Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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CHLAMYDIA: PINKEYE, WEAK KIDS, AND ABORTIONS

Abortions in goats may be caused by a wide variety of problems. Some abortions are of non-infectious origin. . . the occasional butting that causes the fetus to die inside the dam, for example. However, abortions are most often attributable to infectious organisms, and the most common infectious abortion disease which the goat producer may encounter is Chlamydiosis.

Chlamydia psittaci, the bacteria responsible for causing Chlamydiosis, is unusual because (unlike most other bacteria) it can only multiply in living cells. There are many strains of this bacteria, some of which cause respiratory diseases (pneumonia), keratoconjunctivitis (pinkeye), and arthritis.

Chlamydiosis not only can cause abortions but it is also responsible for the birth of weak kids. This writer is rapidly concluding that many cases of Weak Kid Syndrome may be attributable to Chlamydial infections in the herd. This analysis is based, of course, on the assumption that the producer is providing an adequate level of nutrition and care for pregnant does. Both abortions and weak kids can be caused by poor management practices, such as improper protein, roughage, and mineral levels.

Female and male goats can contract Chlamydiosis at any point during their lifespans. A goat can be a carrier yet never display symptoms of the disease, or (if female) it can have a Chlamydia-induced abortion and also remain a carrier.

Chlamydial symptoms may be confused with other health problems. Chlamydiosis appears first as a vaginal discharge as early as 10 days before an actual abortion takes place. Initially this discharge can casually be mistaken for watery diarrhea; however, closer inspection reveals that its texture and color are visibly different and the secretions are coming from the vagina. The infected dam appears healthy and active until the discharge evolves into pieces of fetal and placental tissue, at which time she becomes slightly lethargic and depressed. Oftentimes the doe never goes off-feed.

Chlamydiosis has been thought to occur only during the last two months of pregnancy, but this is not always the case; producers are observing chlamydial abortions during the first 45 to 60 days of gestation. Depending upon the timeframe during her pregnancy that a doe became infected, she may abort the fetus or she may carry the pregnancy to term and deliver either stillborn, mummified, or live but very weak kids. Occasionally the live births have visible lesions; the placental material is always visibly different from its normal condition, making its examination by a veterinarian essential. Retained placentas are common.

Chlamydial bacteria multiplies in the living cells of the intestinal and genital tracts; it slowly damages and then kills the fetus by preventing the transfer of nutrients from the dam through an increasingly-thickened placental membrane.. The fetus literally starves to death. Because this bacteria needs about 40 days to do its dirty work, a doe infected in the last weeks of pregnancy may deliver live but very weak kids. She will, however, usually abort in her next pregnancy. There is some belief among professionals that a doe aborts only once in her lifetime but may always be a carrier; however, research is needed to further examine this theory. Eventually the infected herd develops some level of immunity to the disease. The herd members unable to adapt simply die off.

Identification of infected animals prior to the occurence of abortions is difficult. All tests involve using aborted fetal and placental material or blood drawn from the dam at the time of the abortion and again three weeks later. Upon finding aborted fetuses or fetal/placental material, producers should collect it (using disposable gloves and containment bags) for delivery to a vet for examination and testing. Although mummified fetuses are usually unsuitable for testing, collect and save them for evaluation. Placental tissue is more important than fetal tissue for purposes of testing. Diagnosis is made even more difficult if the doe retains the placenta. If the material cannot be immediately delivered to the laboratory for study, refrigerate it. Do not freeze it.

The doe must be removed from the herd and kept in isolation until the vaginal discharge has completely stopped; this can take up to two weeks. Because the major avenues of infection of healthy animals are vaginal discharges, aborted fetuses, placentas, and infected feces, all remaining fetal and placental material must be immediately collected and burned. Bleach or similar disinfectant must be used on the ground and on all objects with which the aborted materials came in contact.

Always feed pregnant does using feed troughs. Do not feed them on the ground where they may have access to infected fetal or placental material. Good hygiene is essential in attempting to prevent and control Chlamydiosis. Many abortion diseases, including Chlamydiosis, are zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans), so pregnant women should not have contact with bred does.

Like most abortion diseases, Chlamydiosis best responds to tetracycline. A good preventative program involves innoculating all does with LA 200, Maxim 200, or an equivalent oxytetracycline product twice prior to breeding, once at 60 days before being introduced to a buck and again at 30 days before mating. Innoculate all bucks and all kids annually, because they can be carriers of this bacteria. During breeding and for two months of gestation, feed all animals in the herd a pelleted ration to which chlortetracycline has been added. Discuss with your goat veterinarian at what time frame during gestation and for what duration the treated ration should be fed. Aureomycin (chlortetracycline hydrochloride) containing 10 grams per pound of chlortetracycline, added to feed at a rate of five to ten pounds per ton, is an effective as well as affordable dosage. If using a custom feed ration is not a option, Aureomycin antibacterial soluable powders are available for use in drinking water; follow package directions. Because it is illegal (not FDA-approved) to combine a coccidiostat with Aureomycin in a feed ration, drop the Coccidiosis preventative out of the mix. Reintroduce the coccidiostat as soon as 30 days prior to kidding and continue its usage through the kids' first five to six months of life.

The Chlamydia vaccine made for use with sheep has not been tested for effectiveness in goats and is not approved for usage in this species. The measures outlined in this article are currently the best available treatment for goats infected with the Chlamydia bacteria.

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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