Several joints of kids can be involved in joint-ill, a nonspecific bacterial infection. Bacteria that have been incriminated are mainly gram-positive and include staphylococci, streptococci, Corynebacterium spp, Actinomyces spp, and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, as well as gram-negative coliforms.
Environmental bacteria gain entry to the neonate's circulation, usually via the umbilical cord. Other methods of entry include contamination of breaks in the skin or via the GI or respiratory tract. Predisposing factors include lack of routine dipping of the umbilical cord; poor sanitation in the kidding pens; or does kidding in overcrowded, dirty conditions. E rhusiopathiae are soil-living bacteria that may persist on farms or in pens used by sheep or pigs. Mycoplasma infection is also a differential diagnosis (see Mycoplasmosis in Goats).
With joint-ill, more than one joint is hot, swollen, and painful. Often, the affected limb(s) cannot bear weight, and kids with more than one leg affected may be unable to stand. The more commonly affected joints include the carpus, shoulder, hock, and stifle. Generally, there is a fever but no reduction in appetite. Sometimes the navel area is inflamed, but often there is no visible abnormality. An abscess may form on the navel long after the kid has recovered. The WBC count may be increased with a left shift.
If the condition becomes chronic, the limbs are stiff, some joints may be ankylosed, and overall growth is poor. At this stage the temperature is normal.
To be successful, treatment must be given early and, when possible, antibiotic selection should be based on culture and sensitivity testing. Frequent injections of high doses of parenteral antibiotics given for ~1 wk may effect a cure if combined with careful nursing. Joint lavage with saline and antibiotic solutions may enhance therapeutic outcome in select cases. Complications should be prevented by providing soft bedding, frequently turning any kid unable to stand, and massaging the affected joints. If ankylosis starts to develop, the kid should be supported in a sling for short periods as frequently as possible.
In large, commercial herds, treating severely affected kids may not be economically justified, and humane euthanasia should be considered. Many that do recover remain unthrifty for the rest of their lives.
Hygiene at parturition is essential. A deep bed of clean sawdust, wood shavings, or straw should be provided; it is often better to allow the doe to kid on fresh pasture if the weather is warm.
The umbilical cords of newborn kids should be dipped several times in strong, 7% tincture of iodine. Cords should be dipped each time the kid is handled in the first 24–48 hr. Owners should clean their footwear before entering kidding pens. Kids must receive adequate colostrum at birth.
Last full review/revision January 2014 by Joan S. Bowen, DVM