If your goat is losing his hair, parasite infestation or disease are likely culprits. Scientifically termed alopecia, hair loss can also result from self-inflicted trauma, such as a goat constantly scratching on a fence or other object. Call your vet if your goat develops alopecia. Until you know what's causing the problem, wear disposable gloves when handling your goats. Certain conditions causing alopecia are zoonotic, meaning they can jump from animals to humans.
Caprine Staphylococcal Dermatitis
If your goat's hair loss follows an outbreak of pustules -- pimple-like inflammations containing pus -- he may suffer from the skin infection Staphylococcal dermatitis. When the pustules break open, they leave an exudate that becomes encrusted, followed by general hair loss. The pustules and subsequent hair loss occur most often on the udder, under the tail and around the anal area. In severe cases, the hair loss extends along the abdomen, back and neck. Your veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics for the infection, along with medicated shampoos for washing affected areas.
Caprine Sarcoptic Mange
Sarcoptic mange, or scabies, is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. While goats can also suffer from demodectic mange, those parasites don't usually cause hair loss. Signs of scabies include hair loss around the face and ears and possibly other parts of the body. The skin in the areas of hair loss soon turns scaly. Because scabies is so easily transmitted between goats, treat every animal in the herd, even those who are asymptomatic. In some states, caprine scabies is a reportable disease. Your vet can treat sarcoptic mange via subcutaneous injections of the dewormer ivermectin. .
Ringworm in Goats
Ringworm isn't a worm, but a fungal infection. Affected goats generally lose hair in circular patches on the neck, ears and face, and itch constantly. Since ringworm can spread to other livestock, as well as people, dogs and cats, always wear gloves when treating this condition. Because it is so contagious, treat every goat in the herd. Your vet can recommend topical treatments, which may contain iodine, or chlorhexidine. It's also important to sterilize equipment, such as brushes or hoof nippers, shared between goats.
Lice in Goats
Goats infested with lice not only lose hair, but the incessant scratching causes anxiety and possible weight loss. Secondary infections can occur from the lesions caused by scratching. Goat lice are species specific, so you can't catch them from your caprines. Healthy goats are unlikely to have a serious lice infestation, so a healthy diet and clean environment go a long way in fighting off a potential outbreak. Your vet can recommend an insecticide spray appropriate for treating lousy goats, and prescribe antibiotics for infections.
Spray every goat in the herd, and repeat the application in two weeks. The insecticides kill off lice, but not the nits, or lice eggs, that hatch two weeks later. The second application should take care of the lice problem.
Hair Loss in Nursing Does
If your nursing doe starts losing hair while lactating, it could result from the hormonal changes her body experiences after kidding. If her hair doesn't start growing in by the time her kids are weaned, call your vet to have her checked out.
If your goat's primary food source is pasture, mineral deficiencies in the soils can cause hair loss. Zinc or iodine deficiency can result in alopecia, as can excess amounts of selenium. Your county agricultural extension agent can test your pastures for mineral deficiencies or excesses. If deficiencies exist, your vet might recommend supplements or feeds with appropriate mineral levels to restore your goat's hair.
- Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension: "Enough to Make Your Skin Crawl:" Goat Skin Disease
- Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service: External Parasites of Goats
- Langston University, American Institute for Goat Research: Meat Goat Herd Health – Common Diseases
- Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences: Healthy Living with Goats
- Pygmy Goat World: Hair Loss in Pygmy Goats
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.