Caprine Respiratory Disease

Respiratory diseases can affect goats of all ages. Causes of respiratory disease include various viral or bacterial infections, irritants to the nasal passages, injury to the throat or trachea, and some flies and parasites. In kids, respiratory diseases are usually from infectious agents. Post-weaning, a variety of risk factors for the development of respiratory disease occur. These include:

  • Changes in nutrition,
  • Transportation,
  • Commingling of animals of different groups,
  • Loss of maternal antibodies,
  • Exposure to new pathogens,
  • Adverse housing conditions, and
  • Crowding.

Dusty conditions and exposure to moldy/dusty hay or gaseous irritants (such as ammonia in a poorly ventilated barn) can lead to widespread nasal and tracheal irritation. When inspecting housing facilities for irritants, make sure the inspection is done at the level of a goat’s nose, i.e., low to the ground. Respiratory problems due to trachea injury can arise from improper use of balling and drenching guns.

There are two generalized areas of concern for respiratory diseases, lower tract diseases and upper tract diseases. Lower tract diseases usually result from a disease-causing agent. Upper tract diseases are normally associated with inhaling foreign bodies or irritants, or injury to the trachea although viral and bacterial diseases can occur.

Lower Respiratory Tract Diseases

Blood-borne infections

Most respiratory disease problems of baby kids are due to septicemia or blood-borne infections. While these diseases involve all systems of the kid, respiratory symptoms often predominate. Commonly, these infections are due to inadequate colostrum consumption and housing in an environment with heavy bacterial loads. Some organisms responsible for these infections include E. coli, Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasturella multicoda, Mycoplasma, and Streptococci.

Signs and symptoms

These diseases generally occur where wet, unsanitary, and crowded conditions exist. The onset is sudden with kids becoming weak and depressed, refusing to eat, running a fever, and breathing rapidly. Sometimes, sudden death is the only sign. Large numbers of triplet or quadruplet litters may increase incidence.

Treatment, prevention, and control

Kids exhibiting these signs are in a medical emergency. Treat using antibiotics having a gram negative/gram positive spectrum to counteract a wide variety of organisms. A veterinarian may prescribe ceftiofur (Naxcel), florfenicol (Nuflor), or oxytetracycline. Anti-inflammatory drugs will help alleviate signs and symptoms. Provide fluids and ensure the kid is eating.

Proper management of dams and kids can prevent occurrence. Late gestation dams should be in good body condition (3 – 3.5). Maternity pens and kidding pens should be clean and adequately ventilated. Ensure navels are dipped in iodine at birth and that kids consume adequate colostrum.

Enzootic pneumonia

Enzootic pneumonia is the end stage of infections by a variety of primary agents (mycoplasma, chlamydia, adenovirus, syncytial virus, IBR, PI-3, Caprine herpes virus) or by the various stresses experienced in intensive weanling management, most notably coccidiosis. This pneumonia is usually a herd problem in goats raised in confinement or under intensive management. Predisposing conditions include crowding, inadequate ventilation, and high humidity.

Signs and symptoms

Animals will have a moist, soft cough, increased respiratory rate, nasal discharge, watery eyes, and decreased gains. When listening to the lungs, crackling and wheezing is heard.

Treatment, prevention, and control

Many of the pathogens associated with caprine pneumonias are not susceptible to certain drugs. Products that may be effective include tetracyclines, tylosin, Lincocin, Nuflor, and Spectagard given under the supervision of a veterinarian. Reduce stress and overcrowding, maintain adequate ventilation and sanitation to reduce incidence.


Pneumonic pasteurellosis (pasteurella) is a killer pneumonia in all livestock species affected. Pasturella pneumonia is caused by either Mannheimia hemolytica that causes sudden death or Pasturella multicoda that causes respiratory signs with pneumonia. M. hemolytica is blood-borne and outbreaks usually occur in feedlot conditions where animals are stressed, transported, and commingled. Usually several animals will be involved. They will be noticeably sick and off by themselves. Commonly, nutritional management, ventilation, and parasite control are less than ideal.

Signs and symptoms
Typically, the first animal is found dead followed by signs of pneumonia noticed in herdmates. Affected animals will be off feed, have a moist cough, and appear depressed. The lungs will typically make a wheezing or crackling sound. P. multicoda is capable of entering the blood stream and causing arthritis and mastitis (Blue bag mastitis).

Treatment, prevention, and control

Antibiotics such as Naxcel, Nuflor, and others can be used in treatment. There are no pasteurella vaccines made just for goats. While there are a variety of bovine pasteurella vaccines available, their effectiveness in goats has not been conclusively proven.

Mycoplasma pneumonia

The Mycoplasma species are commonly involved in pneumonias of goats, although usually more of a problem for dairy goat than meat goat producers. In general, they cause a "cuffing" pneumonia with bronchitis that is commonly seen as a form of Enzootic Pneumonia. Pleuropneumonia is a specific disease caused by Mycoplasma mycoides and is a significant cause of sickness and death in does and kids. In kids, the organism is transmitted orally through contaminated milk or colostrum. Outbreaks often occur when animals are stressed, such as in overcrowded conditions and up to 80 to 90% of affected kids die or are euthanized as a result of permanent joint damage. The mycoplasma organisms are commonly isolated from the ear canal of goats. It is postulated that ear mites (Psoroptes cuniculi) may be involved in transmission.

Signs and symptoms

The disease is highly contagious and usually involves multiple animals in the herd. Signs include fever, cough, respiratory distress, joint damage and lameness, nervous system disorders, and/or mastitis. Young animals are usually involved with outbreaks of the pneumonic or polyarthritic forms. Three clinical syndromes seen in goats include:

  1. Peracute illness characterized by high fever and death within 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Central Nervous System syndrome with neurologic signs and death within 24 to 72 hours.
  3. Acute to subacute syndrome with high fever, multiple joint arthritis, mastitis, and pneumonia.

Treatment, prevention, and control

Antibiotics must have a mycoplasma spectrum of activity. Penicillin, amoxicillin, and cephalosporin may not be effective. Products such as tylosin, tetracycline, erythromycin, and Nuflor may be effective. Consult your veterinarian. Treatment can assist in relieving symptoms of the disease but affected animals may shed the organism for life. Some animals may appear to respond to treatment but will relapse and be chronically poor performing.

The organism is spread by direct contact, through the air, milk, and ear mites. Control is by the following program.

  1. Separate groups by age (adults and weanlings).
  2. Maintain all-in-all-out flow of animals or quarantine all new arrivals.
  3. Pasteurize milk prior to feeding.
  4. Control earmites with Ivermectin.
  5. Optimal sanitation and air quality for housed animals.

Verminous pneumonias

Verminous pneumonia is a common infection of small ruminants on pasture caused by certain types of lungworms (e.g., Dictyocaulus filarial, Muellerius capillaries, and Protostrongylus rufescens). Young grazing animals (weaners) are most commonly affected. These parasites prefer low lying, moist pastures. Some of the parasites, Muellerius and Protostrongylus, for example, require snails or slugs as intermediate hosts in their life cycle. Heavy pasture contamination with these parasites can occur from high stocking densities.

Signs and symptoms

Signs usually consist of a persistent, chronic coughing in a herd or flock. Animals will have increased respiration rate and lose weight. The most severely affected animals will be young animals on their first full season of grazing.

Treatment, prevention, and control

It is unclear how effective treatment is for this condition. Anthelmintics will stop parasite egg production but may not effectively remove the parasite. Prevention strategies include avoiding low, wet pastures, particularly during the early morning hours or at night. Clean up piles of wet, rotting vegetation where snails may live. Avoid mixing different age groups of animals or having young animals graze on pastures contaminated by adults. Frequent deworming with certain anthelmintics can also help control the parasite. However, this is not recommended as frequent, herd-wide use of anthelmintics will increase the rate of drug resistance by other internal parasites such as Haemonchus contortus (barberpole worm).

Upper Respiratory Tract Diseases

Irritants, trachea injury

Constant or long-term inhalation of irritants, such as dust or ammonia, and trachea damage through incorrect use of balling or drenching guns can cause respiratory problems.

Signs and symptoms

The predominant sign is coughing and sneezing. Animals may have nasal discharge. With simple inflammation of the respiratory passages due to inhaling dust or other irritants, animals appear healthy other than the annoying cough and sneeze. In the case of pharynx injury, the animal may be in severe respiratory distress and may make a snoring sound when exhaling. Other signs would include foul odor to the breath, off feed, cough, and nasal discharge.

Treatment, prevention, and control

Remove all sources of respiratory irritants from the environment. Dispose of moldy hay, shake dusty hay away from animals, or wet the hay. Environmental dust can be eliminated by wetting the area. Clean bedding to remove urine and feces. Ensure good ventilation and maintain as clean an environment as is possible. Follow proper procedure when using balling and drenching guns. For more information on using these instruments, refer to the Meat Goat Herd Health – Procedures and Prevention chapter.

Nasal bots

Nasal bots (Oestrus ovis) are uncommon in the deep southern portion of the United States but are common elsewhere. Sheep are the primary host; however, goats are readily infected. The gadfly deposits eggs on the nostril of sheep and goats. The larvae migrate to the frontal sinuses and are expelled by sneezing. Human cases have been reported.

Signs and symptoms

The main symptom is violent sneezing in the late summer. Affected animals have a copious nasal discharge that may be tinged with blood. Some animals may make a snoring sound due to nasal obstruction. During larval deposition, animals are very agitated and run in circles, and flock under trees or buildings. Animals may also not exhibit breeding behaviors, hence, the name Oestrus ovis.

Treatment, prevention, and control

Ivermectin will kill the larvae at any stage. Other treatments include Ruelene sprayed in each nostril in the fall or winter.

Module Home
Certification Table of Contents
Browsing Table of Contents