Last summer, one of my goats acted oddly and had unidentifiable bite marks on her back, making me fear rabies. Additionally, we’d recently run into several live bats and a dead one nearby. I was worried the bats might have bitten my doe and infected her. Although she was healthy and showing no signs of sickness, I took her to the vet to be tested. Fortunately, she was rabies-free.
Recent reports of rabies in farm animals, and a few cases of goats, may have caused you to worry about rabies in your herd. Every year at least a few cases of goat rabies occur, although it is often only 1 or 2 in the entire United States. In other countries, especially underdeveloped countries, it is more common.
Can you get rabies from a goat? People can get rabies from an infected goat. In 2019, nine people were treated for rabies when they handled a rabid goat. Goat rabies is rarer than other animal forms of rabies and can be prevented through vaccination and preventative measures such as separating herds from contact with wildlife.
Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. Goats can infect a person through a friendly lick on a hand with a cut. Infected goats can infect their unvaccinated human owners through a bite, wound, or contact with snot, blood, or saliva.
This video is of a poor baby goat that had rabies confirmed as the reason for her death after the video was taken.
Table of Contents:
The Goat-Rabies Scare At The County Fair
In 1996, a 4H goat got sick on the fair’s last day (NY Times). The owner, a little girl, reached out to pet it and it nipped her thumb. She instinctively put her thumb in her mouth, the worst possible reaction. After the goat became sick, it was tested and confirmed to have rabies. As a result, thousands of people were screened and 467 had to undergo a series of rabies shots. It cost the county over $500,000.
Goats can also infect humans with rabies. You’re at risk for rabies when you come into contact with an infected goat, especially if you have a cut or are injured, nipped, or bitten by the goat. If your goat shows any signs of rabies, it’s best to get it tested to be safe. Rabies can only be cured if the vaccine is given before symptoms appear.
Can goats get rabies? Rabies is not very common in goats, with one or two reported cases of infection in the entire United States in a year. However, this does not mean that your goats are not at risk, as they can get infected if they hang around with infected dogs or common carriers like bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes.
Goats can get rabies from being bitten by infected animals. Additionally, your goat may get infected when saliva from an infected animal comes into contact with a wound or mucous membrane, including its eyes, nose, and mouth. If you come into contact with an infected goat, you are also at risk of getting infected.
Symptoms of Rabies in Goats
Rabies is very widespread across the United States. In New Jersey alone, there are over 300 cases of rabies each year (New Jersey Extension). Eastern states have typically seen higher rates of rabies in the USA. In western states, rabies has started occasionally occurring in goats even though previously it was unheard of. European countries have a little higher rate of rabies because of the transmission through wild animals from countries that don’t proactively fight rabies as much.
Symptoms of Rabies in Goats:
- A sudden change in behavior. This can include aggression, depression, mood swings, and becoming unusually calm.
- Unusual mildness.
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Weakness or lethargy
- Paralysis and lack of coordination
- Repetitive actions
- Isolation from the herd
There are two forms of rabies: dumb and furious. Furious rabies is what most people associate rabies to be. The animal becomes more aggressive and is more likely to attack or bite. Bite
Although most goats don’t bite people, some bite out of playfulness or aggression. A goat’s bite can spread rabies to people if infected with rabies. If you have a goat that is not a biter and then starts biting, rabies may be the reason.
Rabies in goats might take effect within three to 12 weeks. But some goats may die from rabies within 15 days.
None of our current goats have ever bitten us. However, when we had Nubian goats, they occasionally nipped our hands while feeding them, but not as an act of aggression.
Goats can also show increased aggression through head butting. Goats have rabies in the furious form less often than the dumb form.
Dumb rabies manifests itself in animals by making them calmer. Farm animals can often get dumb rabies so if you have a goat that’s always been a little skittish and it gets calm suddenly, its a good idea to have it checked for rabies. Wild animals that seem unusually calm will usually have rabies as calmness toward people isn’t normal in the wild.
#1 Cause of Rabies in Goats: Wildlife Bites
Protecting your goats against rabies by keeping them isolated from wild animals. Wild animal bites are the primary cause of rabies-infected goats. Dog bites are the second.
There are general safeguards you should take even if you don’t live in a high rabies epidemic area. Many of these precautions will help to protect your goats and animals from other easily transmitted diseases.
Protect your goats from wildlife by preventing interactions with wild animals. Goats are prey animals so it’s a good idea to protect them because coyotes, foxes, and cougars can kill goats. Skinks are the biggest spreader of rabies among farm animals. Keep your herd protected through good fencing and housing that keeps wildlife away. Wild animals are the biggest source of rabies for farm animals.
Report animal bites to your local Animal Control. They can inform you whether rabies is currently prevalent in your area. Call your vet if your goat or farm animal is fighting with another animal, as your goat may need a booster shot. People exposed to rabies can get medicine to prevent rabies from spreading, but animals don’t have that option. Rabies develops faster in animals and is always deadly.
Rabies Vaccination for Goats
There is no rabies vaccination created specifically for goats yet. But, sheep or cattle rabies vaccination is often used and recommended for and off-label or extra-label use. Off-label is when a vaccination is used for an animal it’s not specifically created for.
Do goats need rabies shots? In areas where rabies is rampant, vets will usually recommend that your goats get vaccinated. Rabies vaccinations should be given to kids over 3 months of age and annually thereafter.
Goats can get rabies from other farm animals, but more frequently, rabies is caused by bites from wild animals. Squirrels, chipmunks, cats, skunks, bats, foxes, and raccoons can cause the disease. Skunks and bats are the most common transmission to goats.
When goats get rabies, it’s usually from a bite of an infected animal, but other body fluids that come in contact with an open wound could also transmit it. Goats can transmit rabies from one goat to another through roughhousing. However, rabies in goats is rarer. It is more common in other animals, such as cats. That’s probably because cats are more likely to get into a skirmish with a wild animal than a goat.
Goat Rabies FAQs
Rabies is a serious and fatal viral disease that affects mammals, including goats. Once a goat is infected, it can likely infect you and other animals in the herd. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about rabies in goats.
How long does rabies take to develop? In people, rabies takes 1-3 months to develop. Scientists don’t know how long it takes to develop in goats because it’s rarer and difficult to track from the infection time to the first symptoms. Usually, once a goat starts developing symptoms, they die within a week to ten days. Owners often don’t realize that a goat has been bitten and aren’t aware of the potential danger.
What makes rabies deadly in animals but not humans? Rabies is deadly to both animals and humans. However, because people are able to communicate when they have exposure, usually an animal bite, they can start treatment for rabies long before symptoms develop. Once symptoms develop in either people or animals, it is deadly and too late to reverse the disease. Rabies treatment involves a series of shots that alert the body to create antibodies against rabies faster than the disease naturally develops. This prevents the development of rabies in people.
Is there a cure for rabies? Sadly, rabies is always fatal. Once a goat has contracted rabies, it will die; if left to die naturally, it will be painful. Rabies is a neurological disease so it affects mood, coordination, and body functions. Death usually occurs within 1-2 weeks of when symptoms develop.
Can sheep get rabies? Sheep can get rabies. The transmission of rabies in sheep is similar to that in goats, as they can get infected when bitten by an infected animal or when saliva from an infected animal comes into contact with a wound or mucous membrane. Symptoms of infection are similar to those in goats. Vaccination can prevent infection in your sheep.
My Essential Goat Supplies
This list contains affiliate products. Affiliate products do not cost more but helps to support BestFarmAnimals and our goal to provide farm animal owners with accurate and helpful information.
A sturdy dog collar is essential. Don’t do rope (they’ll break and tangle) or chain (injury!).
A Black Water Tub is way nicer than buckets that tip over. I like to get a 20 or 30-gallon in each pen so my goats have plenty of water, but you can get 100-gallons if you have a lot of sheep in one pen.
Loose minerals in a small bag or a Purina 50 lb bag, and a mineral feeder for free-choice is the best option. One side holds minerals, and the other holds baking soda. Don’t feed sheep goat minerals because it usually contains copper- something that is fatal to sheep.
Hoof trimmers are a necessity because you’ll need to trim your sheep’s hooves every few months. These are nice for the price.
Don’t make the mistake I made by waiting to order a drench gun before you need it. I was surprised by how often I use it. It helps with bloating, dehydration, and other ailments. Here’s a good drench, but you can also drench a bloat solution or water if dehydrated.
Digital Thermometor for when your lambs act sick. You’ll need to know if their temps are too low or too high so you can accurately diagnose the issues.
Vetericyn for wound care. It makes a big difference in a speedy recovery.
Check out this list of goat milk supplies you need if you have milk goats.
Rabies is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can infect your goats. You should understand the symptoms of rabies and f you suspect your goat is infected, monitor for them closely. It is also important to know the steps needed to prevent rabies in your goats, especially if you live in areas where rabies is rampant.
Springer.org Paralytic rabies in a goat
Rutgers.edu Rabies: What You Should Know for Your Pets and Livestock
Are you searching for the perfect new addition to your farm flock? Have you ever considered the Golden Comet chickens, a breed known for their robust health, prolific egg-laying abilities, and docile...
You might be asking, "Why build a brooder?" Well, anyone who's spent a fair spell of time on the farm knows ducklings need that extra bit of care in their early days. They require a warm, cozy...