University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ask and Expert – Editorial

The “Ask and Expert” feature of this website receives several questions from animal owners and veterinarians each week. Questions from owners of pet goats are among the most common. Pet goats (companion animals) are most often Nigerian Dwarf goats and American Pygmy goats. These animals are cute, cuddly and have a marvelous personality.

The questions the website receives obviously concern Johne’s disease. Today’s news item highlights several general observations from these submitted questions:

  1. Pet goat owners, unlike cattle ranchers and dairy farmers, need more advice and help regarding infectious diseases such as Johne’s disease that are common in animal agriculture.
  2. Goat owners find it difficult to get veterinary services. There seem to be three reasons for this. First, veterinarians who work with large, food-producing animals such as dairy cattle and are most knowledgeable and experienced in working with Johne’s disease, typically do not work with companion animals like these small goats. Second, small animal veterinarians who work with pets like dogs and cats are unfamiliar with goats and their diseases. Lastly, goat owners are typically hobbyists who do not always fully appreciate the need for, and cost of, veterinary services.
  3. A last generalization from Ask and Expert questions is that pet goat owners, just like farmers and ranchers, need to practice better biosecurity to prevent their animals from becoming infected with this chronic, contagious, incurable disease known as Johne’s disease. Like other animal breeders, they trade animals among their small “club” without first asking for laboratory evidence that the source “herd” is free of MAP. The consequence is that the infection readily spreads with heart-breaking consequences.

It is my hope that this news item stimulates veterinarians who traditionally work with large or small animals to welcome pet goat owners as clients and become better informed about their special needs, and for pet goat owners to seek out such veterinarians interested in pet goats for the health and welfare of the animals they love so much.

For more information please see our website pages devoted to goats:

This research article from our research team is one of the few specifically concerning Johne’s disease in pygmy and dwarf goats: Manning, E.J.B., Steinberg, H., Krebs, V., and Collins, M.T. 2003. Diagnostic testing patterns of natural Mycobacterium paratuberculosis infection in pygmy goats. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 67:213-218.