Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Skin cancer is not uncommon in goats. More often affecting white or light-colored animals, skin cancer occurs on the hairless unpigmented portions of the goat's skin -- vulva, rectum, lips, and tailweb -- but it can also appear on lightly-haired areas of the udder, ears, and face. Goats carry their tails upright, exposing non-pigmented parts of their bodies to sun damage. If left untreated, skin cancer on an udder can grow into the udder and cause mastitis. In fact, untreated skin cancer can grow into the goat's body and kill the animal. Goats raised in dry climates with lots of bright sunlight and dust-blowing high winds have much higher levels of skin cancer than goats living in wetter, colder, and darker areas. As the goat ages, the likelihood of skin cancer's developing increases. Both males and females can contract skin cancer.

The most common type of skin cancer in goats is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is a skin lesion that has a flat base with an irregular shaped ulcerated surface that is cauliflower-like in appearance. A telling indication of skin cancer is a sore that does not heal. Affecting the first and second layers of the skin, Squamous Cell Carcinoma can be effectively treated and cured only if caught very early. I moved my goats the very short distance of 125 miles from Buda, Texas to north of Brady, Texas in July 2000 and experienced a definite increase in the incidence of skin cancer in goats having non-pigmented vulvas, rectums, and tailwebs. The climate is drastically different from the previous location; bright sunshine coupled with high winds, blowing dust, and searing heat combine to create ideal skin-cancer conditions.

There are two relatively simple treatments available for early-stage skin cancer in goats. The producer's vet can use a Megatherm machine on the lesions. The Megatherm machine heats the tumors with the intent of destroying them from within. Repeated weekly treatments may be necessary for weeks or even months. An alternative treatment that the producer can perform is cryotherapy -- freezing the tumors using canned air. Purchase a container of canned air like that which is used to clean computers. Shake it gently, turn it upsidedown (to access the can's propellant), and using short bursts, carefully apply the contents to the skin cancer lesion. Do not make contact with healthy skin. Short spurts applied in circles from outside to center of each tumor is the correct application method. A small styrofoam cup with part of the bottom cut out to reveal only the skin cancer lesion can be used as a *surgical shield* to keep the can's contents from touching non-cancerous tissue. This must be done in six steps completed in one session: (1) freeze, (2) completely thaw, (3) re-freeze, (4) completely thaw, (5) re-freeze, and (6) thaw one more time. Treatment must be done at one-week intervals for several months. It will not work if the cancer has advanced to the point that it has grown into the goat internally. This is not a pleasant procedure for the goat. The canned air's propellant is very cold and skin cancers bleed a lot and very easily. Skin cancers are very painful to goats during hot weather.

If skin cancer is a problem in your area, the long-term solution is to cull goats that have non-pigmented hairless areas of skin. Note that there are many areas of the country in which this sun/wind combination doesn't exist, and therefore skin cancer isn't a problem. In West Texas where I live and raise goats, culling goats with non-pigmented hairless areas of skin and selecting goats for pigmented skin are high on my list of management practices.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Lohn, Texas

Meat Goat Mania

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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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