Recognizing Soremouth

Editor's note: "Contagious ecthyma is a contagious, zoonotic disease of goats and sheep that has several alternative names, including orf, soremouth, scabby mouth, and contagious pustular dermatitis". So starts the section on soremouth in Goat Medicine by Mary C. Smith & David M. Sherman. The section goes on to state that "scabs that fall to the ground... have long been incriminated as the source of infection to other animals months or even years later." and "...persistently infected carrier sheep have been demonstrated to be an important source of contamination. Presumably carrier goats also occur". The following anonymous submission would seem to support those presumptions!


I do not claim to know anything about treating soremouth. Obviously I know nothing about preventing it, as this is the second time my herd has been infected. However, I offered to provide these photos for reference for other breeders, both as a way of knowing what soremouth looks like, and as an incentive to vaccinate against this painful, not to mention disgusting virus. After the first time, I believed my herd was immune to future infections. That was what everyone told me. Obviously they were wrong, as I now have 8 does who were infected in 1999 that are infected again today. It makes sense though. Viruses mutate all the time, so it would stand to reason that there are different strains of it.

This aged Saanen doe went through soremouth in the spring of 1999. Back then she had numerous sores on her mouth and teats, courtesy of an orphan kid who nursed any doe who held still long enough. He was the cause for it to pass through the milking does, although it's unknown how he contracted it in the first place.

This time she only shows a few small sores in the corner of her mouth. Regardless, she proves that goats can get soremouth more than once, as this is her second confirmed case. Click her photo for a close-up.

This young buck has never had soremouth before, but his case is pretty mild. There are some sores in the corner of his mouth, and a few scattered about on his lips.

His condition is already improving, and the sores never bled or became infected.

Click the photo for a close-up.

This Nubian Boer X doe had her photo taken during remission, although the damage is still severe. She also had soremouth back in 99, however, unlike the Saanen doe, she had a very mild case in 99 and a very severe case in 2001. In the early stages, she had a great deal of swelling from her throat to the front of her lower jaw. There is still some swelling showing in this photo.

Her sores became open and raw, with some bleeding. Regular applications of Corona to the sores seemed to help speed healing.

Despite the sores, she never lost her appetite and remained alert and seemingly healthy during it all.

Click her photo for a close-up.

This pet wether showed the worse reaction to soremouth I have ever seen in my life. Believe it or not, these photos were taken during his remission. Like the previous doe, he exhibited severe swelling around the lower jaw and throat.

The sores are open and bleeding, and liberal applications of an antibiotic cream are being applied twice a day. He is also receiving probiotics daily to help his system during this stressful time.

Despite all of this, he acts as if nothing is wrong, and his appetite has not slacked off at all. His dam was also one who contracted soremouth in 99, and she has a mild case now as well.

Click the photos for close-ups.


Treatment must be undertaken with diligent attention to your own safety. This parapoxvirus is zoonotic - that means it can be contagious between species. Any person handling an affected goat should wear gloves.
The effectiveness of supportive care can be increased when coupled with systemic antibiotics if secondary bacterial infections are severe.
Scabs on the teats must be kept pliable - udder salve can be applied for this purpose.
If weight loss and decreased nutrition are observed in kids with lesions on their face and mouth they can be given some relief through removal of the lesions and electrocauterization. This must be performed under anesthesia, obviously.

There are opposing viewpoints concerning vaccination.
On the "anti" side: Because most vaccines are unattenuated live virus preparations vaccination of an animal which is part of an uninfected herd introduces the disease to the herd. Even if all members of a herd are vaccinated the caution concerning "carrier" goats must be considered when an animal from that herd is sold into a herd where vaccination is not practiced. Vaccinated animals which are carriers should also be suspect at shows and other gatherings.
On the "pro" side: In herds which contain show animals it can almost insure that obvious infection will not crop up just before or during that special exhibition. Such infection would surely cause the animal to be barred from the arena and holding pens. Milking animals which are vaccinated and do not become carriers can also benefit from vaccination as their handlers or their kids are less likely to be infected.