The scary thing about Caseous Lymphadenitis

According to the Merk Veterinary Manual, “Caseouslymphadenitis (CL) is a chronic, contagious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. ”

CL causes abscesses to form in or near major peripheral lymph nodes. This is the external form of the disease which is found more commonly in goats.  CL can also form within internal organs and lymph nodes. This form is more commonly found in sheep.   CL is not considered a “curable” disease and can lead to death in both species.

CL penetrates the skin or mucous membranes.  An easy point of entry is any injury of the skin – goats playing with each other and nicking the skin, tangling with a barbed wire fence and getting a small scrape, an injection site etc. allows the bacteria to enter the animal if it comes into contact with a draining lesion. Something as simple as brushing up against each other in the barn can be fatal!  Infection can also happen from inhalation or ingestion of the bacteria although that method is less common.

Once the bacteria establishes contact through an open sore, it moves to the lymph nodes through the lymphatic system and then on to the internal organs.  The incubation period is from 1 to 3 months which ends with the development of an abscess in the external form. The internal form is harder to “see” but usually results in unexplained weight loss and a failure to thrive..  An animal can appear healthy with no outside signs if they are in the incubation period!

CL contaminates the environment on your homestead where you keep your goats or sheep.  It is spread through nasal discharge, coughing, and draining lesions. CL also has the ability to survive in the environment – hence the difficulty of eradicating it.   It can live in bedding and wood for 2 months and in the soil for up to 8 months. Organic material, shade and moisture help CL to survive  on your homestead.

Best prevention? Make sure you don’t bring animals home that have CL by requiring a long history of clean blood tests from the breeder your purchase your stock from. And remember, make sure those tests were done by WADDL.

I have personally experienced the scare of a false positive in one of my best does when a vet chose to send the blood she drew to a friend of hers who worked at a lab in Texas, although I specifically told her to use WADDL.  Her recommendation was to put my doe down quickly.  When I found out where she sent the test, I tracked down the gentleman who created the testing for CL.  His recommendation?  Have the blood redrawn and sent to WADDL.  I received a stern lecture from him about having the tests done anywhere else – he also told me NOT to put my doe down.  I did as he suggested and  the test came back negative!  Just imagine – I might have put down a beautiful doe for absolutely no reason.  I’m happy to say that Aprilla lived a very long and healthy life!

Although CL is most commonly considered a disease of goats and sheep, it can also affect horses, cows, swine, fowl and people.  PEOPLE! Yes, CL is zoonotic.  If you have it in your herd, do not drink your milk raw, do not come into contact with draining lesions etc. Isolate the infected animals and begin to take steps to eradicate this from your homestead! Remove and safely dispose of bedding and anything else removable that your animals has been in contact with.  Use bleach to clean feeding troughs, watering systems etc. Best course of action is to cull infected animals immediately and to continue testing the rest of your herd to keep on top of things.

Obviously, when you purchase animals, you should also be looking for swelling in the lymph areas, lesions (the neck is a common area for swelling and lesions in goats), coughing, runny noses.  Never buy a goat or kid that exhibits these symptoms or any illness for that matter!

It is best to purchase one healthy animal at a time and pay a little more than to look for “a deal” and purchase a “starter herd” for a better price that might not be as healthy.  The benefit in the long run for your animal’s health, the bio-security of your homestead and most importantly for your family’s health is priceless!

Blessings,

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