Several joints of kids can be involved in this nonspecific bacterial infection. Bacteria that have been incriminated are mainly gram-positive and include staphylococci, streptococci, Corynebacterium spp, Actinomyces spp, as well as gram-negative coli-forms. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is an uncommon cause of joint-ill in goats relative to sheep, and when it is seen, it is mainly in kids 3–4 mo old.
Environmental bacteria gain entry to the neonate's circulation, usually via the umbilical cord. Other methods of entry include contamination of breaks in the skin or via the GI or respiratory tract. Predisposing factors include lack of routine dipping of the umbilical cord; poor sanitation in the kidding pens; or does kidding in overcrowded, dirty conditions. E rhusiopathiae are soil-living bacteria that may persist on farms or in pens used by sheep or pigs. Mycoplasma infection is also a differential diagnosis (see Lameness in Goats: Mycoplasmosis in Goats).
More than one joint is hot, swollen, and painful. Often, the affected limb(s) cannot bear weight. Kids with more than one leg affected may be unable to stand. The more commonly affected joints are the carpus, shoulder, hock, and stifle. Generally, there is a fever but no reduction in appetite. Sometimes the navel area is inflamed, but often there is no visible abnormality. An abscess may form on the navel long after the kid has recovered. The WBC count may be increased with a left shift.
If the condition becomes chronic, the limbs are stiff, some joints may be ankylosed, and overall growth is poor. At this stage the temperature is normal.
To be successful, treatment must be given early and, when possible, antibiotic selection should be based on culture and sensitivity testing. Frequent injections of high doses of parenteral antibiotics given for ~1 wk often effect a cure if combined with careful nursing. Joint lavage with saline and antibiotic solutions may enhance therapeutic outcome in selected cases. Complications should be prevented by providing soft bedding, frequently turning any kid unable to stand, and massaging the affected joints. If ankylosis starts to develop, the kid should be supported in a sling for short periods as frequently as possible.
In large commercial herds, treating severely affected kids may not be economically justified. Many that do recover remain unthrifty for the rest of their lives.
Hygiene at parturition is essential. A deep bed of clean sawdust, wood shavings, or straw should be provided; it is often better to allow the doe to kid on fresh pasture if the weather is warm.
The umbilical cords of newborn kids should be dipped several times in a strong antiseptic, eg, 7% tincture of iodine or iodophor teat dip. Cords should be dipped each time the kid is handled in the first 24–48 hr. Owners should clean their footwear before entering kidding pens. Kids must get adequate colostrum at birth.
Last full review/revision March 2012 by David M. Sherman, DVM, MS, DACVIM