Goat Birth Defects
Written by Administrator-GL   
Wednesday, 30 May 2007

In Loving Memory of a little Angora AngelGoat, named Black Pearl.

Ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes and a nose..
These are things new moms and dads look for in their newborn children. A popular adage through the decades. So what do you look for in your newborn baby goats? Do things go wrong and if so, why?

I am list owner of 2 goat care Yahoo Groups and kidding season seems to run in cycles- This has been a year for odd neonatal defects among list members across the nation. I thought this would be a good time to share some of them with you. Most of the time your goat babies are born without a thing wrong with them.. then there are those unusual times when normalcy doesn't seem to be in order.

Unfortunately things "can" go wrong, some brought on by medications given during pregnancy, plants eaten, some are vitamin and mineral deficiencies and some are genetic. Sometimes, despite our best efforts things may still go wrong at kidding time. As upsetting as it can be for us to have a problematic birth- I guess this is nature's way of keeping the breed strong. Some of these more common defects will be discussed in this article- this is by no means a complete list, but some of the abnormalities you may be faced with.

Fetus Mummification

If no bacteria are present, the fetus is maintained in the uterus where it undergoes slow decomposition and dehydration (mummification). The cervix usually remains closed. The fetus appears as a brown, dry, leathery structure. Many times it is presented at the normal parturition time. Some things that can cause a mummified kid- Border Disease(Hairy Shaker), Viral agent, closely related to the bovine virus diarrhea virus (BVDV). Affects goats and sheep worldwide.



is caused by A single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii causes this disease. An infected cat that is shedding the organism in its feces spreads disease. (Cats can become infected by eating small animals, especially mice ). Dams do not show clinical signs of this disease and after infected will develop a life long immunity to it.




viral infection, transmitted by the bite of a gnat or mosquito in early pregnancy. Dams show no clinical signs of infection, Badly deformed fetuses are usually dead at birth, and the limbs are locked in the flexed or extended position. Infection of dam during first trimester of pregnancy is when the fetus will be affected. If the fetus is born living, it may be affected with lesions in the central nervous system which are manifested clinically as blindness, nystagmus, deafness, dullness, slow suckling, paralysis, and incoordination. Mildly affected neonates may survive but many will die due to blindness and neurological defects.


Contracted tendons

Most of the time this is caused by lack of room in the uterus, some feel the dam lacking in selenium may cause this but no research has this view supported. This is seen as a genetic defect in Angoras in Australasia. This may not show for 5-6 generations when the affected buck has been a carrier.. Due to recessive autosomal allele (half a gene) [Autosomal recessive (AR) diseases are those in which only individuals who are homozygous for the mutant allele develop the disease] that must reach a certain level before affected animals appear; the time between purchase of a carrier buck and appearance of affected kids may be 5-6 generations.

Anglo-Nubians in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand can have a genetic condition called mannosidosis. At birth, affected kids have varying degrees of fixed flex ion of the forelimbs and fixed extension of the hind limbs. They can see and bleat and suckle if held up to the teat. Their withdrawal reflexes are normal or depressed, and there is intention tremor, especially of the head. There may be nystagmus, deafness, and facial abnormalities. (Merck Veterinary Manuel)


is a metabolic bone disease of young growing animals resulting from a dietary deficiency of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, or some combination of these nutrients causing enlarged joints and bowed legs. Neonatal rickets can be caused from the pregnant dam not having enough Vitamin D in her diet- often times found in intensive management where the animals are kept in a covered pen.

Enzootic Ataxia

(Swayback) is caused by copper deficiency of the pregnant dam. Congenital swayback is characterized by stillbirths and the birth of small and weak lambs or goats, which may show fine tremors of the head. Less severely affected kids are bright, but uncoordinated with characteristic weakness of the hind limbs, which results in a swaying or stumbling gait. These lambs are often fine boned and dull coated.

Atresia ani & Atresia recti

Atresia ani simplex occurs when the anal membrane fails to perforate or disappear. The exterior opening of the intestinal tract is then closed. This can be surgically corrected and if not the animal will die within 7 days or so. The feces builds up in the intestine and will eventually burst.

Atresia ani et recti refers to congenital closure of both the anus and rectum. This takes place during fetal development when the rectum and anus openings fail to develop.

Atresia recti simplex refers to the condition in which the lumen of the rectum failed to develop, but the anal opening is normal. There may be malformation of the genito-urinary tract associated with abnormalities of the colon and rectum causing the intestine to empty into the vagina or bladder. Atresia of the gut, particularly the colon, may result from external pressure on the amniotic sac during rectal palpation between days 35 and 40 of gestation.


When an eyelid turns inward, this is a problem that typically affects the lower eyelid. This is a common congenital defect of the eyelids. Vitamin D deficiency may also attribute to this.

Cleft Palate

When the roof of the mouth fails to close leaving an open ridge inside, which in itself would not be an issue except that this opens into the nasal/sinus cavity allowing feedstuffs to aspirate into the sinus and lungs. Ingestion of Lupines, Poison hemlock, Nicotiana, in the first trimester of pregnancy is thought to be one of the major causes of Cleft Palate. It can also be a congenital defect.


Locoweed poisoning in all types of range livestock (most commonly cattle, sheep, and horses) resulted in various clinical signs such as emaciation, visual impairment, neurological ssigns, habituation, abortion, and congenital defects. Locoweed produces musculoskeletal defects in calves and lambs, and hypo plastic testicles and enlarged seminal vesicles in rams. (Merck Veterinary Manuel) *Lupine ingestion during the 40th to 70th days of gestation. The most common signs seen in "crooked calves" are arthrogryposis (immovable joints, pronounced arthro-grip-osis), cleft palate, scoliosis (twisted spine) and shortened maxilla (upper jaw) that looks like an "undershot" jaw.(Environmental Toxicology and Veterinary Extension UCDavis)


Caused by iodine deficiency in the dam.

Kid is normal at birth but suddenly develops an onset of muscular weakness or ataxia at 3 to 10 days of age. Seemingly it happens in late kidding seasons, but this is only a supposition. The kids do not seem to be able to suckle but they can swallow, they are also in a depressed state.

Monkey Faced Lamb Syndrome

I think this one has me particularly involved as one of my new list members had this happen to her first angora birth this season, the twin was normal. A very unusual defect as it has various anomalies and can appear with or without a cycloptic involvement. This is caused by the doe eating CornLilly (False hellebore) which grows wild throughout the US. The unusual thing about this particular disorder is depending on which day of pregnancy ingestion of the plant took place will delegate what amount of degeneration there will be to the fetus. Ingestion of the plant on day 14 of gestation causes The Monkey Faced Syndrome- lack of nasal cavity, sometimes also a cycloptic situation (one central or offset eye instead of a pair of eyes), ingestion on 19th to 21st day of gestation will give more chance for cycloptic involvement as well as forelimb deformity- days 27 to 32 of gestation a marked shortening of forelimbs.

Tracheal defects (lateral flattening of the trachea throughout its entire length) when eaten on days 31-33 of gestation. The difficult thing about this poisoning is many times the doe does not show much in the way of outward symptoms of poisoning when she has eaten small amounts of this plant- therefore this can be quite a shock when the neonate is born with the defects.

If the goat has eaten more than a bite or two, you may see:

Signs of Western False Hellebore Poisoning:

Poisoning may occur in 2 to 3 hours after an animal eats the plant. Marked signs of poisoning after eating 6 to 12 ounces of green stems or leaves.


  • * Excessive salivation with frothing
  • * General body weakness - animal may be unable to stand
  • * Irregular gait
  • * Vomiting
  • * Fast, irregular heartbeat
  • * Slow, shallow breathing
  • * Coma
  • * Convulsions

Western False Hellebore Poisoning
(Western False Hellebore Poisoning Caused this Baby to
have Monkey Faced Lamb Syndrome)

Click photo to enlarge
Photo of baby goat with mildly contracted tendons in the front feet -which is usually temporary and mild
This can usually be corrected by splinting either with large syringe containers split as shown in this photo or using vetwrap making sure not to place it too tight or it can cut off circulation- 24 to 48 hours should be enough to correct this.
I have also had success in placing the feet in the correct position each time I handle the baby and helping it to stand- this seems to correct the feet as well as splinting them.
More recently I have discovered that foam pipe insulation can also serve as a great splint for kids and esp newborns Splint for baby goat's leg

The next time you are the least bit disappointed in a set of twin bucklings instead of doelings, or the color is not exactly as you had hoped, keep these abnormalities in mind and Thank the Lord for your healthy babies.. and if your baby is one of the ones who are affected by one of these syndromes, then by all means do some study and offer what you find to the goat community so we may all learn from your little angel.

Last Updated ( Friday, 17 June 2016 )