Soremouth is a highly contagious, though fairly common virus that can infect sheep and goats. It quickly spreads throughout the entire herd. While there is nothing that can really be done to vaccinate an un-infected herd, soremouth is a relatively mild disease that runs its course within a matter of weeks and to which animals will build up immunity. That said, soremouth can be passed on to humans, may necessitate greater nutritional care for older animals, and sometimes can cause nursing mothers to reject their young.
How soremouth transmits to goats
The virus responsible for soremouth is in the same family as cowpox and smallpox, and it is transmitted in much the same way. Any direct contact with an infected animal’s saliva or other bodily fluids can cause infection. Vaccinations are not widely used because inoculation of healthy animals that have never been infected with the virus will only introduce it into your entire herd. Evidence suggests that certain breeds of goats may be more susceptible to soremouth than others, and immune compromised animals such as the sick, old, or very young are at the highest risk of contracting the disease.
Common transmission points within a herd
One of the most common means of transmission throughout a goat herd is from animals that forage off of the same vegetation or eat out of the same dishes or troughs. Saliva from infected animals gets on the feed, which in turn is picked up by another animal. Bottle-feeding kids is another primary way that soremouth is spread. Bottles are usually used for multiple kids during a feeding before the nipples are sanitized. Because so many animals share the same feeding grounds and living quarters, soremouth usually infects entire herds before the presence of the virus is known.
Ways soremouth-free herds get infected
Soremouth can be introduced to a herd through any number of different ways – moving to pastures where infected animals have been housed, the introduction of new animals into the herd, or people who work with goats from many different areas. Goat shows often see the spread of soremouth because the same judge is touching numerous animals in order to see their mouths and teeth. Veterinarians may also unwittingly transmit the disease by performing examinations or administering vaccinations to multiple herds in a day.
What to do if soremouth hits your herd
Whenever any type of disease strikes your livestock, it’s always a good idea to contact the vet immediately for advice specific to your environment and animals. In most cases, an outbreak of soremouth only means that your herd should be isolated for about a month from other animals that could contract the disease. You should also take extra care to wash your hands thoroughly after working with the infected animals or touching any equipment that is used with them. In addition, old and nursing animals may require special care until soremouth runs its course, and a plan should be in place to artificially rear any kids that are rejected by their mothers.