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    Goat Health Conditions and Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)

    What is Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)?

    CAE is caused by a retrovirus and is relatively new to the world of goats, having been first diagnosed in 1974. CAE is now considered one of the greatest threats to all breeds of goats in the U.S., especially dairy goats, and is transmitted during the neonatal period from an infected mother to the kid through nursing natural colostrum. It is possible that CAE is also transmitted from goat to goat through saliva, nasal secretions, urine, and feces. Symptoms of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) in goats include:

    • Weakness in rear legs of young goats or kids, causing muscle atrophy and death.
    • Swollen joints, particularly in the knees, of adult goats.

    There are two disease syndromes associated with CAE, including the encephalitis form and the arthritic form.

    Caprine Encephalitis

    The encephalitis form of the CAE virus is usually seen in goat kids 2 - 4 months old. Signs include paralysis, seizures and death.

    Caprine Arthritis

    The arthritic form of the CAE virus is most common and is seen in adult goats 1 - 2 years old. Signs usually include weight loss, poor hair condition, and enlarged joints, especially in the carpal, hocks, and stifle. Other symptoms during the early onset of the virus include leg lameness. As the disease progresses, goats may show an inability to stand and may walk on their knees.

    How to Treat Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)

    Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) in goats. When purchasing goats, always make sure they are CAE-free. Inexpensive testing for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) is available, and most goat owners should be able to provide documentation of this when requested.

    If you have a goat that is positive for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE), keep it separated from the other healthy goats, and never expose baby goat kids to goats that are CAE-positive.

    There are ways to reduce discomfort in goats diagnosed with CAE. Provide regular hoof trimming, constant access to clean, fresh water, and consider using an oral non-steroid anti-inflammatory, such as 10 - 20 mg of aspirin every 8 - 12 hours, or as recommended by your veterinarian. Goats with advanced cases of CAE that are obviously in great discomfort should be humanely euthanized.

    How to Prevent Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)

    Here are some steps you can take to prevent the spread of CAE in goats:

    • Do not allow goat kids to nurse from CAE-positive does.
    • Do not collect colostrum from a mother goat that is positive for CAE. Only feed colostrum from a healthy doe to kids, or feed colostrum supplement if no maternal colostrum is available.
    • Keep goats that are infected with CAE separated from the rest of the herd.
    • Do not purchase goats from other sources unless you have tested for CAE first.
    • If your herd has been tested free of CAE, keep a close watch on new genetic introductions to keep your herd clean. Perform periodic testing to ensure possible infection is identified early and quarantined.