Industry Background
Animal Health
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  • Helen Simmonds, "Rowan Park", NSW.

This is becoming a more common enteric disease of goats, and other farmed animals. It is also a zoonotic disease, i.e. one that can be passed from animals to humans. (There are no recorded cases in Australia to date.)

Yersinia enterocoliticia and Y. pseudotuberculosis are common in the gut of many farm animals. Birds and rodents are considered reservoirs of infection, and may introduce virulent strains of the disease, to a group of goats.

This disease occurs mainly in late autumn and winter, and has been linked to stress, caused by shearing, transport, inadequate feeding, cold wet weather or inadequate shelter or all of these. Mostly young goats one to six months are affected, but all ages are at risk.

There are two forms, the enteric form and the abortion form. Both of these may with difficulty be diagnosed at a post mortem. Not a lot of study has yet gone into this disease, but it is to be hoped that will be attended to in the future.

Typically the disease is characterised by foul-smelling green or dark brown diarrhoea. Depression, lack of interest in food and high temperature are the usual signs. Affected animals may die within a few days but some develop a more prolonged illness, characterised by diarrhoea, dehydration and weight loss. Some goats may be just found dead.

Early diagnosis, and treatment with tetracycline antibiotic injections for about three days, offer a good chance of recovery. Scouring usually ceases within a day or so, and the animals pick up very quickly.

This is not an easy disease for the layman to diagnose. If goats have been correctly vaccinated against enterotoxaemia, that is unlikely to be the problem. Coccidiosis may be the next condition to consider, especially if the animals have been closely confined. Check their temperature, and attitude to life. Since the treatment is totally different, seek veterinary advice and take action as soon as possible to avoid many deaths.

Prevention is the method of choice, since these organisms are probably in the pasture. It is unlikely to occur in mature, well fed, non-stressed goats with plenty of shelter, in warm weather conditions if such an idyllic situation ever exists.

© 2000 A.C.G.A.