My practice has several small ruminant herds in it. We see a few cases each year of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) or Infectious Leukoencephalomyelitis. This disease is devastating to the animal it affects. CAE is usually seen in young goats. The most important thing to remember is there are no effective treatments for CAE. Prevention is the only way to control this syndrome.
A virus causes this disease and there are two different forms. The first form, the neurological form, is usually seen in kids that are two to six months old. The second form, the polyarthritis form, occurs in kids six months old and older.
The polyarthritis form has a slow onset. There are episodes of clinical signs and then they may appear to be fine. The joints are affected with inflammation and then may appear to be normal. The most commonly affected joint is the carpal joint. However, other joints that can be affected are the stifle, hock, hip and neck. As the syndrome progresses the joints become enlarged and the kid losses weight. The joints will lose their range of motion and become painful. The most severely affected animals may become recumbent and others may be seen walking on their knees. Does that are affected may develop hard udders.
The neurological form usually affects the younger goats. The clinical signs are are ataxia, paresis of two or all four limbs or paralysis on one side. A head tilt is often seen. Tremors can also be seen in animals affected with the neurological form. Vision can also be affected resulting in blindness. The papillary light response is slower than normal. Reflexes can be affected from one extreme to the other, slow to hyperreflexive. The neurological signs seen are dependent on the lesion in the spinal cord. Besides the neurological signs, one may see fever, joint involvement, weight loss and/or fast breathing.
Diagnosis is made by the pathology in the central nervous system and joints along with clinical and serological findings.
Prevention is essential for control. In order to prevent CAE from affecting kids you must know if a doe is infected. If the herd has infected does, we encourage the removal of that animal from the rest of the herd. If the animal is of great value, then the kids must be removed from the doe at birth to keep her from spreading CAE to the kid. The kid should then be fed pasteurized colostrum. These are the best techniques for controlling the spread of CAE.
Dr. Frankie Bowers, DVM, MS practices at Animal Clinic of the Ozarks in Ozark, Mo.