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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Caseous Lymphadenitis.
There are many fabulous articles explaining this disease. There are just as many that are about panic and over hyping information. There are a lot of rumors and untruth that circulate about this disease. The truth is that not a ton of scientific hard fact is known about this disease and chances are it will affect many goat owners at some point.

What is CL?
Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is a contagious bacterial infection in goats (and sheep but we're going to talk about goats here). Infection occurs through wounds caused by head butting, punctures, and shearing, as well as by oral ingestion of the exudate (pus) from an abscess that has ruptured. The lymph system filters the bacteria from the goat's body and pushes it outside into thick-walled encapsulated abscesses so that it can't harm the goat. This is the goats immune system hard at work!

Not all abscesses you see will be CL. There are definite locations that CL will pop up though (over lymph nodes) if you have an abscess that isn't from an injection or a known foreign object (insect sting or splinter for example) its good to get the pus tested. You can also do serology testing (blood) to test for CL. Here's the thing about testing for CL, testing isnt exactly accurate. Serology (blood) tests are the least accurate and best used herd wide and done more than once. The abscess culture is the most reliable though not foolproof. Many good goats are butchered when they have a positive blood test and they have no sign of CL in their body. Some goats will have abscess after abscess and not a one will test positive, until one day maybe it will come back as such.

CL is spread only through direct contact of the pus. Pus from an open abscess or sputum from a goat with internal CL. This means that an abscess needs to be open and oozing for another goat to get the disease. This exudate can get on a fence, gate, food dish, ground, wall and then be picked up by another goat. This is a bacteria that seems to have a long shelf life. Some will say only months, others will say that it lives in the soil for 10 years or more. The most popular thought is that it takes 2 years for the CL to die out. Of course your weather conditions might have something to do with the duration of the bacteria's life. Wet and moist areas will breed bacteria better than hot and arid.

The exudate is out in the open, it's living on a fence post for the past couple of months. Your animal brushes against it. It won't get CL. Your animal brushes against that fence picking up the bacteria and another animal licks it off their coat, that animal gets the CL. Just having it on your shoes or clothing doesn't mean that you have the CL but it does mean you can carry it into an area where a goat can then pick it up in a wound or a muccus membrane (eye, nose, mouth). It's a bacteria and it works just like all other bacteria though it has it's own strains and life span. Yes, strains. There is more than one type of CL though they can be all lumped together like the human version of the flu. The symptoms and behavior is all the same.

Some say it can be spread by insect bites. There hasn't been research done on insect transmission of CL but it does sound plausible and there is anecdotal evidence. Though there would need to be right circumstances. It would need to be an insect that bit into the pus and not just an animal with CL, then transfer into the blood stream of a clean animal.

Caseous Lymphadenitis is scary though it's not a death sentence. Many farms live with sore mouth and mange but will panic over CL. CL is less catchy than the other 2 if you have good clean practices and if your goat has a strong immune system, you may see few if any incidences over the year. CL only shortens the life of your goat if it is the internal kind. Most goats have external CL in lymph nodes that you can see. If your animal is unthrifty, can't keep on weight, and has a cough, you may want to check into CL when all other avenues have been processed. If your animal has a cough and has CL, they can be spreading the CL through sputum that comes out if the abscess in the lungs has burst. These cases are by far the rarer type of CL in goats (more common in sheep) and those are the life ending ones. Talk to your vet and definitely isolate any suspected sick animals. This can be said of any communicable disease though.

It needs to be noted again that all abscesses are not CL. Often times wattle cysts and milk goiters are confused for CL. TEST before you cull. There is no sense in wasting a beautiful healthy animal because of the hysteria of CL. Some vets aren't really knowledgable about this. Arm yourself with knowledge and get the tests you need.

Let's discuss the testing.
Serology testing.
WSU-WADDL recommends that this type of testing is best used as a "Herd-level diagnostic". With serology testing, if a goat comes back positive, then test again in a couple of weeks and then a couple of months to be sure there wasn't any false positives in there. All the while keeping aware of any coughing or external lumps and isolate if any of that occurs.

What do you do if your animal has a positive on serology?
Quarantine is the first step and then you have a decision to make. You can remove the animal immediately or you can hold on to them for further testing. Either way, this goat shouldn't be around negative animals as the risk is too high. 20 feet is recommended but the further away the more insurance you have.

You can vaccinate the positive ones that you won't be culling. If they're already positive the vaccine will lessen their chance of getting abscesses and making them positive on a blood test is going to happen anyway. You'll still need to keep checking them to make sure they remain healthy but you'll have a better chance of keeping anything at bay. The vaccine doesn't make them negative but Washington State feel secure that this lessens their outbreaks and makes them less likely to spread it. The less abscesses you have to deal with, the less chance of spreading. .

Even vaccinated though, you won't be able to claim a CL free herd but that's your chance to pass on your knowledge to any new people that might buy youngsters from you. You should note though that in talking to local vets there is a belief that the CL bacteria is passed from dam to offspring in the colostrum. The belief is that a CL positive goat should not be bred but that if they are, they should be butchered before they're a year old or they should be bottle raised. Though, breeding a CL positive goat at all is considered risky behavior.

Exudiate/Pus testing
This is really only available for external CL. The lumps and abscesses that you see.

This is the more accurate method of testing is to test the pus. The pus is collected and the 2 top centers to test is Cornell and Washington state. This bacteria is anaerobic (meaning it doesn't like air) so they run an anaerobic test - they set up a dish with your pus sample and incubate it. Washington state reads the test after 24 hours. Cornell will read the test at 24 hours, 3 days and 7 days. It's all the same test but the longer it incubates the greater the chance is for more bacteria to form. There are more than one strain of the CL bacteria. They're all fairly slow growing but some are slower than others. This is why Cornell tests in this manner. You might able to see a negative after 24 hours but a positive after 7 days. This might explain some of the false negatives.

NOTES on testing:
I would like to make a note here that you should choose your testing center wisely. If you are earnestly interested in getting an accurate test result you will want to use Washington State for serology and Cornell or Washington State for the pus. There are a lot of places that test but they do have more false results.

Please also note that you should not test a kid that is younger than 6 months and it's general thought that 8-9 months is a better age to test. The reason being is that the kids carry their mother's antibodies. This can cause false negatives but also some false positives. It can be a real problem to have to wait to test but it is another life at stake here and possibly all the goats lives on your farm if you have a false negative and a false sense of security.

My goat definitively has CL what do I do?
There are several ways to take care of your problem goat (in no particular order)

Cull the goat - get them off the farm!
1.Send them to the auction barn: Please be aware that sending your goat to the auction barn is perpetrating the problem. Many take the stance of "Buyer beware" and it's their problem if they buy my CL positive goat. This is true but you're putting a goat out there that has CL and it's spreading the disease. It is your choice of course and that's why I left this option in.

2. Butcher: Responsible farms that I've talked to will send their CL positive goats to butcher. Even if they don't eat the meat, butchers will buy the animal from you. It should be noted though, if the animal has internal CL, most reputable butchers will discard the carcass. If you have an animal that you know has internal, the best prospect is to euthanize.

3. Re-home: The last method of culling is to find a home to take your goat. Many people want brush eaters or companions for horses. If your goat is in good health and special to you, you might want to find it a home where it can't infect other goats but can live out it's life.

Keep the goat and deal with this:
You should quarantine the positives and then create a bio barrier between the positive and negative goats. This means that you and everything on you are cleaned between dealing with positive and then negative goats. Or take care of the negatives, then the positives. Whatever you do, create a bio hazzard zone around the positives and use disinfectant and bleach when applicable to avoid contaminating the negative herd. Really it's not that super easy to contaminate but you should take every precaution available to you. Better to be safe than sorry right?

But there's an abscess, so what do you do with that?
1. Do nothing
You can do nothing and let abscesses burst on their own. By doing this, you should know that you are infecting your ground, any thing that animal comes near and eventually all other goats and sheep you may have. If this isn't a problem for you then the hands off approach is certainly the easiest.

2. Formalin
This is a lengthy process. You are basically injecting Formalin (a formaldehyde solution) into the abscess on the goat. If you go too deep and get into muscle, you will kill that muscle. If you get it into the blood stream then you may kill the goat. Formaldehyde is a dangerous carcinogen. Though with all those cautions, some people are having great luck with killing abscesses in this manner. Instead of rewriting the process that's been written out, I recommend going here to get the information on the process:

3. Lance and Flush
Basically you open the wound, squeeze out the pus, flush it out and then every day 1-3 times daily, flush it out again until it's healing and no more goop comes out. Then once it's all healed you can let the animal near your other positive goats. This is a step by step of the process:

For the cutting open of the wound, there are several methods, you can cut an "X", make one long incision, make an oval, or you can cut a small hole enough to fit a large gauge needle and you can suck out the pus. It should be noted that this is anaerobic bacteria that doesn't like air. In order for it to be killed off it needs air and flushing so while the needle method is easy, chances are the abscess will continue to fill up over and over without healing up properly.

As for the product to flush with, the site I posted said to use peroxide. You can use peroxide, diluted iodine, saline solution, soapy water, or another antiseptic solution. Use what works best for you but make sure to keep the areas neat and clean and bleach the ground afterwards if anything gets flushed onto it.

If it is a heavy fly time of year, you may wish to put blukote or a horse paste called "swat" onto the wound in between flushing. You really don't want to be dealing with maggots on top of this issue.

So really even if there is a positive, (and it's not a false result), it's not the end of the world and it can be managed, it just takes more diligence. Its up to each individual to decide what they feel is right for the herd they manage.

My advice to everyone is to learn, discuss openly, and share your knowledge. Share real knowledge. There are a lot of rumors and hysteria on the web. Call Washington State and talk to them, they're helpful and willing to share the knowledge. Talk to a vet that has actually dealt with CL and knows what they're doing. You can tell. If you feel what you're doing is incorrect then it might be. Talk to experienced goat people and make informed decisions. But always remember, we all make mistakes. This is where we can move on with knowledge and not make them again. Go forth and enjoy your goats!

I reserve the right to change my opinion as new evidence is brought forward. That's the thing about a disease that hasn't been thoroughly researched, there is a long way to go and information can change. Please be aware for the safety of your animals.

Articles that I found particularly helpful when researching and writing my article:
I also want to thank Dr Everman at WSU for answering all the questions that were not filled in by my vets and the other papers.



30,548 Posts
Well written article!! Very informative...

This link shows a few more areas for CL Location such as the udder...

Kinda strange they show it as a CL location.
tennessee meat goats pic does not show CL there

basically any where there is a lymp node can be a CL sight...As producers we need to know not all cyst are CL but if its near a lymp node sight we should treat it as CL until we know different..

1,604 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you.

This goat had no udder so it was impossible to put it there - I should probably make a note. There were other sites that showed the armpit as a CL location. I thought it was a little odd myself but didn't want to leave any suspects out. I can change the photo if the article is kept.

1,604 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Here's the new photo and I also wanted to add a paragraph on reading serology titers.

When you get a test result back from the WADDL it will tell you that your goat is positive or negative but it will also have a titers score. There is positive and there is positive....1:8 up to 1:256 is a positive. You can see there is a huge difference in there. If your goat is 1:8 its possible that the results are high because of something else going on but don't get your hopes up too high. Quarantine, treat as positive, then wait 4 weeks and check again. If your titers read 1:256 or higher, Washington State (when asked) will say this usually indicates internal CL. So the higher the number, the sicker your goat is.

WADDL recommends testing your goat every 6 to 12 months regardless of their negative or positive status. It will help to know the progression of the disease. It also should be noted that if you have vaccinated your goat that it won't be higher than 1:256 based on the vaccine alone. There is no way to tell a vaccinated goat from a truly positive goat. Though, if you're goat is higher than 1:256, it should definitely be considered positive for CL and treated as though it has internal CL.


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