My Goats Might Have CAE
When we first decided to become goatherds, we didn’t know much about the health of goats.
Sure, I did plenty of research, but nothing really seems to compare to hands-on experience. It’s one of those things that you can read all you want, but until you’re really in it, you’re not going to have all the facts.
As of the time I’m writing this article, I’m in CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis) limbo with my herd. And by that I mean I’m not sure if they have CAE yet.
Hearing the vet mention CAE over the phone sent a cold rush of fear through my chest. Stunned.
Yet, not surprised.
My herd of 3 years, may have one of the worst-case scenarios. Our vet could potentially drop a bomb on our beautiful blossoming farm within the next two weeks.
Why Our Vet Thinks Our Goats Have CAE
I should rephrase.
She doesn't think they have it. She’s suspecting an underlying illness. And one of my adult goats is showing signs of CAE.
She’s been losing weight over the course of a year.
Typically, when goats first present with chronic wasting symptoms of CAE, death comes fast.
From everything I’ve read, it takes about 6–12 months (max) for a goat to die from this type of CAE.
Goats with chronic wasting CAE can live up to 12 months from the first signs of the illness.
Well, we’re about there.
But it’s not really the weight loss that spurred this suspicion. It’s the fact that my adult goat has an overgrowth of coccidia.
Why Coccidiosis Could Mean Our Goat Has CAE
Coccidia is a nasty protozoan that wreaks havoc on a goat’s digestive system. In short, it can cause a goat to lose weight because they’re not able to absorb the nutrition they need to survive.
But the crazy thing is, goats all have coccidia in their bodies. An otherwise healthy goat could manage this little “bug” just fine.
An immuno-compromised goat cannot.
That is why it’s strange that my adult doe has coccidiosis. Typically, adults are can keep coccidia at bay. Goat kids, on the other hand, have a harder time powering through their early months because their immune system is still developing.
So a baby goat with an overgrowth of coccidia will cause diarrhea, dehydration, and, if not addressed, death.
But that’s something that educated goatherds keep a close eye on. It’s easy to prevent with good barn hygiene and fast action.
So, our vet (who is a stellar goat vet) is suspicious of an underlying issue because most adult goats only get coccidiosis when they’re already sick, severely stressed, or in poor conditions.
She mentioned CAE as a possibility because our goat is showing no other signs of illness except gradual weight loss and inability to gain weight.
I think of it like this: I’m an asthmatic. So when I have a cold, it’s not just a cold….it almost always turns into bronchitis. And that’s because I already have the cards stacked against me. My immune system sucks.
And that’s why coccidiosis is concerning in this adult goat. She may already have her cards stacked against her with CAE, and therefore, coccidia isn’t just coccidia…it’s coccidiosis on steroids.
Her immune system is most likely compromised by an underlying issue. Fingers crossed it’s not CAE.
If One Goat Has CAE The Whole Herd Has It
But not necessarily.
CAE is passed from goat to goat through bodily secretions.
- Infected Feces
- During Breeding
- Through Colostrum & Milk
Which makes it quite contagious. Because we all know goats are social critters.
They love to be with one another. They snuggle up at night. They battle, they nip, and they even groom one another.
So the likelihood of all our goats having it, if one does, is high.
How Do I Know if My Goat Has CAE?
We can guess, assess, and assume all we want. But the only way to know for sure is for our vet to come out and do some bloodwork on our herd.
If you’re wondering about signs of CAE, here’s some things to watch for:
- Neurological symptoms (paralysis or seizures)
- Chronic cough (not related to cud-chewing or allergies) Cuz goats cough a lot.
- Swollen joints (arthritic)
- Inability to walk or walking on knees
- Rapid weight loss
It’s important to keep in mind that there are different types of CAE that present different symptoms.
- Encephalitis - neurological symptoms (most common in kids 2–4 months of age)
- Arthritic - Shows up around 1–2 years of age and presents as swollen knees or joints, weight loss, and frizzy unkempt-like hair.
- Pneumonia- chronic cough, congestion, fever
What’s Next for Our Herd
Since our sweet doe has coccidiosis, we’re treating her for that. Instead of using Corid (Amprolium), our vet prescribed a sulfamed (Albon).
All the treatments for coccidiosis are tough on goats. The popular (go-to treatment), Corid, is a thiamine inhibitor and if not careful, it can cause goat polio.
This is why it’s important to work with your vet on something like Coccidia overgrowth. Ruminants are not the “goats-eat-cans” critters we were led to believe they are.
But that’s what makes them so interesting.
And while we wait to have the blood drawn, and for the Albon to work, we’re carefully considering our options in the worst-case scenario of CAE.
Will we give up on goatherding?
Will we cull? And if so, how do we do it?
Will we attempt to manage two herds on only 6 acres? (cuz keeping CAE-infected animals and creating a second, healthy, herd is a possibility!)
Because the truth is, while CAE may be a death sentence for our beloved goats (eventually) it doesn’t mean we can’t manage the situation and maintain a healthy herd in the future.
But our focus right now is treating symptoms, waiting for results, and continuing to enjoy our sweet caprines.
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