CAE: these three letters inflict fear in the heart of goat owners. Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus is a chronic, progressive disease that can effect goats in different ways. It ultimately will lead to their death. Last week, I received word that the CAE test we did on Cutie before euthanizing her came back positive. Today, I’ll give you a bit of information on the disease, and I’ll save my personal thoughts and plan for moving forward for another post.
CAE is a lentivirus, meaning it can remain dormant for a long time before any symptoms occur. In the human world, HIV would be an example of such a virus. Because of this latency, it is common for the disease to be spread without knowing it. The virus is passed through fluids. The most obvious example is colostrum and milk passing the virus from doe to kid. It can also be transmitted through saliva, blood or breeding. In 10% of births, kids are infected before/during birth.
It is estimated as many as 38% – 81% of goats in Canada and the United States are positive for the virus. Rates are lower in other parts of the world. It is more prevalent in dairy herds than meat goats. Because it is transmitted so easily, once the virus is introduced to the herd it is usually passed along to uninfected animals within three years.
There are generally four areas effected by the virus: joints, lungs, brain, and mammary glands.
The most common occurrence appears to be the chronic and progressive arthritis. Often the front knee(s) is effected, but the symptoms may come and go. The animal may suffer little lameness at first and become progressively worse. In some cases, the onset is sudden and acute.
In some goats, usually young, it can result in a weakness of the back legs that may cause rapid deterioration or stabilize for an undetermined time before progressing. It may get to the point that the back legs are completely useless, causing them to drag themselves by their front legs.
The goat’s udder may become large and hard resulting in decreased milk production.
When the lungs are effected, it is in the form of a chronic pneumonia.
In some instances, goats may be a bit anemic, and it is not uncommon for them to suffer from weight loss and loss of mobility as the disease progresses.
Diagnosis is done through a blood test. There are several different tests with varying accuracy.
There is no treatment for CAE outside of supportive measures. This means easy access to high quality easily digestible food, good hoof care, and soft, thick bedding. They can also benefit from aspirin. Most goats with CAE are eventually culled or euthanized.
Frequent testing and culling is recommended for eliminating the presence of CAE in a herd. Because this can dramatically deplete a herd, other methods are often tried, such as separating those animals that are positive and not allowing any contact. This does require two completely separate facilities where there cannot be any contact between the two groups.
One way to try and prevent the spread of the virus from doe to kid is by immediately taking kids from the doe at birth. She should not be allowed to clean the kid or let it nurse. Pasteurizing the colostrum (133*F for one hour) and milk (165*F for 15 seconds) before feeding the kid will kill the virus. Kids cannot be returned to the same area where infected goats are, or they will likely become infected. These precautions are not a guarantee that the kid will remain negative, so continued testing is still necessary.
Any new animals to the herd should be isolated, tested, and re-tested after two months.
Because it can be transmitted by blood, special care should be used with instruments (such as disbudding) or needles/syringes. Goats that are CAE positive should be milked last, and chemical sanitizers should be used on all equipment.
CAE is not a virus that effects humans. The animal is still able to be used for meat or milk. It should be noted, however, that some diseases of goats can be transmitted to humans, which makes pasteurizing a good plan for any milk to be consumed by humans.
Sent to me by my vet:
Internet post by Lisle George via VIN Foundation