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"Diagnosing & Treating Listeriosis"

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Diagnosing & Treating Listeriosis

By: "GoatWorld Message Forum Members"

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  • Listeriosis. What is it? How can it be prevented? How can it be treated? How can a person recognize that a goat may have contracted this? Is it contagious? Is it zoonotic (can it be passed to humans)? Are its effects chronic or irreversable? The following is a series of answers as discussed by GoatWorld Message Forum members.

    "I am writing to let you know of a situation we have found ourselves in. The other day I came home from work and began my chores for the evening when I found my buck named Hanns upside down on a slope with his head bent behind him. At first I thought his neck was broken. I could hear him breathing as I approached him. My oldest son and I gathered him up and took him to our basement. When my husband arrived home, I had prepared our van to transport Hanns to the vet. The vet informed us that Hanns either had a head injury that caused the brain to swell or that he had a virus called "lipthierium virus" that causes the brain to swell. His eye and ear on the same side were twitching. We put Hanns on antibiotics and steroids for the swelling. The vet informed us that the situation looked grim but said that we should see a difference in 2 to 3 days."

  • I believe what your vet was talking about is a *bacterial* disease called listeriosis. It is also called "circling disease". It usually starts with the animal showing weakness on one side. It will then only be able to walk in circles, and eventually becomes totally paralyzed and dies. Sometimes it can be saved with massive doses of antibiotics.

    I hate to second guess your vet, but while Hanns could have this, it sounds like it could also be polioencephalomalacia. Unlike polio in people, it is caused by a vitamin deficiency, specifically thiamine. To recover, a goat MUST get thiamine ASAP. When given IV thiamine soon after onset of symptoms, the recovery can be startlingly rapid. If pure thiamine is unavailable, a B-complex injectable (available over-the-counter at farm supply stores) is better than nothing. If THAT is also not readily available, you can try thiamine tablets or capsules for people, if the goat can swallow. If he does start to recover, be sure to give him probiotics to get the rumen flora back in order.

    Because of the similarity of symptoms and causes between the two diseases, an animal is usually treated with both antibiotics and thiamine.While it is unlikely, anytime you have an animal showing neurological symptoms, you need to consider the possibility of rabies and take proper precautions to avoid direct contact with saliva and other bodily fluids. Below is a list of related information from various web sites:

  • Listeriosis - caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, found in soil, water, plant litter, silage and goat's digestive tract. Brought on by feeding silage, sudden changes in kind of feed, parasitism, dramatic weather changes and advanced stages of pregnancy.

  • Symptoms - Depression, decreased appetite, fever, leaning or stumbling or moving in one direction only, head pulled to flank with rigid neck, facial paralysis on one side, slack jaw, and drooling, abortions.

  • Treatment - Administration of Procaine penicillin every six hours for three to five days, then daily for an additional seven days.

  • Polioencephalomalcia (Goat Polio) - a Thiamine (Vitamin B 1) deficiency. From improper feeding, particularly feeding too much grain and too little roughage. Symptoms - Excitability, "stargazing", uncoordinated staggering and/or weaving, drunkenness, circling, diarrhea, muscle tremor, head against wall, and apparent blindness. As it progresses, convulsions and high fever may occur, and if untreated, the animal generally dies within 24-72 hours.

  • Treatment - Thiamine is the only effective therapy, and treatment can result in improvement in as little as two hours, if the disease is caught early enough. Dosage is related to body weight: Daily treatment for 5 days and then weekly as required.

  • Goat Polio (Polioencephalomalacia) and Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes) are metabolic diseases with similar symptoms that require very different treatments. The goat producer must be alert to the subtle differences in order to know how to treat the sick animal. In most cases, both of these diseases are seen in goats raised under intensive management conditions. Improper feeding, particularly feeding too much grain and too little roughage, is a significant factor in both diseases. Producers pushing the animal to gain weight too fast can induce this often fatal disease in their goats. Sudden changes in feed can also cause the onset of this disease.

  • Polioencephalomalacia (also known as Cerebrocortical Necrosis) is thiamine (Vitamin B 1) deficiency. Any change in the rumen's environment that suppresses normal flora activity can lead to decreased thiamine production. Too much grain decreases the pH of the rumen, predisposing the animal to Goat Polio. Thiamine must be present in order for glucose to be metabolized. If thiamine is either not present or exists in an altered form (thiaminase), then brain cells die and severe neurological symptoms appear.

  • Causes of thiamine deficiency include feeding moldy hay or grain, overdosing with amprollium (CoRid) when treating for coccodiosis, feeding molasses-based grains (horse & mule feeds), ingesting some species of ferns, sudden changes in diet, the dietary stress of weaning, and reactions to de-wormers Thiabendazole and Levamisole. Each of these can interfere with Vitamin B1 production. Even the usage of antibiotics destroys flora in the rumen and can lead to thiamine deficiency. This is why it is so important to repopulate the gut with live bacteria after using antibiotics or scour medications. Goat Polio is generally seen most often in weanlings and young adults , in contrast to Listeriosis, which most frequently affects adult goats. An increase in Goat Polio occurs in North America during winter, when the availability of forage and quality hay is low and producers start feeding increased amounts of grain.

  • Symptoms of Polioencephalomalacia are excitability, "stargazing," uncoordinated staggering and/or weaving (ataxia), circling, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and apparent blindness. Initial symptoms can look like Entertoxemia (overeating disease). There is a component of "overeating" involved in that the rumen flora has been compromised. As the disease progresses, convulsions and high fever occur, and if untreated, the goat generally dies within 24-72 hours.

  • Diagnosis is available via laboratory tests, but the producer does not have the luxury of the time that such tests take. Thiamine is the only effective therapy, and treatment can result in improvement in as little as two hours, if the disease is caught early enough. Thiamine is a veterinary prescription but very inexpensive. Producers should always keep thiamine on hand. Dosage is related to body weight; 10 mg/kg should be given every six hours for at least 24 hours. (One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.) Initially, IV dosage is best, but SQ or IM can be used. Some producers even give thiamine orally after the initial treatment. If thiamine is unavailable but the producer has multiple B vitamins on hand, make sure the dosage is based upon the amount of thiamine in the multiple B vitamins. The key to overcoming Goat Polio is early diagnosis and treatment. Complete recovery is possible under such circumstances.

  • Summary: To try to avoid this disease, decrease grain, increase roughage, avoid moldy hay and grain, and don't feed molasses-based (textured) feeds.It must be said, however, that complete avoidance of Goat Polio is impossible at this time. After doing everything "right," producers will still have a goat come down with it occasionally.

  • Listeriosis is caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which is found in soil, water, plant litter, silage, and even in the goat's digestive tract. The bacteria is known to multiply well in cold temperatures. There are two forms of Listeriosis: one form results in abortions, while the other causes encephalitis. Both types are seldom seen simultaneously in the same herd. The organism can be shed in the milk of both carrier and sick goats. Its zoonotic potential (ability to be transmitted to humans) is of growing concern. Like Goat Polio, Listeriosis is most often seen in intensive management situations.

  • Unlike Goat Polio, Listeriosis is more common in adult animals than in kids. It is entirely possible to buy infected animals and introduce this disease into a previously uninfected herd, because some goats are carriers who never display any symptoms. Listeriosis is brought on by feeding silage, sudden changes in kind of feed, parasitism, dramatic weather changes, and advanced stages of pregnancy. The encephalitic form is most common, causing inflammation of the nerves in the goat's brain stem.

  • Symptoms include depression, decreased appetite, fever, leaning or stumbling or moving in one direction only, head pulled to flank with rigid neck (similar to symptoms of tetanus), facial paralysis on one side, slack jaw, and drooling. Diarrhea is presently only in the strain of Listeriosis which causes abortions and pregnancy toxemia. Listeriosis can be mistaken for rabies. Immediate treatment is critical. There is no time to waste with Listeriosis. Recovery is more "iffy" than with Goat Polio. The exact manner in which both Listeriosis and Goat Polio affect the goat is not well understood at this time. Treatment involves administration of high doses of procaine penicillin every six hours for three to five days, then daily for an additional seven days. Forty-thousand IU per kg of body weight of procaine penicillin is needed to cross the blood brain barrier and put sufficient amounts of the antibiotic into the tissue of the goat's central nervous system. Remember that one kilogram (kg) equals 2.2 pounds.

  • Prevention: Feed your goats properly. No silage (unless the producer really knows how to use it, and definitely no silage in the hotter and/or wetter climates). No moldy feed or hay. Clean pens. No sudden changes in types of feed. Lots of free-choice quality roughage, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. And cut dramatically back on grain!
  • I am no expert but I will tell you of my experience with Listeriosis. It affects both dogs and goats (probably other things too). I have been infected with it twice and was very sick both times but I got it from swimming in lake water that gets runoff from feedlots. Since it is a bacteria, it can be treated with antibiotics.
  • A couple of years ago when we were first getting into purebreds we bought a lovely little Nubian buck. Having nothing to judge his development by we thought he was doing OK except that he never really looked like a buck just more like a hairy doe. And, he never smelled like a buck.

  • When he was about 7 months old he suddenly began to stagger and when I put my hand under his chin to lift his face so I could see it better he fell into convulsions on the ground. Every time I touched his chin he would convulse. Very weird. We called the vet immediately and despite the fact he had a deathly case of the flu the dear man came to our house. He examined Jasper and said he thought it was listeriosis but he said he had no idea why he would have caught it here as we didn't have any of the usual culprits around. He treated Jasper agressively with antibiotics and I don't know what else and told me that if it wasn't listeria maybe he would be alright. Jazz did improve a little but in no time he was right back where he started and we put him down. The diagnostic lab confirmed listeria. They also said that while the buck was abnormally small he was healthy and everything was perfectly normal. I don't know what was wrong with him there. Nobody has figured that one out.

  • The odd thing about it all was Jazz was in a pasture with 3 more bucks. None of them got sick. Our does were about 2-3 months along in their pregnancies and they were all eating the same grain and hay as Jazz. None of them aborted or showed any signs of being sick. We've not had another case before or since. And, I hope I never see it again.

    Rated 4.8 by 115 responses.
  • About the author: The information on this page is a result of the GoatWorld Message Forum. Multiple authors are responsible for the contribution of information and material contained within the text of this page. Opinions and information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinion of GoatWorld. Please also note that the original messages have been modified and corrected for spelling and pertinence to the subject.


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