Cheesy gland, or CLA, is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many goat raisers. The insidious abscesses are contagious. However, it is not a major problem that requires the sacrifice of an entire herd. Only those animals that repeatedly develop abscesses need to be culled. Sound management practices can alleviate the problem. Goat herds that are maintained in overcrowded, underfed conditions are most likely to contract the disease because it is the open, draining abscess that spreads the disease. Those animals that have already developed an abscess may or may not develop them again. It depends upon their stress level and the efficiency of their immune systems. It is unrealistic to expect any large herd to test CLA free as there is doubt as to the accuracy of any such test. Some breeders recommend that affected animals be treated and isolated until the wound heals. If that same animal is again affected, then is the time to cull her.
DIAGNOSIS – Caseous Lymphadenitis is caused by two organisms: Corynebacterium perfringes and C. pseudotuberculosis. It manifests itself as abscesses on the lips, behind the ears, under the jaw, along the neck, behind the point of the shoulder or in the udder; anywhere the lymphatic system networks. Abscesses are typically light colored bald spots about the size of a quarter at first, that can grow to ping-pony or grapefruit sized swellings if left untreated. They are filled with a thick; “cheesy” green pus if the causative agent is C. perfringes or yellow pus if it is C. pseudotuberculosis. Abscesses are localized collections of pus within tissue surrounded by a tough, impermeable wall of host tissue. The infected animal will automatically isolate its infection to prevent its spread. Systemic treatment of abscesses is usually not effective.
TREATMENT – When an abscess is located, treatment requires lancing the abscess, draining it completely, and irrigating it with a bactericidal agent such as betadine, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide or penicillin. Be careful, as the infection is communicable to man as well as any goats exposed to the pus. Long term treatment with Penicillin BP (3 cc per day) is recommended for three weeks to assure the control of the disease.
Generally speaking, C pseudotuberculosis and C. perfringes do not cause other apparent ill effects. However, in chronic cases, it may spread to the lung and other internal organs causing illthrift and death. The most important factor to consider in the United States is that chronic cases with internal abscesses cannot be sold for meat. But since most meat goats are marketed at a young age, it is unlikely that there would be time for the disease to develop to this point.
CONTROL – Sound management practices are the best method to control this disease. Uncrowded feeders that are cleaned regularly will help prevent infection. Close inspection of the herd at regular intervals, especially during times of stress, such as during kidding, shearing and joining will alleviate the majority of the problems. In small operations under close confinement, animals with abscesses should be isolated, their abscesses drained and the three week Penicillin regime completed before being returned to the herd. Under range conditions, herds are usually so scattered that a single animal may not affect other goats. However, if the opportunity arises, animals with multiple, chronic abscesses should be culled.
Producers can take further steps to prevent to spread of the disease. Good sanitation, avoidance of injury and treatment of open wounds will reduce the incidence of the disease. Wash all instruments used on infected goats carefully and immediately dispose of any resulting pus. It is highly contagious! Shear the youngest goats first to prevent the spread of the disease from older goats to the younger ones. If the shearer accidentally cuts an animal, disinfect not only the animal but the shears. The most common method of transmission is through contaminated shears. CLA is not unlike other diseases that goat producers need to recognize. It is not the end of the world. Tailor management practices to combat it. The goat has a remarkable immune system capable of resisting even the most insidious diseases.