The Road Home

The Road Home
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Dealing with a Goat Abscess - Yuck!!

If you have livestock, sooner or later one of them is going to poke something into their neck, chest or shoulder when they are trying to
reach that one thing to eat that is just beyond their reach. Then after a week or so you notice a lump growing on them. 

We have some barbed wire on our fence braces....

some nasty, very thorny plants......these really sting when they poke you too


and lots and lots of the opportunities to create abscesses are many.

The first time this happened to us we got out our trusty goat books and looked up abscesses. What we read scared us to death. Caseous Lymphadenitis or CL is a very contagious condition among goat herds that causes abscesses. We were in the midst of selling some of our does and had taken a deposit on this doe. She would be leaving in a month after her kids were weaned. So we waited a few more weeks for her to recover fully from birthing then loaded her up and went to the vet. He lanced the abscess, cleaned it out and warned us about the contagious nature of CL. Because we didn't want this highly contagious problem spreading among our herd, and we were selling this goat, we had the vet send off a sample for testing to eliminate the possibility of CL. Thankfully, the test came back negative. Needless to say, this was quite a learning experience. 

We have since had a few abscesses each year. The vet and my books indicate that abscesses are usually just the result of being poked by something and introducing bacteria under the skin. Our buck, Teddy, recently starting limping and then carrying his back foot. This had happened before with other animals, but they quickly recovered. He didn't. We looked at his foot over and over and couldn't find anything. We finally took him to the vet who found an abscess up in his foot between his 'toes'. A shot of antibiotics and he is good as new. Another good learning experience.

All of this leads up to the latest abscess on Ivory's jaw. If you do not want to see a really yucky pictorial of treating an abscess, please read no further. I wanted to post this because of the great worry our first experience gave us. This doesn't mean an abscess on your animal might not be a very serious problem, but it may be just an abscess that can be treated and heal up with no problems.

When our goats get an abscess, we leave it alone and let it 'grow' and come to a head of sorts, until the skin on the outside kind of dies. 

The hair will fall out, then the skin will crack, sort of like very dry 
skin. I do not interfere with it until then. I want to make sure it
has encased itself and the blood flow is minimal, especially if the abscess is in the neck area. There are many important vessels in the neck area, and I don't want to inadvertently injure something.

When the skin starts to crack I get several paper towels and squeeze.

This will usually cause the crack to widen and allows the pus to be forced out.

This is the really gross part.

I squeeze all of the pus out I can then fill a 3cc syringe with strong 7% Iodine and flush out the abscess.

I have never met a goat yet that cares for this procedure at all. You have to be very firm and quick.

Next I pack the abscess with generic triple antibiotic ointment. 

This will normally do it. I keep a close eye on it to make sure it is healing well. It helps that I am milking Ivory and will be able to check it each day when she is on the milk stand. I may squeeze it out again if there appears to be more pus, otherwise it should heal up nicely in a few weeks.

She is ready to eat and be milked, and happy for me to leave her neck alone.

The udder wash with iodine is a great way to disinfect our hands when we need it. We have changed over to this empty soap bottle with a pump on it. It is a great dispenser.

I hope this helps anyone else that runs into abscesses in their animals. We were very alarmed when we first had to deal with them, so we wanted to alleviate others concern when it was their turn. If you have further concerns, contact your veterinarian. 

Until next time - Fern


  1. Thanks for posting this, it was really helpful!

    1. That's great. I'm really glad this could help someone else through a difficult situation.


  2. Found your site via another homesteading friend.

    This is a good tutorial re: CL. I'll never forget our first experience with a nasty abscess that had all the earmarks of CL, but tested negative.

    We've learned since that goats and sheep are good at finding things to abscess. Worst offender: Oat hulls in cheeks. One particularly gluttonous ewe we had twice developed abscesses around oat hulls. She was none too pleased when we treated.

    I'm really enjoying your site. Thanks!

    1. Oat hulls, grass seeds, briers, all kinds of things cause abscesses around here. It has definitely been a learning experience and I don't worry about them any more. We just wait for them to open up on their own, squeeze them out, flush with a syringe of strong iodine, pack with triple antibiotic ointment and let them heal on their own. I'm glad you found us, and thank you for sharing.


  3. I've had 3 goats that have gotten abscess. Only one continues to get them. Ive heard that CL in goats have a greenish smelly puss...poor little Mellow had a huge one on her neck. I did get all the puss out but it was white and didn't have any smell...?could this still be CL? I irrigated it with the iodine and applied bug spray all around it but not on it. I didn't want to get it in the wound. Now I know I have to get the triple antibiotic there anything else I should do? I have no idea if it's CL but that's how I treated it. I burned everything I used and made sure none of the puss got on the ground or anything around when I squeezed it out...any other suggestions.