Arthritis in Goats can take any one of four possible forms. As a Goat keeper, I have experienced three of the four forms and thankfully not the worst. I will try to explain the various forms and their prevention and treatment in descending order!


This is temporary and relatively minor problem usually associated with damage to a limb or joint. The classic scenario would be the healthy, happy goat goes out to graze and comes in again feeling and looking perfectly well to her owner's eye. The following morning she has a swollen joint (or two) as a result of a twist or sprain in the field or perhaps, in the case of a stall fed goat, from catching a leg/hoof in a rack or rail within the stall. She will normally be happy and bright and feed as normal. The best course of action being to support the joint with an elastic bandage (not too tight!) if she will tolerate it and rest. The application of Arnica will also aid recovery by reducing bruising, heat a soothing any pain. Recovery should only take a few days, when careful exercise can be resumed.


Another form which is what it says and has a number of causative factors. An ageing goat is very likely to develop this problem as with her human counterparts a genetic inheritance factor is at play here and general wear and tear on joints over many years will precipitate this problem. Many goats live well into their teens today and although they maybe kept only as pets we owe it to them not to allow the pain of severe arthritis to linger.

We can help by adding Cider Vinegar to the feed, but not so much as to imbalance the complexities of the goat's digestive processes. A tablespoonful a day should be enough. A potassium/cod-liver oil based vitamin supplement can also be helpful. I have found the horse supplement Codlivine a helpful additive in this respect. Approximately a quarter of the equine dose.

If the goat is not a milking animal or a buck, consider the feed you are using. Is it too high in calcium? Too much calcium in the diet can be a pre cursor to DJD. Bucks need far less calcium in their diet than lactating females and yet most commercial goat feeds are aimed at the dairy goat, not the entire male, wether or dry female. If your goat is a pet or a working or wethered male consider mixing your own feed with a lower calcium content.


A much more startling ailment and one which my own experience has led me to take preventative action for future reference. As the pictures show, the swellings are both startling and dramatic and follow a generalised infection or bacteraemia, otherwise known as blood poisoning. Often this can occur unnoticed at birth when infection can enter the navel. The organisms "settle" within the goat's joints, causing degenerative changes and latterly severe pain. At some point later, the goat becomes extremely ill and the joints swell, leading to so much pain that the goat lies down most of the time, her digestion suffers and eventually a total breakdown of her metabolism occurs and she will die. It is better, at this hopeless state of affairs to humanely destroy the goat to save her prolonged suffering.

Just such a case happened to me last year when a lovely Dairy Goat I had bought arrived with a small but healing tear in her udder. She recovered well only to then succumb to the infection some three months later when her resources were lowered which we could only relate to the stress of joining a large herd. Antibiotic injections failed to improve things as the infection was too far established and humane destruction was the only option. If she had received antibiotic injections at the time of injury, she would probably be alive today. My recommendation would be to ALWAYS dress the naval of the newborn with iodine and ALWAYS give a course of antibiotics after any invasive injury.

Probably the worst worry of finding these symptoms in a "bought in" goat is the fear that maybe this goat has brought in the worst of the arthritic diseases in goats CAE. Have your herd/goat(s) regularly tested for this disease. Although rare in the UK, there are still symptomless carriers around and when buying a goat you should always seek proof of a recent CAE test on the whole herd.


This disease will affect many joints. It is a "retrovirus", a viral infection of mature goats and has a long incubation period of several years the knees almost always being affected and often fetlocks, hips and stifle joints. Initially, it can be mistaken for any of the other forms of arthritis but in a milking goat it will have crept up on you for a season or so. You will notice a year on year drop in the milk yield; the udder may become hardened in places. Her kids may show signs of the encephalitis part of the disease by displaying nervous symptoms, difficulty in standing and a twisting of the head. They "go down" and may "paddle" with their front legs. A goat may have the disease for some time before she show symptoms which can often be triggered by stress such as kidding, moving herds etc.

It is spread by nasal secretions and is passed from mother to kid in colostrum and saliva or nasal secretions. It is also, probably that it can be passed by blood contact, the most likely being "shared needles" during vaccination (never a good idea for the few pence saving-see ABCESSES article as well)Ask your vet about ELISA testing to detect infected animals. Details can also be found on the BGS website.

Next time: With kidding imminent for so many we look at the miracle of BIRTH (and some of its complexities)