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For all districts

Respiratory diseases of goats


This agnote replaces agnote Order No. 1420/81 Agdex 464/650.

By Dr T.R. Thomas, district veterinary officer, Melbourne

Respiratory diseases, of which pneumonias (infections of the lungs) are most important, cause substantial losses in Victorian goats. The dairy breeds appear to suffer from pneumonia more than Angoras, for reasons that are not clear.

Pneumonias are frequently of a complicated type and often the cause is difficult to establish. At post-mortem, goats with pneumonia often show lungs that are affected by lungworms, cheesy gland abscesses and other bacteria. It is also possible that some of these conditions are preceded by a mycoplasma or viral infection.

Husbandry considerations

Goats prefer to seek shelter in cold and wet conditions and in Victoria some form of shelter should be provided. Many owners shed goats at night for shelter and to avoid dog attack. Any infectious respiratory disease will rapidly spread through the flock in a poorly ventilated shed or where overcrowding occurs.

Dusty feed will often cause a rhinitis (nose irritation) in goats and this is evidenced by sneezing and the appearance of a clear nasal discharge. This commonly occurs in goats that are fed crushed oats and fine lucerne chaff. It disappears if the dusty food is withdrawn or dampened slightly.

Goat pneumonia

1. Lungworms are very common in goats and the control of these parasites is of great importance since they can predispose to other types of lung infection. Where lungworm infestation is suspected, faecal speciments should be subjected to laboratory examination. When larvae are discovered, a drenching program using a suitable anthelmintic is necessary. The Department of Agriculture officers in your district will provide information on diagnosis and control measures.

2. Corynebacterium ovis pneumonia (caseous lymphadenitis, CLA, cheesy gland abscess). This bacteria is commonly found in lung abscesses in goats with pneumonia, often with large parts of the lung destroyed. There may be no external evidence of CLA on the goat. Treatment with antibiotics is usually unsuccessful. Attempts are being made to formulate a vaccine and trials are under way. (Is now available - Ed.)

Cheesy gland may be obvious in the goat herd, to the extent that one or more goats may show abscesses externally. These abscesses break and discharge a thick green/yellow pus. Such goats should be isolated and the abscesses cleaned out and thoroughly disinfected with antiseptic solution to prevent contamination of sheds and pasture and spread to other goats. Where cheesy gland is obvious in a herd it is certain that a number of goats will have lung abscesses (see the agnote "Abscesses in goats").

3. Mycoplasma pneumonia occurs in goats of all ages. In kids it can cause a serious disease with obvious pneumonia (coughing and labored breathing) and swollen painful joints (polyarthritis).

Kids may recover or develop a high fever and die in a few days. Adult goats show a chronic low-grade pneumonia and swollen joints but the disease is not as serious as in kids.

Where mycoplasma pneumonia occurs in goat herds there is usually a family history of "big knees" and chronic pneumonia with an overlying lungworm problem.

At present there are no effective treatments for the control of mycoplasma in goats. Where mycoplasma has been known to occur, isolation of infected goats and disinfection of premises should be carried out.

The Department of Agriculture is presently studying these diseases in goats. Species of disease-causing mycoplasmas have been identified and a blood test for mycoplasmas is being evaluated.

Some new treatments have been attempted, of which at least one shows some promise. Goat owners who suspect that their goats are suffering from this disease are encouraged to contact the Department of Agriculture so that further investigations can be carried out.

4. Other pneumonias

Goats are susceptible to pneumonias from other bacteria and viruses. These should be treated with suitable antibiotics by a veterinarian.


Respiratory diseases cause death of many goats. A diagnosis is essential so that the correct treatment can be initiated. Goats suffering from respiratory diseases should be isolated from healthy goats and treated. The Department of Agriculture officers in your district will provide information on diagnosis and control measures.

(C) 1981 Vic Dept. AG.