Arthritis in Goats
Written by Administrator-GL   
Monday, 10 September 2007

Diagnosing and Treating Arthritis in Goats

How Arthritis Starts

A normal healthy goat has quite flexible joints. The ends of their bones, where they connect to form joints, are covered with cartilage. Cartilage is a natural padder and shock absorber between the bones. So cartilage protects the joints from wear and tear. In addition to cartilage, there are many muscles, ligaments and a natural lubricant called synovial fluid in the joints. When the ligaments, muscles or articular cartilage gets damaged, the animal feels inflammation and pain. Old age also makes a goat more prone to arthritis.


Arthritis in goats may be caused many ways. Trauma, bacterial infection, nutritional problems, old age, genetics and congested living arrangements are some of the reasons.

Caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) is particularly deadly. It affects the synovial fluid with many other internal organs. It normally causes arthritis in adult goats. The most commonly affected joints in goats are carpal and tarsal joints. It spreads mostly from an infected mother to her kid at the time of birth. CAEV can be inactivated by heating colostrum at 56 degrees C (133 degrees F) for 60 minutes. Do this in a double boiler as direct heat will make it curdle and become like heavy pudding.

Milk also needs to be heat treated before feeding to the kids- pasteurize milk Milk is pasteurized by heating it to about 145°F (63°C) for 30 to 45 minutes or by the "flash method" of heating to 160°F (71°C) for 15 sec, followed by rapid cooling to below 40°F (10°C), Store goat milk at 34°F if possible. 

Types of Goat Arthritis

There are different kinds of goat arthritis, depending on the source of the inflammation. Some of these are named below.

  • Traumatic Arthritis: Goats are very active and often incur sprains or ligament tears. The symptoms of traumatic goat arthritis include sudden limping and puffy joints.
  • Viral Arthritis: Caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) causes chronic arthritus in goats. It affect a very large number of goats every year world wide. Mycoplasmas is another kind of virus that affects goats world wide.
  • Bacterial Arthritis: Generally open wounds over joints lead to bacterial infection. Such injuries should be looked after immediately. In case of young kids, polyarthritis may occur. Proper hygiene should be maintained in and around the habitat of goats.
  • Nutritional Arthritis: Nutritional arthritis is caused by an imbalance in the diet. Whenever there is an overdose of calcium in the diet, the excessive calcium gets deposited in the joints and causes pain and inflammation.
  • Osteoarthritis:
    This is the arthritis of old age, due to the normal wear and tear on joints, Also called degenerative arthritis

Symptoms and Signs of Onset

Depending on the causes, the signs and symptoms of goat arthritis may differ. Some of the signs are stiffness, lameness, decreased movement, reluctance to rise, weight loss, abnormal gait, acute swellings without pain in the joints, reduction in milk yield and poor hair coat. These signs indicate the painful conditions of arthritis. The life of a goat can be very miserable.

Stages in Goat Arthritis

Affected joints are swollen and warm to the touch at the start of bacterial and traumatic arthritis. In the onset of viral or nutritional arthritis, there may be no apparent symptoms. Some subtle signs like reluctance to rise, limping or not using some limbs could indicate early symptoms to watch. Lameness and substantial reduction in movement occur in later stages of all these types of arthritis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

As soon as above mentioned signs and symptoms appear, consult a veterinarian. Examining the joint fluid can determine whether goat is suffering from bacterial arthritis, viral arthritis, traumatic arthritis or nutritional arthritis. Radiographs may also be used to determine the extent of nutritional or traumatic arthritis. Serologic testing is used to determine arthritis due to CAEV. Indirect enzyme linked immunosorbant assays (ELISA) test is used to detect the CAEV antibodies in the goat milk.

After a correct diagnosis, treatment should follow a doctor’s instructions. Antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tylosin and tetracycline are quite effective in controlling and recovering from goat arthritis. Physical movement should be avoided during recovery from traumatic arthritis. CAEV is dangerous because there is no cure for it.

How to Care for Arthritic Goats

Prevention is always better than cure. The different medicines and treatments cannot replace a sincere and expert caretaker. Proper management of the habitat and proper cleanliness are helpful. A controlled diet, and soft floor—such as one made from sand or straw—should be provided to the bucks and milk producing goats. The habitat should not be crowded.

Arthritis due to CAEV is not curable. However some preventive measure may be helpful. Closed herd status should be maintained. Proper diet, clean and soft flooring, regular foot trimming and regular administration of NSAIDs are helpful. Every six months all the goats of the herd should be tested for CAEV infection.

Kids should be prevent from getting infected just after birth. Their navals should be dressed with iodine. The newborn should not be fed its mothers’ milk if she is already infected with CAEV. Boiling this milk at 56 degree-celsius for one hour makes this milk safe for the baby.

Goats suffering from traumatic arthritis should be separated from the herd. Its movements should be restricted. The affected joint should be dressed. Open wounds should be properly cleaned and dressed to avoid infections. Bucks should be fed hay only or they may acquire nutritional arthritis.

With osteoarthritis, some sources indicate that there may be a genetic link to this type of arthritis. Diets high in phosphorus and low in calcium or a diet which includes excessive grain may contribute to the problem as well.

Read more about CAEV:
Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis: Introduction

Last Updated ( Monday, 01 September 2008 )