Pneumonia

Pneumonia in goats is a serious respiratory disease that can have serious long term affects on the health of a goat and in many cases can cause death. It can affect goats of all ages and can have numerous causes. Some causes can be treated relatively easily and have only a minor affect on the long term health of your goat, other causes may be much more difficult to treat and may have a chronic affect, and some causes will produce an acute form of pneumonia often leading to death. Just as the causes of pneumonia vary, the symptoms may vary from one case to the next as well.

What are some of the Causes?

Pneumonia is caused by various strains of viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites.

While stress is not a cause of pneumonia in goats, it is a catalyst for the bacteria or viruses that do cause pneumonia. Stress is a factor that can affect goats of all ages and can lead to increased risk of pneumonia. Some common causes of stress include:

  • Over Crowded Pens
  • Wet/Dirty Pens. Excessively dirty pens let off high levels of ammonia which harms the respiratory tract. Wet pens also make it hard for your goat to keep warm so it must use more energy to keep warm instead of using that energy to fight infection
  • Large Temperature Swings: cold nights followed by warm days
  • Mixing Groups or adding new members to existing groups
  • Failure of Passive Transfer: In young goats failing to ingest adequate amounts of colostrum which contains the Immunoglobulins (IGgs) needed for immunity during early stages of life.
  • Incorrect/Aggressive Bottle Feeding: If bottles are fed too quickly milk may enter the lungs causing an increased risk of infection
  • CAEV: Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is a virus that affects the immune system similar to how AIDS affects human’s immune systems.  CEAV causes chronic health issues including pneumonia.
  • Age: Older goats have a harder time adjusting to changes such as group mixing or transportation than younger goats. Therefore older goats are more likely to develop pneumonia after transportation or group mixing.

What are the most common signs of pneumonia?

  • The earliest sign of pneumonia is dullness – the affected animal is less active and alert than normal
  • Fever – the rectal temperature is best measured early in the morning, when the animal’s body temperature is least likely to be affected by daily activity and warm daytime temperatures. A rectal temperature that is greater than 103 – 103.5 degrees F (39.4 – 39.7 degrees C) may be indicative of pneumonia
  • Coughing
  • Thick, whitish nasal discharge with the presence of fever. In cases where a fever is not present the nasal discharge is likely allergy related
  • Rapid or labored breathing (note: it is normal for goats to breath rapidly during warm weather)
  •  Falling behind or separating from the herd

Treating Pneumonia in Goats

Unfortunately there is no medicine available for the treatment of viral pneumonia in goats. However, antibiotics may be administered to prevent secondary bacterial infection.  By preventing secondary infection the goat is able to concentrate its energy on fighting the virus.

Some viruses such as CAEV are systemic, meaning that they affect multiple organs, including the lungs. In addition to being systemic, CAEV is also a chronic disease with no cure. In cases where CAEV is the root cause, no treatment will be effective.

While parasites may not be a direct cause of pneumonia, parasites (such as cryptosporidia, or worms) disrupt the immune system and leave the goat more susceptible to other pneumonia-causing bacteria or viruses. In some cases worms (a type of parasite) may travel from the intestines into the lungs, and cause pneumonia. If you suspect a parasite may be the root cause, talk to your veterinarian about a protocol for clearing up the parasite. Antibiotics may help treat the symptoms of the pneumonia, but without dealing with the parasite, the pneumonia will persist.

Prevention

  • Reduce stress by maintaining a clean, dry environment and prevent overcrowding
  • Minimize temperature fluctuations by providing housing that is free from draft and provides an adequate supply of fresh air
  • Provide proper nutrition for your goats, starting with adequate amounts of colostrum to new born goats
  • Vaccinate your goats. Talk to your vet about vaccines that are approved for goats and ask for their recommendations

We hope this article helps you as you care for your goats! please feel free to add your comments below if you have further tips and information to share about pneumonia in goats.  

References: 

  • "Pneumonia in Sheep and Goats" Dave Van Metre, DVM, DACVIM Professor / Extension Veterinarian, Colorado State University
  • "Pneumonia", Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch

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