Causes and symptoms:

Arthritis is an over-used term which simply refers to an inflammation of a joint or (if describing a systemic disorder) any number of joints. For our purposes, we will divide the arthritic diseases into three basic groups.

Osteoarthritis (8040):   the arthritis of old age, due to the normal wear and tear on joints, "degenerative" arthritis.

Just as in people, farm animals develop arthritis as part of the normal aging process. This will show as stiffness of the neck and limbs, which may or may not be accompanied by swelling of the affected joints and limping. Our old Claire (see Stories ) developed a severe stiffness of her neck, which was pulled to one side. Walking may also become difficult when the range of motion in certain joints, particularly the hip, become limited. There may be mineral deposits in surrounding soft tissues as well as actual enlargement of the joint capsule.

A major concern in arthritic patients is the level of pain. While some folks may assume that animals do not feel pain, this is ridiculous. Goats are such tough little guys that it's easy to overlook this problem. If the patient is obviously limiting it's activity or groaning while moving, there is certainly some pain. As mentioned elsewhere, goats respond quite well to regular over-the-counter cheap "people" aspirin. We generally recommend that the normal people dosage be doubled, except in neonates and the very old. Studies have shown that goats may process or "biotransform" aspirin faster than some other animals; therefore, you may want to give it more frequently than indicated on the label or look for timed-release formulations. Other "NSAID's" (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen) should probably be used only after consultation with your veterinarian since side effects can accompany long-term use and adequate species-specific research many be lacking. As in humans, there is a danger of kidney and/or liver damage, ulceration and bleeding of the gut, and possible impaired blood clotting with the use of NSAIDs, especially when given over a lengthy period of time. In fact, acetaminophen can be quite toxic in some species, such as cats. Other excellent drugs may be available through your veterinarian, such as dipyrone, phenylbutazone, some of which can be given parentally (shots), which eliminates in need for oral dosing.

Generally, the younger goats show respect for their elders and do not engage in behavior which may be injurious. Therefore, separation is not usually called for and may just cause the "oldster" to feel depressed. Old Claire was always surrounded by a number of little ones. Careful attention should be given to appetite and diet: make sure the patient is eating well. Make sure that the housing is warm and dry. Watch to assure that floor or ground surfaces provide adequate footing. Frequent observation and proper trimming of the feet is essential.

Aspiration (removal of fluid from the joint with a needle) is never recommended in arthritis, unless upon the direction of your vet. This procedure is more likely to introduce pathogens of a serious nature, which are commonly not present in cases of arthitis.

Numerous sources indicate that there may be a genetic predisposition to arthritis. Also a diet high in phosphorus and low in calcium or a diet which includes excessive grain may contribute to the problem.

Traumatic (injury-based) arthritis:

Some cases of arthritis can probably be traced to injuries sustained early in life. Therefore, joint injuries should always receive immediate care, with careful emphasis on preventing and/or treating infection. Contrary to what was mentioned above, pus or fluid which is not clear should be removed, always by an experienced practitioner. Should arthritis develop later in life in a joint so damaged, it is treated as above.

Infectious diseases   where arthritis is just one of several symptoms.

Unfortunately, these are very serious, life-threatening diseases which usually occur in newborn kids, between the 5th and 14th day of life. They are very difficult to differentiate, even for the expert. They can also require intensive antibiotic and supportive treatment. Positive diagnosis may require very expensive laboratory testing and this may not always be an option. We will try tlinks will be provided as needed.

As a general rule of thumb, it can be predicted that joint disease in an adult goat, without the presence of any other symptom, is usually going to be arthritis, a recent injury or a vitamin-mineral deficiency and, therefore, not an emergency. In adults which show other, additional signs, especially neurological, then the diagnostic investigation is going to point to serious problems such as CAE, meningitis, etc.

Caprine arthritis and encephalitis (8110)

Chlamydial arthritis (8928)

Erysipelothrix insidiosa, E. rhusiopathiae (1861/8776)

Non-suppurative arthritis (1861)

Transmissible serositis (8928)

Mycoplasmal arthritis ( )

"Polyarthritis" ( )

Other diseases to consider:

Navel ill

Difficulty rating:   [bold type applies]

DEFINITELY a matter for your veterinarian
Do these things until you can reach the vet
You may be able to handle it youself; for the moderately experienced
Fairly simple; give it a try!


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