Inherited and Congenital Defects

When babies are born which are in less than perfect condition, it is said that they have a congenital defect. There are a number of things which can cause birth defects. Environmental factors can cause problems, such as when a pregnant cow eats some species of lupine, she is apt to produce a calf with skeletal defects known as "crooked calf disease." In our "Goats in the News" section you can read of researchers who are able to produce kids with cleft palates by means of chemical interventions. Some disorders can be inherited from through a gene or a combination of genes. These present a problem for all whole raise animals because they can be passed on to future generations. It is generally assumed that if they appear, the animal should not be used for breeding purposes.

Here we will list a number of congenital anomalies; those which can be heritable are marked with [I]. Where there are known causes, these will be noted in double parenthesis.

1002 General

Lethals and sublethals [I]

Jaws, undershot and overshot[I]

Double or supranumary teats (common in goats)[I]

Rectal prolapse[I]

Entropion (inverted eyelids) [I]

Cryptorchidism ( retained testicles) [I]

Skin folds[I]

Cheiloschosis (cleft lip) [I]

Palatoschisis (cleft palate[I]

Agnathia (lack of mandible) [I]

Abnormal number of teeth[I]

Premature shedding of baby teeth[I]

Dilatation of esophagus[I]

Abdominal hernia[I]

Umbilical hernia [I] (Also caused by hard delivery)

Inguinal hernia[I]

Scrotal hernia[I]

Perineal hernia[I]

Atresia (no opening) of colon[I]

Rectovaginal fistula[I]

"Crooked calf disease" ((lupines))

Arthrogryposis, hydranencephaly and ataxia ((Bluetongue virus in dam))

Cerebellar dysplagia, brachygnathia, alopecia, dysmyelinogenesis, hydrocephalus, optic neuritis ((BVD virus in dam))

Goiter ((Iodine deficiency))

Enzootic ataxia ((Copper deficiency))

Limb deformities ((Manganese deficiency; Akabane virus))

Rickets ((Vitamin D deficiency))

Vision defects ((Vitamin A deficiency))

1003 Musculoskeletal

Usually from toxins or viruses during pregnancy

Brown atrophy (masseter muscles and diaphragm)

Double muscling

Muscular steatosis

Congenital articular rigidity (joints fixed)


Contracted flexor tendons (walk on front of feet, repairable)


Femoral nerve paralysis (from hard pull at delivery)

Limber leg (incompletely formed muscles)

Osteogenesis imperfecta (fragile bones)

Polydactyly (Dew claws missing, toes may be fused)

Syndactyly (Fusion of toes)

1004 Reproductive

Cryptorchidism (Failure of one or both testicles to descend, don’t keep)

Prolapse of prepuce (from trauma)

Deviation of or corkscrew penis


Double cervix

Rectovaginal constriction

1006 Skin


Skin fragility

Epitheliogenesis imperfecta

Imperfect keratogenesis (rash on legs, scaly skin folds)

Congenital ichthyosis ( no hair, horny plaques, lethal)

Hypotrichosis (some lethal, teeth missing)

Dermatosis vegetans

1008 CNS

Most congenital disorders of the central nervous system come with names too long for the average intelligent person to understand and with symptoms that simply cannot be treated. These are more common in cattle and fairly rare in goats. We’ll mention just a few.


Anencephaly (Failure of cranium to develop, prolonged gestation, cleft palate, no tail)

Exencephaly (Brain exposed)


Epilepsy (Appears in 2nd year)

Spastic paresis

1010 Urinary

Kidney cysts

Renal dysplasia and hypoplasia

Ectopic ureter

Spadias (urethra opens on side of penis)

1012 Metabolic

These are progressive and usually fatal during the first few weeks of life. (And, I have no idea what some of them are.




"Maple syrup" urine


Parakeratosis (edema disease)




Errors of bone and cartilage growth

1014 Dwarfism

Extremely rare in goats.