Goats: from diarrhoea to foot rot - Veterinary Practice
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Goats: from diarrhoea to foot rot

reports on the wide-ranging proceedings
of the latest meeting of the Goat
Veterinary Society

ONE of the difficulties for goat keepers and veterinary surgeons is the lack of specific information about the diseases that afflict and the therapies that are available for goats. The simple statement that goats are not sheep was echoed around the latest meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society at Ludlow Racecourse last month. The discussion was at times heated, but always polite, and the enthusiasm for all that is goat-related very much in evidence. The chairman, Dr Tony Andrews, introduced and linked the topics. The discussions flowed between the experienced speakers and the delegates and the most urgent interventions for the chairman were to keep time with refreshment periods and lunch. John Matthews, veterinary surgeon and goat keeper, shared his experience of the geriatric goat. These are retired milking goats, pygmy goats or castrated males. Most are kept as pets and have a life span of 16 to 18 years. In practice, there is no distinction between a pet or a food-producing animal. Milk production declines with age and so does buck fertility but female fertility continues throughout life. Nutrition is always a consideration when considering disease in goats. Older goats are less resistant to adverse weather, become fussy eaters and may need individual pens, as they are less able to compete for food with younger animals. Arthritis is common and leads to impaired movement and lameness. Dental problems lead to loss of body condition and increased tooth sensitivity to cold water restricts feeding. The teeth slant further forward with age and full examination of molars requires sedation. Excessive points on teeth need to be filed to prevent damage to the inside of the cheeks. As chronic laminitis is common, it is important to check the depth as well as the shape of the hoof and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories are well received by goats. Pregnant does in particular need exercise and uterine tumours are quite common. Many goat keepers appreciate a full veterinary service for their much-valued animals. Due to the lack of licensed products for goats, the veterinary surgeon would be left with water for injection, teat dips and the means for euthanasia so the cascade has to be regularly applied. Nick Clayton provided an update on the cascade system and pointed out that the product must be prescribed by a vet and is used at the owner’s risk. A veterinary surgeon may ask the owner for a signed acceptance of the risk. In food animals a minimum of 28 days meat withdrawal and seven days milk withdrawal must be applied. If these withdrawal periods for a particular product are greater in other species, then the lengthier requirement applies. Use of a product must only be for indications that are authorised in other species. If a vaccine has no withdrawal period in other species, then that also applies with the goat. In Romania there are 231 products that have a market authorisation for goats with 800,000 goats recorded for the country. Portugal has 98 products with 500,000 goats and Ireland 17 products with 8,000 goats. The UK has four such products and 100,000 goats. A medicine must have an MRL established in food-producing animals. A new Eudrapharm website contains an EU-wide list of products and details are also available in the NOAH compendium. In future new products may have limited marketing authorisations, so it is important to be aware of changes if the cascade is to be accurately applied.

Recognising signs

An appeal came from David Harwood (AHVLA) for owners to be able to recognise clinical signs and to know when to call in the vet. In addressing a diagnostic approach to alimentary tract disorders, he urged goat keepers not to leave it too late. A good history is important and vets will need to be aware of general goat-keeping conditions as well as conducting a clinical examination. For laboratory samples, faeces are preferred to swabs, whether from the live animal or on post mortem. Diarrhoea in goats differs with age. Pre-weaned milk-fed kids are likely to suffer from an infectious source, with E. coli only relevant in the first seven days of life, or dietary issues often related to colostrum. Weaned kids have problems often associated with overeating and the third group are the adults. Tapeworms cause little problem in goats and coccidiosis requires species identification rather than numbers as half of the coccidia are nonpathogenic. A full discussion of alimentary disease will be published in the Goat Veterinary Journal, including PGE, cud dropping (listeriosis), anaemia (FAMACHA chart), bloat, wire, enterotoxaemia, hypersalivation (foreign body from browsing hedges), ulceration and ruptures. The particular problems of anthelmintic resistance in goats were presented by Professor Neil Sargison of Edinburgh University. Although goats and sheep are hosts to the same parasites, goats are browsers, able to handle toxins better and metabolise anthelmintics very rapidly. Multiple anthelmintic resistance was first recorded in sheep in 2001, with 22 flocks now diagnosed in the EU, whereas multiple resistance in goats was recognised in 1992. Sheep and goats do not absorb and metabolise drugs in the same way and sheep dose rates cannot be extrapolated for goats. Parasites have the ability to develop resistance rapidly and repeated dosing and underdosing are implicated. It is not easy to accurately calculate the correct individual dose and deliver it to sheep flocks. The SCOPS system Sustainable Control of Parasites) includes pasture and flock management to reduce exposure and trials in France of a programme of computerised checking of liveweights, as a trigger for therapy, is proving successful in sheep. Regular monitoring of parasites is important and a low level of parasite resistance is able to be accommodated by producers. A fat doe is fat in the abdomen rather than across the back. Less space is available in the abdomen for the rumen and so the animal eats less, metabolises the fat, produces ketones leading to twin lamb disease. Margit Groenevelt of the University of Bristol identified problems around parturition and advised to “avoid fat goats”. Treatment with oral propylene glycol starts at the first sign of the doe not eating concentrates and termination of pregnancy with dexamethasone is an option. Other problems include the high demand for calcium with lactation and foetal development (hypocalcaemia), dystocia (ring womb), uterine torsion (rare), uterine rupture on manipulation and artery rupture.

Lameness Problem

Three speakers presented a comprehensive account of goat lameness, which stimulated in-depth discussion. Ben Duston (Cumbria) summarised that lameness leads to difficulty with walking, compromises welfare, reduces productivity and profitability and undermines staff morale. Prevention is essential with measure, benchmark, record and control. Lameness can also be indicative of other underlying problems and should not be allowed to persist. There are 33,000 milking goats in the UK, many in herds of 1,000 goats plus. Kathleen Weilkopolska (York) described their whole farm approach to control lameness in a large herd of 2,500 milkers and followers, with minimal lame goats. Strategic measures include avoiding contact with sheep, avoid goats walking outside across yards, have concrete floors in pens and passages with proper drainage, take good care of feet, design all pens to avoid injury and use plenty of bedding every day. Wet areas (e.g. around water troughs) are avoided. Foot trimming takes place three times a year. If an animal is treatable it is treated, if not culled. Exercise is important and the milking goats walk to the feed troughs and walk to the parlour. Rose Grogano-Thomas and Kat Bazeley discussed whether the new work on foot rot in sheep could be extrapolated to goats. Antibiotic treatment of flocks was considered unacceptable in milking goats and the increase in foot rot through trimming of flocks on pasture had little relevance to goats kept on concrete. Hygienic care when trimming was discussed with differences between goats kept on grass or in yards showing different control requirements. The room concluded that information is not directly transferable from sheep to goats and there was a suspicion that goat keepers value their specificity.

  • The next meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society will be on 10th May 2012 at Taunton; details from Nick Clayton: nickclayton2@mac.com.

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