at the back of the animal’s tongue.

There are three main classes of drugs that are currently used as anthelmintics in goat:

  1. Benzimidazole
  2. Avermectin
  3. Imidothiazoles
  4. A system known as FAMACHA has been developed to identify those animals affected by Haemonchus that require anthelmintic. In this method, producers observe the color of the conjunctiva of the lower eyelid to determine the level of anemia that an animal is experiencing.

External parasites

There are the following external parasites in goats:


Lice are external parasites which spend their entire life on goats. Both immature and adult stages survive on blood or feed on the skin.

Prevention of Lice

One best management practice(BMP) for control of biting and sucking lice is a residual spray or dipping in the last fall before winter insect population build-up.

The second insecticide application should be made 14 to 21 days.

Mange Mites

Itch or mange mites feed on the surface or burrow within the skin, making very slender, winding tunnels from 0.25-2.5cm long.

Prevention of Mange

Mange mites have a 2-week life cycle and live off the sheep host as long as 3 weeks. The highest population of mange mite on a goat is seen in the late fall and winter. Transmission of mange mites is by body contact and control is by topical application of an insecticide followed by a second application in 14 days.


Ticks infestation results will be rough hair coat, dullness, anemia. Ticks act as a vector for transmitting the different diseases.

Prevention of Ticks:

Many insecticides that control external parasites will control ticks. High-pressure sprays are notes as having the best results.

Ivermectin can be used as preventive measures in all kinds of external parasites.

Bacterial Infections

Foot Scald / Footrot:

Foot-rot is a bacterial infection prevalent in warm, moist areas. Foot-rot is caused mainly by the synergistic action of the bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum and Dichelobacter nodosus.

Foot scald infects only the area between the toes and often clears up quickly with treatment or improving environmental conditions.

Prevention of Footrot:

  • To prevent footrot, it is absolutely imperative to avoid the introduction of the disease to a footrot-free herd.
  • Regular hoof trimming
  • Sound nutrition
  • Foot soaking baths using zinc sulphate
  • Vaccines are effective 60 to 80% of the time., and can be used with other management practices to reduce the prevalence of footrot.
  • A combined treatment plan of foot trimming, foot bath, vaccination, and antibiotic treatment can be effective in controlling the physical clinical signs of footrot.

Caseous Lymphadenitis:

Caseous lymphadenitis is a condition that affects the lymphatic system, resulting in abscesses in the lymph node and internal organs.

Caseous lymphadenitis is caused by the bacteria Corynabacterium pseudotuberclosis.

Preventive of Caseous Lymphadenitis:

  • A vaccine for this disease is available in two forms. The first is toxoid for the bacteria causing CL alone, and the second can be combined with the CD-T vaccine.
  • Proper sanitized the milking utensils.
  • Proper sanitized the environment around the goat.


 Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Natural reservoirs for the bacteria are soil and the GI tracts of mammals.

Listeriosis can result in abortion, septicemia, or meningoencephalitis.

Prevention of Listeriosis

Steps for prevention or to minimize associated risk:

  • Recently introduced animals should be considered suspect as carriers.
  • Infected animals should be isolated from the rest of the herd or flock.
  • Floors, pens, sheds, feed bunks, mineral feeders, etc. should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  • If several animals are affected and silage or round bales of hay are being fed, their use should be discontinued until they can be ruled out as a source of contamination.

Pregnancy Toxemia

Pregnancy toxemia(ketosis) affects ewes or does during late gestation. It occurs more commonly in either fat or thin animals that carry two or more fetuses. The condition develops when the doe cannot ingest enough nutrients to meet both the glucose requirements of the growing fetus and her own body metabolism.

If adequate energy is not available to the gestating doe, she can metabolize body fat to meet her own nutrient requirements.

Prevention of Pregnancy Toxemia

  • Producers can take steps to prevent pregnancy toxemia by properly managing the weight of does throughout the year, and especially prior to breeding and during gestation. Does should be body-condition scored at breeding, as overweight and excessively thin does are at high risk for ketosis.
  • Feeding grains with increased energy density during the third trimester, or about six weeks prior to kidding, will help to prevent pregnancy toxemia.
  • Providing higher quality hay is also a good idea for gestating does.

Grain Overload / Lactic Acidosis

Ruminal lactic acidosis often referred to as grain overload, develops as a result of animals consuming large quantities of carbohydrates, especially grain, results in a lowered rumen pH. The lowering of ruminal pH, or making the stomach more acidic, occurs because the microbial population of the rumen is not able to metabolize a high level of lactic acid produced during the starch breakdown.

Prevention of Grain Overload

  • To avoid inducing lactic acidosis in goat, high grain diets should be introduced slowly over a period of 10 to 14 days to allow rumen microbial adjustment to the diet.
  • Dietary buffers, such as limestone or calcium carbonate, can also be fed to neutralize acid present in the rumen and keep appetite and feed intake high.
  • Do not store grain in areas where goats can access it easily. Carbohydrate engorgement, resulting in lactic acidosis, can be potentially fatal and result in large economic losses for the producer.

Mastitis – Milk Fever

Mastitis refers to an inflammation of the mammary glands due to a bacterial infection. Udder damage, often caused by mastitis, is one of the leading causes of culling in goat operations.

Mastitis can be diagnosed through physical examination of the udder of the animal or by looking at a sample of milk from an affected gland on a strip cup against a black background.

Prevention of Milk Fever / Mastitis?

  • Improved sanitation supplies plenty of clean and dry bedding.
  • Hygienic milking practice
  • Implementing a milking order, e.g., milk primiparous and/ or healthy females first.
  • Dry period treatment
  • Isolating cases
  • Culling persistent infectors.

Goat Breeds

Goat BreedsMeatDairyWool
KikoNigerian DwarfPygora
Tennessee Meat Goat
Goat Disease Boot Camp Ohio State University

Common Goat Medications

Common Goat Meds