Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Pneumonia caused by the bacterium pseudomonas aeruginosa may be one of the most mis-diagnosed causes of deaths in goats.

Pseudomonas is a common bacterium that causes diseases in plants, animals, and humans. It is especially important medically, because the pseudomonas bacterium is resistant to most antibiotics. Pseudomonas is opportunistic and aggressive, readily taking advantage of weakened immune systems. (The most common cause of weakened immune systems, but certainly not the only cause, is worm load. Haemonchus contortus a.k.a. barberpole stomach worm compromises the goat's immune system, setting it up for multiple illnesses. Health issues in goats usually begin with H. contortus infestation. When you allow your goats to be wormy, you set them up for other serious illness. See my articles on this issue on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com)

Pseudomonas is highly resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics, and there are no vaccines to protect against it. This bacterium is a major cause of ventilator- and sepsis-related deaths of hospitalized humans. Pseudomonas is a survivor.

Found in soil, water, on skin, in man-made environments throughout the world, in ponds and in stock tanks, pseudomonas thrives both in oxygen-rich (aerobic) and oxygen-depleted (anaerobic) atmospheres. It grows everywhere, and it likes moisture. Pseudomonas is aggressive enough to decompose hydrocarbons; it has been used successfully to break down oil and tarballs from oil spills. In mammals, including goats, pseudomonas typically infects the airways (including lungs), urinary tract, burns, and wounds, and can cause blood infections and gangrene.

Symptoms are so generalized that they can be easily confused with other illnesses, making diagnosis difficult. They include a general malaise, including shortness of breath, fever, chills, increased heart rate, decreased appetite, and systemic inflammatory response, until the goat can no longer keep up with its herd, gives up, and dies. Members of the herd can be carriers yet not display symptoms or get sick but can infect other herd members through direct contact, especially in over-crowded conditions. Oftentimes the goat doesn't go off-feed but just seems "off." It is usually a slow decline rather than a quick death like that caused by intersititial pneumonia.

Diagnosis requires culturing the organism. Pan American Vet Lab in Texas performs such cultures using sputum and nasal swabs. Contact Bob Glass, owner of Pan American Vet Lab, at 512-964-3927 for more information. Whether this is undertaken by the producer in a timeframe that will allow the goat to be treated and saved is another matter. I suspect that most goats with pseudomonas pneumonia are dead before people recognize the problem. This isn't a diagnosis that can be made under field conditions. Most diagnoses occur via necropsy after the goat has died.

Fluoroquinolones are about the only class of antibiotics that may be effective against this bacterium. For livestock, that means enrofloxacin (Baytril 100). While Baytril 100 is not approved for use in food animals (because the tests have not been done to determine withdrawal time for residue in meat or milk), it has been used under vet supervision. In my experience, Baytril 100 is the antibiotic of last resort for goats when nothing else works.

Why is this bacterium such a problem with goats? Pseudomonas inhabits the environment in which the goat lives, including water sources, and is also be transmitted by direct contact between goats. If you have too many goats on too small acreage, this overcrowding can make your goats ill and likely kill some of them.

Regarding proper population density, I don't like to cite goats per acre because there are many variables, but if I must then I will say that if you have more than two (2) goats per acre, you are probably over-crowded and at some point will experience heavy wormloads and subsequent illness. This two two goats per acre recommendation may be too high, depending upon your acreage and your area's rainfall. Goats behave and live like deer, so if you ask yourself, "could I have this many deer on this acreage?" and the answer is NO, then you already know that you can't have that many goats either. If you have health problems with your goats, then your goat population is already too dense. A heavy worm load is normally your first clue.

Why did I write this article about an infection that can easily be missed and is difficult to cure? Because most of you are massively over-crowding your goats, setting up conditions that promote illness. Re-evaluate your management for the sake of your goats' health. When you are over-crowded, you can't just deworm, clean your pens, and keep doing what you have always done. The problems are already there, both on and in the ground, in the water, and in the goats.

Operate under the principle that with goats, it is usually the simplest thing. Don't look for exotic diseases as the cause of your problems until you rule out the obvious (worms and coccidiosis). Start with the basics, and if you rule them out as the cause, then examine the goat for other less common problems (goat polio, listeriosis, meningeal deerworm -- to name a few). You will soon recognize that almost all of your goat health problems begin with heavy wormloads.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of the problems with raising goats are related to your management, with over-crowded conditions and climates that are too wet for raising goats being the two most critical issues.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 3.1.19

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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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