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Mastitis in goats

Early detection is important

Mastitis is an infection of the udder, or mammary gland, in mammals. All types of goats can get the disease, whether they’re dairy, meat, or fiber goats.

Susan Schoenian is an Extension sheep and goat specialist at the University of Maryland. She says mastitis in goats comes in two forms. The most common is sub-clinical, which causes the most concern because there are no physical signs and it goes unnoticed unless the milk has been tested. It causes a loss in production. Clinical mastitis involves physical changes in the udder. It becomes swollen and warm, and sometimes painful to the touch. The doe might have a fever, loss of appetite, and depression.

"She won’t let the kids nurse, or you could just notice that the kids aren’t growing like they should be. Depending on how far clinical goes, she could even limp," says Schoenian. You would inspect the udder, you know it can be hard, no milk, it could be one or both sides."

There are several causes of mastitis but the most common is bacteria from a poor living environment and not keeping their pens clean and dry. If caught early enough, some cases of mastitis can be cured with a course of antibiotics.

"There really isn’t anything approved for goats so you really need to work with a veterinarian on a treatment protocol. In an ideal world you check the milk to see what organisms are causing it and therefore what antibiotic would be appropriate. It often necessitates taking kids away in meat and fiber goats," says Schoenian. "In the case of dairy goats, it requires dumping the milk."

Infected does should be quarantined from the rest of the flock, including their kids. Some forms of mastitis are deadly. If you can’t clear up the disease, you may have to cull the goat.

Learn more about mastitis in goats and what to do about it

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