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10 common diseases you should keep your goats safe from

Goat rearing is a common profession in India and hundreds of people in the country depend on it as a source of income. Considered to be less labour-intensive than breeding other kinds of cattle like cows, goat breeding is also beneficial for those looking for a low-maintenance side business. In India, goats are primarily reared for their milk and meat. However, farmers often end up suffering losses due to several common diseases that these goats might contract. While timely medical intervention can save the day at most times, there are other infections which might turn deadly.

Goat, Image credit:

Goat rearing is a source of income in over five million households in the country. The National Livestock Census 2007 states that Rajasthan is home to 21.5 million goats, which accounts for around 14% of the goat population of the country. Goats are from the animal family Bovidae and their features differ across breeds. They have two horns and their stomachs have four chambers – rumen, omasum, abomasum, and reticulum. Females have two udders or teats for milk production.

Here are a few common diseases that affect goats:

  1. Clostridial infections: Enterotoxemia Type C and D are common diseases occurring among sheep and goats. In Enterotoxemia Type C or bloody scours affects the intestines of the cattle and are often related to indigestion. It can be triggered by an overabundance of milk. Enterotoxemia Type D is more common among sheep than goats. Tetanus or lockjaw is a common side-effect of this disease. The disease can be kept at bay maintaining adequate hygiene during parturition.
  1. Soremouth: Also known as contagious ecythema, soremouth is a virus-borne skin disease affecting goats. Caused by a virus known as Pox, common symptoms include scabs or blisters on the animal’s mouth, udders, and nose. Affected animals may experience depressed growth, a sore mouth and starvation which may be fatal. However, you can shield your goat from this infectious disease by getting them vaccinated. 
  1. Pneumonia: This disease is caused due to inflammation or infection in the lungs. Symptoms may include difficulty in breathing, cough, fever, mastitis and conjunctivitis. Pneumonia can be treated by a course of antibiotics. 
  1. Anthrax: Cattle like sheep contract anthrax generally through contaminated water or feed. The disease is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, whose spores can survive in the soil for up to 200 years. An outbreak is usually preceded by a major upturn in weather like a storm. If contracted, the goat might experience bloody discharges, reduced milk production, colic, swelling in the throat, and even death. The fatality rate of the disease is very high, but an early diagnosis improves the chances of survival. High doses of penicillin are found effective in treating the disease. 
  1. John’s disease: This infection is also known as hemorrhaging septicemia and it can also be fatal. It affects the small intestine of goats as they become less efficient in absorbing nutrients. Clinical symptoms are harder to spot, hence one should keep checking for rapid weight loss, diarrhea, fever and breathing problems. It commonly occurs during the monsoon and can be kept at bay through annual vaccinations.
  1. Brucellosis: Caused by the bacteria brucella, brucellosis can spread from infected animals to humans. The ruminates may contract this disease by licking aborted fetuses and vaginal discharges or by consuming contaminated feed. Common symptoms include abortion in late pregnancy, retained placenta, reduced milk production, and weight loss. There is currently no treatment available for the disease. 
  1. Footrot: This bacterial infection is also called foot scald and affects cattle living in warmer and moist climes. Footrot only affects the area between the toes of the animal. Maintaining hygiene and regular trimming hoofs can help.  
  1. Mastitis: This is a bacterial infection that leads to inflammation of a goat’s udders. Unhygienic herding conditions and systemic infections are some of the common causes leading to mastitis. If mastitis becomes septic, it may cause fever, depression, and lethargy in the animal. It can be diagnosed through a physical examination of the udder or by observing any inconsistency in the milk. Under normal circumstances, it can be treated through a course of antibiotics.
  1. White muscle disease: It’s a degenerative muscle disease caused by the lack of selenium and vitamin A. It affects goats’ skeletal or heart muscles or sometimes both. If the disease affects skeletal muscles, the animal might sport a hunch or stiff gait. If it affects the heart muscles, goats may experience breathlessness, fever, and blood-stained nasal discharge.
  1. Lactic acidosis: This disease is also knowns as ‘grain overload’ and affects goats if they consume an excessive quantity of carbohydrates. It leads to lower levels of rumen PH, which in turn makes the animals’ stomach more acidic. Consequently, the body isn’t able to metabolise high levels of lactic acid. Anorexia, diarrhoea, teeth grinding and discomfort are some of the symptoms. To avoid lactic acidosis, goats should be put on grain-rich diets gradually over a period of 10 to 14 days.

These diseases can not only cause livestock breeders financial loss but can also impact their health as some of them can be contracted by humans from animals. In order to minimize the chance of your herd getting infected, one should take care of basics like hygiene and nutrition management. Ensure that the goats’ sheds are cleaned and, their hoofs are trimmed and cleaned regularly. Next, schedule doctors’ appointments and vaccinations on time. Lastly, consult a veterinarian about the right kind of diet you should feed the goats depending on their breed.

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