Caseous lymphadenitis in small ruminants

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Interview with Dr. Tamara GullGull photo

Caseous lymphadenitis causes chronic abscesses in small ruminants, such as goats and sheep. This disease is highly contagious and causes abscesses to form in the lymph nodes around the head and neck, as well as internal lymph nodes. The common name for this disease is “cheesy gland”, which is descriptive of the material in the lymph nodes that tends to become very thickened.

The bacteria ladened debris from draining abscesses is the source of infection to other animals and can persist in the environment for months, making herd control of this disease essential. Although antibiotics can be used to battle infection in valuable sheep or goats, they don’t penetrate the abscesses well and infection tends to persist, putting the rest of the herd at risk. Of course antibiotic use is restricted in animals intended for food, further limiting their help with this disease.

Meat from infected animals however is safe to consume, with proper cooking that kills the bacteria. Careful physical examination of new animals for any sign of wounds or abscesses, as well as blood testing, will help keep costly caseous lymphadenitis out of sheep and goat herds.