Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Also known as Contagious Ecthyma, Orf, and "scabby mouth," Soremouth is a virus that is part of the chicken pox family. Caused by an epitheliotropic parapoxvirus, it enters the goat's body via cuts and abrasions. Soremouth occurs worldwide, is highly contagious, and there is no known cure.

A goat infected with Soremouth appears to have fever blisters on the hairless or lightly haired parts of the its body (lips, vulva, teats, and scrotum). Soremouth can also occur on the face, ears, and coronary band above the hoof of the goat.

Soremouth is a life-threatening disease to nursing kids. Infected lips transmit the virus to the dam's teats, making her so uncomfortable that the doe often refuses to let her kids nurse. A large number of infected kids will die from starvation if they can't nurse. Once the virus appears, it is not unusual for most or all of the kids to contract Soremouth. You may have to bottle or tube feed kids who cannot nurse until the blisters dry and heal. Heavy-milking dams run the risk of developing congested udder or mastitis as they continue to produce milk but don't let kids nurse their blistered teats.

Soremouth must run its course and this can be as long as three to four weeks per goat. Goats that are immune to the virus and therefore don't contract it are are still carriers,so they can infect other goats. Most goats that survive Soremouth become immune to it and usually don't contract it again, similar to humans who have had chickenpox.

You can do several things to minimize discomfort to Soremouth-infected goats. My preferred treatment is the application of Gentian Violet to the blisters and scabs. Soremouth is highly contagious to both humans and goats, so use disposable gloves. Gentian Violet is an old-time inexpensive purple-colored liquid medication used to treat fever blisters and impetigo. It is available without prescription from a pharmacy, but it may have to be ordered and will probably be kept behind the counter. Gentian Violet dries the blisters and hastens healing. Drying scabs sometimes contain staph bacteria or screwworm maggots. Gentian Violet kills bacteria that may cause a secondary infection. Systemic antibiotics are recommended if a secondary bacterial infection exists. The purple color of Gentian Violet gives you the added benefit of being able to see which goats have already been treated. Campho-Phenique is another good product to apply topically to blisters and scabs. Campho-Phenique Maximum Strength also has antibacterial properties.

Soremouth vaccine is available over the counter (Jeffers carries it; 1-800-533-3377) but the value of using it is fiercely debated among goat producers. Because the virus is" live," as opposed to "killed" or "modified," the vaccine purposefully introduces Soremouth into the herd. Goat raisers who use this "live" vaccine administer it before breeding when there are no kids nursing dams with the hope that when kids are born and nursing, the dams will have already had the disease. However, there is no sound evidence that a vaccinated doe will pass immunity to Soremouth on to her kids. I don't use the vaccine because I think there are more negatives than positives to its use. You have to decide for your own herd.

The primary users of the Soremouth vaccine run goats on very large acreage and seldom check on them so they routinely vaccinate against Soremouth to try to avoid losing the kid crop. Goats raised under more managed conditions usually are not vaccinated. This is a generalized statement but also a fairly accurate evaluation of how this vaccine is used.

The "live" vaccine is made of ground-up scabs and is applied to a hairless area of the goat (tailweb or inside the ear) after the surface of the skin has been scratched. Within one to three days, scabs will form, signifying that the vaccine has "taken." Goats who do not develop scabs at the vaccination site probably have an immunity to Soremouth but are carriers of the virus. Humans coming into direct contact with the Soremouth vaccine usually contract the disease.

Once Soremouth is on the property, it is there to stay. Clean up of pens, pastures, and paddocks is sometimes possible by bleaching, burning, removing topsoil, and keeping animals off that particular ground for an extended period of time. The size of the area, available manpower, and cost will determine if this approach is practical. The smart goat raiser learns to cope with Soremouth. A good bio-hazard management practice is to require that all visitors to your property place the soles of their shoes in a shallow pan filled with a small amount of bleach.

For many goat raisers, a reasonable case can be made to decide not to vaccinate and instead let Soremouth run its course, using supportive therapy included here. This is particularly beneficial if there are no nursing kids in the herd when infection occurs. Unless a herd is closed and isolated from other goats, at some point in your career, you will encounter Soremouth. Be prepared to deal with this disease.

There is a lesion that mimics Soremouth that can occur on goats in areas like West Texas, where plants with thorns and briars widely grow. Pearmouth mimics Soremouth in appearance, but doesn't produce the blisters and seepage accompanying Soremouth lesions and isn't an illness. Pearmouth usually appears at the corners of the mouths of kids and adults who have been searching for and eating new green plants that they find underneath yucca and cactus during extremely hot and dry weather.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 4.1.19

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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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