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Abscesses in Goats: Identification, Types, and Effective Treatment

 Abscesses in Goats: Identification, Types, and Effective Treatment Strategies

Abscesses in goats can be a concerning health issue, affecting their overall well-being and productivity. Understanding the types of abscesses, their causes, and implementing a proper treatment plan is crucial for goat owners. In this article, we will explore the various types of abscesses in goats, how to identify them, and effective strategies for treatment.

Abscesses in Goats: Identification, Types, and Effective Treatment

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Types of Abscesses in Goats:

All abscesses are infectious. There are just multiple reasons that the bacteria may have gotten into your goat’s system. It’s genius really, the way God created these animals. The body of the goat, specifically the lymph system find this bacteria and “houses” them inside a walled-off capsule. This keeps the bacteria away from the vital organs. 

It’s the bursting, and cleaning out of the abscess that causes the problems, especially in the close proximity we raise our goats in. In the wild, goats can roam here and there and everywhere. If they have an abscess, it bursts, they move on and the sun, wind, rain and snow take care of the bacteria and the goat and the next goat don’t have to even worry about it spreading to them. 

  1. External Abscesses:
    • Description: These abscesses form on the surface of the goat’s skin or in the subcutaneous tissue. They can appear anywhere on the body of the goat. 
    • Causes: External abscesses are often the result of wounds, bites, insect stings or bites or punctures that become infected. Anything sharp can begin an abscess. 
  2. Internal Abscesses:
    • Description: Internal abscesses develop inside the body, affecting organs such as the liver, lungs, or lymph nodes.
    • Causes: Bacterial infections, typically spread through the bloodstream or respiratory system, can lead to the formation of internal abscesses.
  3. Injection Abscesses:
    • Description: After a vaccine or shot is given to a goat, an abscess might form at the injection sight.
    • Causes: In fact, when they do form after a vaccine, it’s showing you that your goat has a really good immune system that working as it should. But they can also occur if you’re using dirty needles or using needles several times. 
  4. Tooth or Cheek Abscesses:
    • Description: Abscesses can form in the goat’s jaw or around the teeth, causing swelling and discomfort.
    • Causes: Tooth abscesses may arise from dental issues or infections in the oral cavity. The goat may also bite down on the inside of their cheek causing an abscess. 
  5. Umbilical Abscess:
    • Description: An abscess forms where the cord attaches to the goat’s body. 
    • Causes: Stepping on or damaging an umbilical cord that is too long. 
  6. Wattle Cysts:
    • Description: A cyst forms at the base of a wattle, filled with a clear liquid. 
    • Causes: Usually present at birth. May form after the wattle is surgically removed. 
  7. Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL):
    • Description: CL is a contagious and chronic bacterial infection that results in abscess formation, often in the lymph nodes.
    • Causes:The bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis is responsible for CL, and it can be transmitted through direct contact or contaminated environments. 

Identifying Abscesses in Goats:

  1. Swelling:
    • Abscesses typically present as localized swellings, which may be firm or fluctuant to the touch.
  2. Heat and Pain:
    • The affected area may feel warm, and goats may exhibit signs of pain or discomfort when the abscess is touched or pressed.
  3. Discharge:
    • External abscesses may develop a point of rupture, leading to the discharge of pus or fluid.
  4. Lethargy:
    • Goats with abscesses may show signs of lethargy, reduced appetite, or a reluctance to move.
  5. Isolate:
    • When the abscess can be pulled away from the body with your fingers wrapped around it, it’s time to open it up and clean it out. 
    • Don’t ever let an abscess burst on it’s own to contaminate everything in the area.

Supplies Needed:

  1. Container to collect puss
  2. Disposable Gloves
  3. Eye protection
  4. #10 disposable scalpel
  5. Several 3cc and 6cc Luer slip syringes
  6. Paper Towels
  7. Tweezers
  8. 7% Iodine
  9. Bleach
  10. Plastic bags for all disposable items 
  11. Disposable tupperwear, box or can for scalpel and Luer slip syringes to be placed in for disposal
  12. Shallow cat box type pan

Treatment Plan for Abscesses in Goats:

  1. Isolation:
    • If an abscess is identified, isolate the affected goat to prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the herd.
  2. Consult with a Veterinarian:
    • Seek professional advice from a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 
  3. Prepare yourself:
    • Put on long sleeves, long pants, socks, shoes, disposable gloves, eye protection.
  4. Drainage:
    • External abscesses may need to be drained under sterile conditions. This can be done by a veterinarian, and it helps to alleviate pain and promote healing.
    • Do not let the pus and drainage get on anything, including the bedding, floor, falls or yourself. Have a container ready to collect every drop. This is important to not let the fluid get on anything but it also will make it easier to test the fluid. 
    • Cut an X or cross into the soft abscess without allowing it to squirt on you. Cover the abscess with paper towels and squeeze until all of the contents are out and the fluid begins to turn slightly bloody. Squeeze from all directions to empty all of the abscess chambers. You might have to repeat this process again at some point. 
  5. Iodine Treatment:
    • Completely flood the entire area, inside and out with iodine. You will use the 3cc and 6cc syringes. Don’t allow the liquid to go anywhere near the goat’s orifices. 
  6. Bag all Disposables:
    • Place all disposable items, including the scalpel and syringes in their hard container, and place them inside the plastic sack, being careful not to spread any liquid anywhere. Securely tie the bag. 
  7. Walk through foot bath:
    • Using the low sided cat box with a towel on the bottom, add one part bleach to ten parts water. Use this to step into to kill and clean off your shoes before exiting the area. 
    • Change clothes and thoroughly wash any exposed body parts.
  8. Antibiotic Therapy:
    • Antibiotics are effective with abscesses because it is a walled off infection. The wall won’t allow the antibiotic to enter. 
  9. Wound Care:
    • Keep the affected area clean and monitor for signs of infection. Topical antiseptics or wound ointments may be recommended.
    • If the wound is very large, soak some gauze in iodine and using tweezers, place it inside the wound with just a bit hanging out so you can pull it out later to keep cleaning it. 
    • Don’t reintroduce the goat to the herd until it begins to heal. If the wound isn’t leaking, they can be put in with the herd again. But it will take 4-6 week before the wound is completely healed. 
  10. Supportive Care:
    • Provide supportive care, including proper nutrition, to help the goat recover. Adequate nutrition is essential for a robust immune response.
  11. Clean Up Pen:
    • After the goat is healed and removed from the pen, the pen must be thoroughly cleaned.
    • Clean out all bedding and hay. 
    • With equal parts bleach and water, spray down the walls, floor, water tub and feed trough.
  12. Biosecurity Measures:
    • Implement biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of contagious abscesses. This includes quarantine procedures for new animals and maintaining a clean living environment.


Abscesses in goats can be effectively managed with a proactive and diligent approach. Identifying the type of abscess, consulting with a veterinarian, and implementing a comprehensive treatment plan are key steps in ensuring the health and well-being of affected goats. Timely intervention, proper care, and biosecurity measures contribute to a successful recovery and help prevent the spread of abscesses within the goat herd.

There is so much more to learn about goats: Raising Goats Resource Page

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