Goat Diseases & The Importance of Testing

Microscope checking fecal for goats

Caprine arthritis encephalitis - CAE

CAE is a viral infection that can cause encephalitis in kids, chronic joint disease as well as "hard udders" in adults.  

The common ways that this disease may be spread is:


 1.  The ingestion of virus-infected goat colostrum or milk by nursing kids. This is the most common source of infection.


2. The transmission of CAE through exposure at feeders and waterer, serial use of needles,  and equipment contaminated with an infected goats  blood.


3. By an infected doe licking their newborn at birth. 

Once we decided on a breed of goat, right from the start, we knew the importance of starting and maintaining a herd that is CAE free. 

Just knowing that once it is in the herd it is almost impossible to eradicate. 

Yearly testing and monitoring to remain CAE free, means that we can bottle feed babies unpasteurized milk thus providing all of the dam's milk's essential nutrients and enzymes which would otherwise be lost. 

By allowing the dam's raw, unpasteurized milk to ripen for 24 hours before feeding,  helps to build  healthy bacteria that is found in raw milk. The extra bacteria results in fewer incidences of scours and kids going off feed in their early months.

We test our goats annually to assure that CAE is not present in our herd.

Buyer's can see our test results and rest assured their kid is from a herd that has been tested and that is CAE free. 

Testing a herd yearly for diseases is costly but we believe it is an important responsibility as well as our pledge to the beautiful creatures God has entrusted to our care and which provide us with so much in return.  



"We test our goats annually to assure the buyer's of our goat kids,  that those disease's are  not present in our herd.

Buyer's can see our test results and rest assured their kid is from a herd that has been tested and was disease-free. "

Johnes Disease - One of the Most Devastating Diseases


What is Johne's Disease & What Causes Johne's?

Johne's, which is pronounced "Yoh-nees" disease also known as para-tuberculosis which is the same animal disease, just called by another name.  ( Johne's is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis or MAP.)  

MAP is most commonly spread by the manure of infected animals.  

This disease is a fatal gastrointestinal disease that was originally found in a dairy cow in the late 1800's. This disease affects animals that are ruminants like cows, sheep, goats, bison and antelope.

The Johne's infection spreads from adult goats to kids.  The Johne's disease  happens when a young animal swallows infected water, milk or feed of infected animals, usually in the first few months of an animal’s life but the animal may remain healthy for a long time.  The symptoms of this horrible disease may not show up for months to even years later.  

Johne's is contagious. This disease can spread from one animal to another.  

What Are The Clinical Signs of Johne's?

 There are two clinical signs of Johne’s. They are  rapid weight loss and diarrhea.  In sheep and goats, diarrhea is less common.  Almost all animals are infected in the first months of life but the signs of disease usually do not appear until the animals are adults.  

How Is Johne's Disease Spread?

 Johne's usually enters a herd when an infected, but otherwise healthy-looking animal is purchased. This infected animal then sheds the Johne's Bacteria onto the property.  Johne's bacteria is spread into the pastures, and possibly into water sources which are shared by the new animal's herd-mates.  

Young animals much more susceptible to the Johne's infection than adults are. 

The young kids, lambs, or calves ingest the organism along with grass or water.  

Kids that are bottle-fed with Johne's contaminated milk collected from an infected dam can become infected with the disease.  A does milk can also become contaminated from manure-stained teats from disease carrying soils or feces.


In advanced stages of the infection, the bacteria is shed directly into the milk by an infected doe. 

Kids may become infected in the womb of a disease-carrying female before they are ever born. 

How Can You Prevent Johne's?

Do Not Introduce the disease into your herd in the first place.

Do not purchase goats from auctions or sale barns where you do not know any history of the animal. Johne's can be transmitted by any of the previous animals that have traveled through the sale barn or auction. 

Purchase only from herds that have been tested and shown to be Johne's free.  

Is There A Vaccine or Cure For Johne's?

No.  So if an animal has Johne's, the humane and best solution is euthanasia.  


Brucellosis is a bacteria that can affect most domestic animals including cattle, goats, sheep and dogs. Sheep and goats are especially susceptible to this disease which can cause a debilitating disease, Malta Fever, in humans. 

The most common symptoms in goats is stillborn births, retained placenta, weak offspring, mastitis or abortion of a fetus.  

While Brucellosis is rare in the United States, there is a blood test available to be sure your goats do not have it.  


Goats infect themselves by licking aborted fetuses, licking placentas, newborn offspring, vaginal discharge, or ingesting contaminated feed from these materials.

Milkers can spread the infection by using unsanitary milking practices.


  • Purchasing goats from known sources.
  • Avoid mixing animals with other animals.
  • Testing new animals before adding them into your herd.
  • Not using dogs that may have been exposed to infected sheep or goats or from countries that the disease is found.
  • Pasteurizing Milk 
  • Proper Hygiene 


Caseous lymphadenitis (CL)


What is Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL)?

CL is a contagious bacterial infection in goats and sheep that can infect even through unbroken skin and most commonly affects the lymph nodes in the neck.

Diagnosing CL

There is only one way to know if a goat has CL or not when it has an abscess and that requires a vet to aspirate the swollen area and culture it to see if it comes back positive for CL.  

Oftentimes goats will get a lump at an injection site so keeping note of the area of the injection or vaccine is advisable so you do not worry or needlessly raise concerns if a lump appears in that area.  

If a goat has an abscess, it is a good idea to isolate it.  Once a goat has CL, it has it forever.  

A Vaccine is Available But...

There is a vaccine available but it is only used for herds that have already had outbreaks of the disease and then is only given to the yet-affected goats in that herd.  Once a goat is vaccinated, it will test positive for the disease which then renders any further testing useless.  

Testing For CL

There is a blood test available to test for CL.

Tuberculosis (TB)

What is TB?

TB is a chronic disease spread through both unpasteurized milk and respiratory secretions that symptoms are respiratory in nature such as coughing accompanied by weight loss.  

Can TB Infect Humans?

Yes.  Raw milk that has not been pasteurized retains the possibility of transmitting the disease.  TB is a Reportable Disease. 

What Animals Carry TB & How is it Spread? 

Bovine TB can infect numerous animals  such as deer, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs and cats although the number of outbreaks for these species is relatively low in the United States.  

Infected spit, urine, feces, bedding and contaminated feed and water all pose a risk.  

What is the Greatest Risk of TB to Goat Herds? 

The greatest risks of infection to goats comes from the introduction of untested animals from an undetected TB-infected goat herd.  




"Sheep and goats are quite resistant to M tuberculosis infection. The intradermal skin test is commonly used for diagnosis. The comparative tuberculin skin test conducted in the cervical region using biologically balanced purified protein derivative tuberculins of M bovis and M avium can be used to differentiate sensitization to other mycobacteria. The responses should be observed at 48 and 72 hr for induration and swelling."   


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There are two kinds of ketosis - Gestational & Lactational Ketosis.  Pregnancy ketosis is a metabolic condition that can occur at the end of gestation and lactational ketosis which is rare in goats, can occur during early lactation. Ketosis occurs when a doe is unable to maintain normal blood glucose levels during times of high energy demands.  The disease in the later part of gestation can be brought on by multiple fetuses, obesity or even an extremely thin doe that does not have the ability to respond to the increased demands of a pregnancy.  Without the ability to obtain sufficient amounts of energy, toxic ketones  accumulate in the blood which is caused by the fat metabolism processes in the doe.

Signs of ketosis include lack of appetite, depression, sweet smelling breath (Some people can smell a “sweetness of breath”) teeth grinding, star gazing, dull eyes, blindness, tremors, coma & death.  

You can check for ketosis with Ketosis test strips that can detect ketone bodies. 

Treatment - In order to successfully treat ketosis, the doe's energy density must be increased in the diet.  A doe must be fed good quality hay/roughage in the early stages, administer Keto-Gel or Propylene Glycol* two or three times a day and supplement with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) twice daily  or you can treat with an old homemade remedy called Ketosis Magic Milk. (Click here for a PDF of the recipe)  If there is no improvement within 24 hours, it is strongly recommended to contact your veterinarian.  

Prevention and or control of Ketosis first and foremost is to control and maintain the proper weight of the doe and prevent obesity.  In the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, increase the does energy intake.  Does need to exercise at least 2 or 3 hours per day.  

Monitoring and early detection is key.  

* NOTE:  Propylene Glycol may be toxic at high or repeated dosing - Take care when using.  It is recommended to limit dosing to 60cc/dose for a dam that is eating and discontinue if the doe stops eating.  The "recommended" dosing did not specify the weight or size of the doe so consultation with a veterinarian is always recommended.


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