Listeriosis, Circling Disease

First let me say, Listeriosis and Goat Polio are two of the most often confused diseases in goats.  Their causes are different; their treatments are different; but symptoms are similar with improper feeding being a major contributing factor of both diseases.  Listeriosis occurs most often in adult goats over six months of age, but can occur in goats of any age.  Listeriosis caused by the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has two forms – Encephalitic and Septicemic.  It is more prevalent in the spring and winter months.  Listeriosis in either form is a life-threatening disease and is more difficult to treat than Goat Polio.  Humans can become infected with Listeriosis and is associated with the consumption of contaminated meat products, as well as milk and cheese obtained from milk. Humans can also contract Listeriosis by handling fetuses and specimens from aborted animals, and newborns of infected does.  Always take appropriate safety precautions when dealing with a goat suspected of Listeriosis.

Listeriosis is usually contracted by ingestion of contaminated water or feed, or by fecal shedding and transfer of the bacteria.  Infection may also occur by inhalation and is transferable through the milk of a doe.  Excretion in milk is usually intermittent but may persist for many months.  Infected milk is a hazard because the organism may survive certain forms of pasteurization. The bacterium of the encephalitic form once ingested migrates quickly to the brain and causes inflammation, while in the septicemic form the bacterium spreads into the bloodstream and infects organs.  Infected animals can die within 24-48 hours if treatment is not begun quickly or if improperly treated.


Symptoms usually will appear 10-14 days after initial contact with bacteria.  Septicemic is seen more in monogastric species such as Humans and Swine and is not usually a strong culprit within a goat herd.  Symptoms most common are diarrhea, abortion, stillbirths, and death.  Always wear gloves when handling fetuses and material from aborted does, or newborns from an infected doe.  Pregnant women should not handle fetuses or aborted material due to the possibility of contagion.

Encephalitic form is usually seen in ruminants and is also considered to be a sexually transmitted disease in goats. (Highlighted symptoms are those that differ from Goat Polio) but if in doubt, treat for both illnesses.

-      may seem depressed or disoriented

-      may lean against stationary objects

-      feet walk to the side while goat is walking forward (seen most often in infected adult goats)

-      propel themselves into corners or stand with head against walls, trees or fences

-      have a loose or floppy lip

-      have a decreased appetite

-      have decreased milk production

-      may have a fever

-      circle in one direction

-      head tilting to the flank

-      have seizures

-      show signs of facial nerve paralysis (on one side)

-      lack of menace response or ability to close eye on side of paralysis

-      ear may droop on side of paralysis (seen most often in infected kids)

-      increased continuous salivation or drooling (seen most often in infected kids)

-          -  inability to open mouth or chew cud/cud stuck in mouth (seen most often in infected kids)

-      slack jaw

-      impaired swelling

-      death


Recovery depends on early, aggressive antibiotic treatment. If signs of encephalitis are severe, death usually occurs despite treatment.   Animals suspected of infection should be isolated from the herd.  Sick goats should be taken off grain feed and increase hays and forage browse.

  1. Administer Penicillin G at 1cc/15# SQ or 6cc/100# SQ every six hours until 24hrs after all symptoms have disappeared.
    • Follow with tetracycline orally at 11.5 mg/lb per day for 3 consecutive days.
  2. Administer adult goats over six months in age Day 1: 6cc/100lb Dexamethasone IM; Day 2- 5cc; Day 3- 4cc; Day 4 – 3cc; Day 5 – 2cc; Day 6 – 1cc.  May cause abortions in does.
  3. Intravenous fluid/tube feeding electrolyte therapy is recommended.
    • If a doe has Listeriosis, feed kids pasteurized colostrums, or cow’s milk.
  4. B1 Thiamine and B12 at 5cc/100# orally 1xd for two weeks
  5. Add Probiotic Power to feed after symptoms are improving and goat is eating again.


Discard spoiled/moldy feed and hay.  Maintain proper sanitation of pens, water supply, pasture, and housing.  Feeders should be maintained off the ground at no less than chin height of goat.  No sudden changes in feed or diet.  Wild birds may act as carriers for the disease, try to keep them away from the herd as much as possible.