Article Index "Caseous Lymphadenitis" Article Index

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By: Lionel Dawson, D.V.M
About the Author

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Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is a chronic contagious disease affecting mainly sheep and goats This disease is also called pseudotuberculosis or often "abscesses," and has been referred to as the curse of the goat industry throughout the world.

CL is an infection of goats, caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. It is also referred to as "abscesses", because of the peripheral swelling, rupture, and drainage of pus from affected lymph nodes. The prevalence of CL in the commercial goat herds may be as high as 30%. If abscesses affect more than one lymph node, the carcass will be condemned at slaughter. Decreased body weight and milk production also occurs, and reproductive efficiency is often lower when these animals have developed internal abscesses.

Clinical Signs:

Most commonly, symptoms are palpable enlargements of one or more of the superficial lymph nodes. The morbidity of the infection rate in goat flocks increase with age, and may approach 70%.

The enlarged lymph nodes have a very thick wall and are filled with thick greenish pus. The most common lymph nodes affected are mandibular (A in figure 1), prescapular (B), prefermoral (C), and supramammary (D) lymph nodes. Less common is involvement of lymph nodes internally in the chest and abdomen. As the animal gets older, abscesses often develop around the lungs, heart, liver, kidney, and spinal cord. They may cause weight loss, pneumonia, and neuoligical signs.

C. pseudotuberculosis is spread in the environment by broken and draining external abscesses. The organism survives in the environment for at least one year and can be spread on such items as shearing blades, fences, and feeders. The organism enters the goats body through small breaks in skin or mucous membranes and eventually becomes localized in a regional lymph node. Heavy environmental bacteria contamination occurs in confinement operations and around feeders, goat dairies seem to have a high prevalence of CL. There is some evidence that the organism can penetrate intact skin and mucous membrane.


  • 1. Presence of a firm to slightly soft subcutaneous swelling in the location of a lymph node.
  • 2. Herd history of CL.
  • 3. Culture: aspiration of the swelling and sending it to the diagnostic lab for isolating and identifying the organism.
  • 4. Serology: serologic tests such as bacterial agglutination test and synergistic hemolysis - inhibition test are valuable in identifying goats with early stage of the disease (no abscess yet developing).

Serologic testing may not be accurate due to the presence of antibodies in previously exposed non-diseased or from cross - reactivity of diagnostic antigens with antibodies against other bacteria.


  • 1. Separate and isolate the affective animals.
  • 2. Ripened abscesses lanced and flushed with 7% iodine solution.
  • 3. The pus should be flushed down a drain, or collected and burned.
  • 4. Wear gloves to prevent skin infections in humans.
  • 5. Wash hands well after handling infected animal.
  • 6. Surgical removal of the encapsulated abscess offers the advantages that the treated animals need not be quarantined.
  • 7. antibiotic treatment has not been effective.

Herd eradication requires diligent management.

  • Purchase animals from known non-infected herds.
  • Quarantine and monitor new animals at lease 60 days.
  • Monitor and cull animals with multiple abscessed lymph nodes
  • Housing free of sharp objects
  • Clean and disinfect feeders and pens regularly.
  • Disinfect equipment like de-horners, scalpel blades, tattoo numbers/letters, castrating instruments and other surgical instruments.
  • Use a new hypodermic needle for each animal.
  • Cull animals with chronic respiratory and wasting disease.
  • Bedding cleaned out regularly.
  • Pus should be collected and burned.

A vaccine is available and should be considered in management of CL in infected herds. Vaccine should be considered if you're previously described eradication methods haven't worked or failed. Colorado Serum Company is marketing Caseous-DT, an immunoprophylactic product composed of formalin-killed organisms and toxoided culture supernatant fluid. (Also contains toxoids for clostridium perfringens type D and tentanus toxin.) Which has an efficiency of 70-80% in preventing the clinical manifestations of the disease.

The vaccine may cause severe reactions in infected animals, and also interferes with serologic testing for CL.

About the author: This article appeared in ABGA Boer Goat Magazine Sept/Oct 2001. You can contact Dr. Lionel Dawson at 405-744-8580 or at Thanks to Jack & Anita Mauldin Boer Goats for working together with GoatWorld to bring helpful information to the goat industry. Please visit for more helpful and up-to-date information regarding goat health.

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