My Goats Have a Snotty Nose: What it Means, How to Treat it

9 reasons goats have a runny nose (1)


Goats are hardy animals, but they’re still susceptible to health complications. This is especially true when they are exposed to extreme weather conditions. A goat that’s left out in heavy rain is as liable to get a cough and a runny nose as a human. 

Why do my goats have boogers? Dust, stress, respiratory diseases, and nasal bots cause nasal discharge in goats and other livestock. Allergies, viruses, and even excessive heat can cause snotty noses. If you notice any of your goats with boogers, treat them immediately. A quick response will help prevent a minor health condition from escalating into something more dangerous. 

Although many goats with nasal discharge do not require treatment, your veterinarian will probably recommend a course of antibiotics if they do.

4 Different Types of Nasal Discharge Seen in Goats

A goat’s nasal discharge varies in consistency, color, and content. It may even change as the disease or condition progresses. The appearance and texture of the mucous will often give you a clearer idea of what the underlying problem is. 

#1 Profuse, watery nasal discharge is often a symptom of Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF)

#2 A thick, yellow mucus is more commonly a sign of pneumonia.

#3 If there are any signs of blood in the mucus, it could indicate a nasal worm infestation. These are the larvae of the sheep bot fly, which it deposits in the nostrils. The larvae move and grow inside the animal’s nasal cavity and frontal sinuses. The larvae irritate the goat’s nasal passages, causing it to cough, sneeze, and produce bloody nasal discharge.

#4 A grey discharge with a loosely clumped texture indicates a respiratory infection.

Common Causes of a Runny Nose in Goats and How To Treat Them

#1 Dusty Feed Can Give a Goat a Snotty Nose

Dirty, dusty enclosures can cause a goat to produce more nasal discharge than usual. Our goats often get runny eyes and noses on hot, windy days. Similarly, if we feed them dusty hay, they start sneezing, and their noses run. These aren’t severe problems but can escalate if not treated. 

Support the goat’s immune system by offering vegetables high in vitamin A. Supplement your goat’s usual rations with probiotics such as raw apple cider vinegar or water kefir. These treatments will help your goat’s nose dry up faster and prevent the condition from worsening.  

  • Excessive dust or smoke in the air can cause a runny nose

#2 Excessive Ammonia Can Cause Nasal Discharge

A buildup of ammonia in your goat enclosure irritates your goat’s lungs and damages their respiratory systems. Ammonia smells terrible for a reason and constantly inhaling it predisposes your goat to various viral and bacterial infections. These can cause pneumonia if left untreated.

The best way to deal with this problem is to clean your goat enclosure thoroughly. Remove any old, wet bedding and replace it with fresh wood chips or straw. Ensure your goat shelter has adequate cross-ventilation. These hygiene practices will prevent ammonia buildup and ensure your goats have clean, healthy air to breathe. 

  • An ammonia buildup can cause a runny nose and pneumonia

Dusty environments can produce a snot nose in kids (1)

#3 Shipping Fever Causes Stress-related Snotty Noses

Shipping Fever, or Mannheimia pneumonia, most often occurs in goats that have undergone stress, either from transportation, change of diet, weaning, or associating with animals from another farm.

Mucopurulent discharge from the eyes and nose, accompanied by hurried breathing, are the first signs of this condition. Mannheimia pneumonia also causes anorexia, and abortion in pregnant does and is often fatal.

Veterinarians will usually recommend a course of long-acting antibiotics, such as florfenicol or tyrosine. A veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatories in acute cases in conjunction with antibiotics. 

  • High stress can cause goats to get sick and have a nasal discharge

#4 Common Colds Cause Clear To White Discharge

Goats can get colds as quickly as humans can. Like humans, they’ll get a runny nose and cough but usually display no signs of a fever. A cold isn’t life-threatening but, as goats are very susceptible to pneumonia, you should keep a close eye on any goat that has a runny nose, clear or cloudy mucus, watery eyes, and a lazy attitude to the day. 

Antibiotics won’t work against a common goat cold any more than it would a human one. The best way to treat a goat with a cold is to boost its immune system. Echinacea and garlic are two natural substances that accelerate your goat’s recovery. Foods rich in vitamin A, like carrots and sweet potatoes, will also help, along with probiotics like yogurt. 

Ensure your goat is drinking well and encourage it to consume more fluids by mixing up lemon juice, warm water, and honey.

  • Clear discharge usually means a cold

#5 Symptoms of a Nasal Worm Infestation 

In addition to bloody nasal discharge, a goat with a nasal worm infestation will show the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stamping feet
  • Snorting
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing

It’s easy to confuse a nasal worm infestation with pneumonia, although only the latter causes a high temperature.

Affected animals also show an impaired ability to smell, making it difficult for infected ewes to smell their offspring and bond with them. 

There are various treatment options for sheep with nasal worms, but only one for goats. Abamectin is a widely used insecticide and anthelmintic that’s effective against nasal worms in goats.

  • Nose worms can cause a snotty nose

Goats have a snotty nose when they are ill (1)

#6 How To Diagnose Pneumonia In Goats

Our 15-year-old goat died a couple of weeks ago. She had pneumonia and, at her advanced age, there was very little we could do to shift it. Dolly first presented with symptoms a month ago. These signs included a snotty nose and whitish nasal discharge. 

As the condition worsened, we could hear the “death rattle” in her lungs. She also developed a cough and lost interest in food. 

Fortunately, Dolly had a non-contagious variety of pneumonia, but we vaccinated the rest of the herd to be on the safe side.

We treated Dolly with broad-spectrum antibiotics and then repeated the treatment as advised by our veterinarian. Unfortunately, the pneumonia didn’t respond to the treatment, and we had to euthanize our old girl. 

It isn’t easy to treat or prevent pneumonia, as there are so many different types and causes. A regular vaccination program can help reduce the risk and proper herd management. This includes providing a clean, dry enclosure with good ventilation and plenty of room for the whole herd. 

  • Pneumonia is usually accompanied by coughing and a runny nose

#7 Lungworms Can Cause Coughs and Snotty Noses 

Lungworms and other parasitic nematodes affect the goat’s lower respiratory tract, causing shallow breathing, coughing, and nasal discharge. A lungworm infection can also cause a goat to lose weight and reduce its milk production. 

A vet treats lungworm with: 

  • Broad-spectrum anthelmintics
  • Antimicrobials to prevent secondary bacterial infections
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs as required

#8 Symptoms of Pasteurellosis Include Nasal Pus

Pneumonic pasteurellosis causes hypersalivation, fever, rapid breathing, and nasal discharge that resembles pus or mucus. 

Stress factors like extreme weather conditions, transportation, dipping, and deworming can cause goats to become more susceptible to respiratory infections.

Pasteurellosis progresses rapidly, making treatment challenging. If caught earlier enough, pasteurellosis responds well to a course of fluoroquinolone antibiotics. It has proved resistant to penicillins, however. 

It’s easier to prevent pasteurellosis than it is to cure it. A good vaccination and management regime can protect your goats against this disease. A clean enclosure and adequate protection against extreme weather conditions can help reduce the risk of infection.

  • Clean, dry protection from the weather helps keep goats healthy

Daily checks help prevent illness

#9 Enzootic Nasal Adenocarcinoma Effects the Mucosal Nasal Glands

Enzootic nasal adenocarcinoma most commonly occurs in young goats and kids. It is a contagious tumor of the nasal mucosal glands that causes respiratory distress, copious nasal discharge, and skull deformations. 

Highly contagious, enzootic nasal tumors cause progressive respiratory illness and overproduction of fluid in the lungs. This fluid may flow freely from the goat’s nostrils when it lowers its head. 

Symptoms only show months after the initial infection, and there is no treatment. You will need to destroy or euthanize any affected animals humanely.

  • Enzootic Nasal Adenocarcinoma is uncureable

How to Prevent Your Goats from Getting Snotty Noses

#1 Check your goats daily for signs of illness

To be a good goat owner, you need to watch your animals’ health. You should check them every day for any signs of illness.

A quick wellness check involves looking at their eyes and nose, checking for any signs of unusual discharge.

Watch your goats walking and eating, keeping an eye out for any individual that’s lagging. Checking your goats frequently allows you to identify potential problems before they develop into something more serious.

#2 Keep your enclosures clean and well-ventilated

Goats kept in a dirty enclosure are exposed to excessive levels of ammonia and dust. These conditions can cause respiratory irritation and increase the risk of your goats contracting pneumonia. 

Clean your enclosure thoroughly every one to two weeks. Ensure you remove all wet and soiled bedding and replace it with fresh wheat straw or pine shavings to minimize dust.

Natural ventilation is usually sufficient to keep the air moving inside the enclosure. However, if you notice it becoming stuffy or smelly, you may need to use mechanical ventilation to solve the problem. 

#3 Avoid over-crowding

A standard-sized adult goat needs 10 to 15 square feet of space inside the enclosure. Goats tend to sleep in a pile, but that doesn’t mean you can crowd them into a small space. An overcrowded shelter is challenging to keep clean and runs the risk of ammonia buildup. Overcrowding can also cause stress. 

enzootic nasal tumors affect young goats 1 (1)


#4 Minimize exposure to dusty feed

A dusty feed can irritate your goats’ lungs, noses, and eyes. Dusty hay is often moldy and can cause the life-threatening disease listeriosis.

If you’re concerned about the quality of your roughage, discard it immediately. There’s no point in running the risk of exposing your goats to respiratory problems or disease for the sake of a few dollars. 

#5 Provide adequate protection against extreme weather conditions

Extreme weather conditions can cause stress and runny noses in a herd of goats. They need sufficient protection against sweltering conditions, as well as cold, wet, and windy ones. 

If possible, provide your goats with pasture shelters that they can use when the weather turns. Alternatively, give them access to their enclosure. 

#6 Limit stressful experiences 

Stress from transportation and commingling with other animals is commonly associated with diseases like mannheimia pneumonia and pasteurellosis. If you do need to transport goats, you can help prevent these health conditions by ensuring your goats:

  • Are well hydrated
  • Have good quality hay to eat during the journey
  • Travel in a clean, spacious environment
  • Are quarantined on arrival for two to four weeks
  • Receive an intranasal vaccine before traveling.

#7 Administer vaccinations regularly 

Protect your goats against common diseases by following our complete goat vaccination guide. This will help prevent illnesses like shipping fever and Pasteurella.

#8 Maintain healthy immune systems 

A healthy immune system gives your goats a good chance of fighting off respiratory infections. Boost your goats’ immune systems with probiotics and foods that are high in vitamin-A. I also give my goats a shot of a Vitamin B complex anytime my goats seem to be getting sick. It gives their immune system a boost and helps them to keep eating healthily. 


#9 Provide high-quality food

Good-quality forage, like alfalfa, is much better for your goats than sub-standard hay. Lucerne is rarely dusty, so it won’t cause respiratory irritation and provides your milking goats with the protein they need.

Supplement this with a high-quality goat mineral (on Amazon), and your goats will get all the vitamins and minerals they need.


A goat with a runny nose isn’t necessarily at death’s door. Dust, common colds, and other relatively benign problems can cause a snotty nose, none of which are life-threatening. However, nasal discharge is a symptom of some illnesses, which can escalate quickly.

Treat the problem early by giving your goats probiotics and fresh foods high in vitamin A, and you could save a life or two. Preventing respiratory conditions is more straightforward than treating them. Raising goats can be challenging when they are sick, but it’s very rewarding as you are able to help them get better!

Nicky Hoseck

I’ve been around horses since the age of six and, 15 years ago, leapt at the chance to leave behind my London-based career in journalism and start life on a small-holding in South Africa. Sharing my experiences with horses, goats, and other farm animals allows me to flex my writing skills and help others find their way to a happy, healthy herd.

Recent Posts