CL (caseous lymphadenitis) is a bacteria that is very good at protecting itself from attack from
antibodies. The goats body, when realizing this devious bacteria was
doing a good job battling its antibody defense, walls the bacteria off into an
abscess. This way the bacteria won't be able to invade the rest of the
goats body. Sometimes some of the bacteria slip into the lymph system
before the original abscess can form, then the body forms
another abscess around those stray bacteria to keep it out of the body.
The goats body is generally pretty good at abscessing all of the
bacteria at the lymphatic point of entry. Thus, as most goat owners who treat CL
abscesses find, a doe will only have one abscess.
Once removed/treated it is gone (though the doe will still have the
antibodies, after all she's been 'vaccinated' by the CL assault).
Sometimes the goats defense system will miss a few and will have to form a second or third
abscess to catch them all. With human intervention in the form of
abscess removal or treatment, the animal can be 'cured'. If not treated the
abscess bursts and those crafty CL bacteria will continue infecting the animal
until it ultimately kills it. Of course bacteria want to survive so
when an external abscess bursts the bacteria now has the opportunity to find
itself another goat.
So what this means for the hapless goat owner who finds themselves in
the situation where a goat of theirs has a CL abscess is that careful
management is needed to assure that the CL abscess won't spread.
This is done by making sure it doesn't burst and that it is
removed/lanced/treated with formaldehyde without allowing the bacteria the opportunity to spread.
Be aware about CL. If you end up with a goat that has it make sure you
treat it before it bursts so it won't spread. It has such a long
incubation time that you'll be spending several years running around trying to make
sure you've eradicated it.
CL ABSCESS TREATMENTS
Removal--This requires a vets intervention. The vet will surgically
remove the entire abscess intact. Advantage: There is not a possibility
that the CL can escape the abscess and further reinfect the goat.
Disadvantage: $$$$$, on the practical side, sometimes surgical removal is
risky because of the location of the abscess. The vet could cut a nerve or
critical blood vessel. A CL abscess located on the shoulder is easier to
remove than a CL abscess located behind the ear. Trust your vet to tell you
the risk for this procedure.
Lancing-- You can do this or the vet can do this. Use a sharp razor
blade and open the abscess and expunge the puss into a piece of paper towel
or something else as convenient to dispose. Then treat the entire area
with iodine or anything else that will kill that biological threat we know
as CL. Advantage: Quick. Doesn't require anesthetic. Disadvantage:
Unless you are really 'obsessive' about cleaning out the abscess and
burning, torching, or otherwise disposing the pus as hazardous biological
waste, you may reinfect your goat.
Treatment of formaldehyde (this is the stuff they preserve dead body
parts in)--You can do this, though your vet might just laugh at you with the
suggestion. Formaldehyde 'pickles' the bacteria. Kills it dead. By
injecting formaldehyde into the center of the abscess (1/2 to 1 cc) the
bacteria is killed and after a week or so, the abscess will shrivel up and
fall off. Advantage: Quick. Cheap. No muss, no fuss. Disadvantage:
Formaldehyde is nasty stuff! If you miss the center of the abscess and
inject the healthy tissue behind, you may permanently cripple the goat. This
happened to me with one goat who jerked his head while I was injecting the
formaldehyde into an abscess behind the ear. I hit a nerve. He lost the
feeling along one side of his mouth. Dribbled cud from that point on. Made
it difficult for him to eat. I just went ahead and put him down. The rest
of the goats I've treated over the years, I made sure I had a Sumo wrestler
holding them down so I didn't have that problem. All survived to go on and
be productive members of my herd.
Working with formaldehyde requires some forethought and a lot of care. Wear
gloves (surgical or rubber) because it is not good to contact it with your
skin. I generally try to inject up to 1cc in the abscess. Most of the time
I wait until the abscess has developed to the size between an acorn (large
one) and a walnut (small one). Once it seems to be squishy to the touch, or
I get impatient, I treat with the formaldehyde. Draw up 1/2 cc into your
syringe and while someone is clamped down on the goat so that it can't move,
push the needle into the center of the abscess, draw UP on the syringe. If
light liquid comes out, you don't have a CL abscess, which means you need to
abort the process. If nothing comes out, it's CL (generally) so you push
down on the plunger injecting the 1/2 cc into the abscess. Withdraw the
needle and place your finger over the 'hole' so that the formaldehyde
doesn't leak out! Repeat the next day. After a week or so you will see the
whole abscess shrivel up and slough off. It should be dead (theoretical
assumption on my part, but based on the understanding of the chemistry of
formaldehyde) by this point so you limit your risk of infecting any of the
rest of your stock.
Doing nothing. BAD IDEA!!! In this zero-risk society, propagating
potentially transmitted disease gets us no where and may ultimately get us
regulated. Let's avoid this by taking care of problems ourselves.
- Consult with your vet
- Check out the herd that you buy your goats from - CL and former CL abscesses are easy to
spot with inspection.
- Only buy from people you trust - don't buy breeding goats with no history, like from a sale barn, etc.
- If you're going to spend tons of money on a breeding goat get a contract/guarantee with the seller with regards to health problems.
OK and now for the disclaimers (my attorney insists on this!): What I've
written is my opinion only. If you want to try any of the suggestions you do
so at your own risk.
CL is not the end of the world. It is, however, a pain in the butt.
Been there. Done that. Without culling and by keeping a level head I've
been able to eradicate Cl from my herd.
Rosemarie Szostak, Ph.D.
Professor Department of Chemistry
Clark Atlanta University
(on assignment with the Army Environmental Policy Institute)