As always, talk to your vet if you suspect you have a goat with a serious illness! This site is not intended to be a substitute for a vet or for further research and accurate diagnosis.
WHAT CAUSES THIS DISEASE: Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, which infects the goat and creates abscesses. The full name of the disease is Caseous Lymphadenitis.
SYMPTOMS: Abscesses may be visible on the outside of the animal, especially near lymph nodes (behind the jaw, near the shoulder, near the rear legs). Be careful that you don’t mistake a vaccine abscess for CL! CL abscesses are more prone to coming in clusters of bumps, where as vaccine reactions are a single bump (if a single vaccine has been administered). Abscesses may also form inside the goat, making them invisible to casual observation. Affected animals may have lower performance, lower reproduction rates, and unthrifty appearances. Many abscesses may cause goat carcasses to be condemned at slaughter.
TREATMENT: None. Cull goat. Goat may not be edible if infested with abscesses.
PREVENTION: Buy only from negative herds. Be especially wary when buying from meat herds in the southeast, where CL is supposedly fairly prevalent and treated as a managed disease rather than being eradicated by herd owners. Remember that a healthy looking goat may have internal CL lesions. Test incoming goats for CL and quarantine animals until they pass the test!
I have my own personal horror story with this disease. I went to buy a kiko buckling, and asked the owners to test the mother for CL before I purchased her offspring (he was too young to test). She came back a slight positive, so I refused to buy the buckling immediately and offered to pay for a retest. She came back a strong positive the second time. In the end it turned out this gorgeous healthy looking doe had internal abscesses and had to be culled. Needless to say I did not buy that buckling, but what really struck me was how eat up with abscesses that doe could be inside, while on the outside she looked perfectly normal!
WHY THIS MATTERS TO PACK GOAT ENTHUSIASTS:
Well, frankly, you don’t want to hike with a sick goat, (assuming an animal affected by CL is even in good enough shape to keep up).
Also, because draining abscesses may leave the bacteria on fomites (that is fences, equipment, trail structures, and other objects), and the disease may survive in the environment for up to a year, hiking with positive CL cases that have draining abscesses is not just abusive to the goat but increases the potential of spreading the disease to healthy domestic goats living near trails or using trails.
Finally, CL kills goats. You want at least 7 years of hard labor out of that goat (starting at 4 yrs and going till 10 yrs of age) for the 3 yrs you invested feeding/training. How do you feel about only getting 2 – 3 years of that 7 before the goat dies of CL? Waste of time, right?
Bottom line – test your animals for CL regularly, culture any suspicious abscesses that don’t have a defined cause (vaccine/allergic reactions), and avoid buying from herds with signs of CL. Meat goats are particularly prone to having CL in the southeastern US. Treat purchasing these breeds with caution!