Sore mouth in goats and sheep | Living the Country Life

Sore mouth in goats and sheep

Sore mouth produces thick, scabby sores on the mouth and gums

Sore mouth is a pox virus that lives indefinitely in the soil, and affects most sheep and goat operations at some point.

Dr. Reid Redden is a state sheep and goat specialist with Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension. He says the virus presents with crusty scabs on the mouth which heals on its own in a couple of weeks, and then the animals are immune to it. But, there is a severe strain of the disease that they don’t recover from.

"It kind of overtakes their body. Not only do they get it on their mouth, but it’ll grow on the base of their horns, out on their ears, down between their feet, on their knees," says Redden. "It’ll sometimes just overtake the whole body and their immune system for some reason can’t stop it and it will be lethal in most of them, that have this severe and persistent sore mouth."

Sore mouth has been studied for decades, but Redden says new technology is helping them determine if there is a genetic marker for the severe disease, or if it’s a new virulent strain of sore mouth.

Because the virus lives in the soil, animals grazing in lush pastures will pick it up if they have a slight abrasion on their lips.

"They’re eating out of feeders or something like that, and as they’re eating they just get a little nick or a cut. So, there may be ways to try and get really smooth feeders and things like that so they never get an abrasion on there," he says. "And of course, animals that are very well hydrated are probably going to have less cracks in their skin, so good clean water available to them may help out some."

When you handle the animals, make sure you don’t have any cuts or abrasions on your skin. Redden says the virus will transmit to humans.

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