Mastitis in Goats and Sheep, Causes, Symptoms, and Cures

What is mastitis? Can goats get mastitis, can sheep get mastitis? How to diagnose mastitis in sheep? How to diagnose mastitis in goats? How to treat mastitis in goats or sheep? What is wrong with my goats udder? Why is my ewe not letting her lambs d

Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the udder of a nursing animal, or dairy animal. Once bacteria enter the udder they reproduce because of the ideal, warm, conditions in the udder, causing infection. White blood cells are produced to fight the infection. The udder will feel hot to the touch and will be swollen on one side, or both. The affected animal may go off her feed, refuse to nurse, or may show no other symptoms. Mastitis can affect all mammals; in this case we are referring to mastitis in goats, and mastitis in sheep.

Causes of Mastitis in Sheep and Goats

The most common type of bacteria that are known to cause mastitis in sheep and goats are E.coli, Streptococcus Sp, Staphloccos Sp, and Pasteurella Sp. If a lamb, or kid, has pneumonia it could cause its mother to develop mastitis.

Mastitis is more common if an animal has been injured, stung by an insect in the udder, or is kept in a filthy barn. Some ewes, or does, may have a genetic predisposition to developing mastitis.

Mastitis sometimes occurs in a sheep or goat who is not being milked and has lost her lamb, or kids. Early weaning sometimes contributes to mastitis and cases can be reduced by decreasing the food ration in the mothers for a few days prior to weaning.

Failing to wash the udder well before and after milking could contribute to problems in a dairy barn. 

Symptoms of Mastitis in Sheep or Goats

If a lamb or kid is doing poorly it may not be getting enough to drink because its mother, if suffering from mastitis, may not be feeding it due to her painful udder, as such when observing lambs or kids that are not looking well the mother's udder should be checked. Lambs and kids who are not getting enough to eat will often stand hunched.

The udder will usually feel hot, swollen, or even lumpy.

In some cases the udder will be cold.

The udder may be so infected it appears to be “blue”.

Affected ewes, or does, may stand with one leg up, or cocked.

They may have a fever.

The ewe, or doe, may go off her feed.

The milk may smell bad, may have blood in it, or may not look “normal”.

Good ewe, just gave birth.

Diagnosing Mastitis in Sheep and Goats

For the most part the above symptoms are enough to diagnose mastitis in sheep and goats, although further testing of her milk can be done just to be sure. There is a test for cattle that will work although since it is designed for 4 teats and sheep and goats only have 2, you only need to use 2 of the cups.

Treatment of Mastitis in Sheep and Goats

The ewe or doe should be isolated in a clean dry stall. She should be milked 2 – 3 times a day but the milk should be discarded. If you have a dairy farm the infected animals should always be milked last. The lambs and kids will need to be bottle fed. Hot packs may be applied 2 -3 times a day.

A veterinarian should be consulted in regards to using antibiotics. Remember to follow instructions in regards to disposing of milk following treatment if they milk is for human consumption.

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Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Jan 26, 2012