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Copper Deficiency in Goats

By Joan S. Bowen, DVM, Bowen Mobile Veterinary Practice, Wellington, CO

Copper deficiency may cause locomotor difficulties in goats in two distinct ways. Abnormal bone growth with increased bone fragility can predispose to fractures of long bones. Independently, a neurologic condition known as enzootic ataxia or swayback develops, in which copper deficiency of kids in utero or after birth results in permanent myelin degeneration in the spinal cord, leading to progressive incoordination and paralysis with failure of mobility. Clinically, this appears similar to the neurologic form of caprine arthritis-encephalitis virus (see Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis) infection in young kids. Copper status of the ration needs to be evaluated, and copper supplementation provided as necessary.