Sore Mouth

Sore mouth, Orf, Scabby Mouth, Contagious ecthyma, Pustular dermatitis, Malignant Aphtha

Sore mouth is a viral infection caused by a poxvirus (orf virus).  While it is highly contagious within a goat herd it is not a major cull issue.  Sore mouth is far more manageable than many other illnesses that a goat herd might encounter.  It is also transmittable from goat to human and proper safety precautions should be taken when treating an infected goat.  Sore mouth usually runs its course within 3-4 weeks. The main concern with sore mouth is because it infects areas of the mouth it can cause severe discomfort, and goats may stop eating and drinking.  Young kids infected with sore mouth are at higher risk of death because of this and may need to be tube fed until the virus has run its course.  Boer goats seem to be highly susceptible to sore mouth virus and get more severe infections.

Goats can become infected by coming into contact with the virus from shedding scabs that have contaminated bedding, feed, the ground, or by direct contact with infected animals. Vaccinating a virus-free herd will infect the herd with the virus because it is a live virus vaccine.  Once a goat has had the sore mouth virus, they may build up a natural immunity to it.  However, because there are different strains of the virus, it is possible for the goat to become infected again, usually several years apart from first infection. Secondary infections of the virus are usually less severe than first infection.

Humans can become infected by the virus through contact with an infected animal, usually by   not taking proper safety precautions such as wearing gloves when bottle feeding, tube feeding, shearing, petting, handling infected equipment, and through an open cut or sore.  Those who become infected from sore mouth usually show lesions or blisters on their hands.  The infection may be painful but will clear up within two months and is not transferable to other humans.


Quarantine all new goats for a minimum of six weeks.  Do not bring a goat infected with sore mouth or a goat from a herd known to have a prior infection into your herd.


Symptoms begin to appear 2-3 days after initial contact with virus.  At onset, blisters or pustules appear and then become thick, crusty scabs which when pulled or coming off tend to be bloody underneath.  Sores are usually found on the lips, nose, and mouth, but may also appear on the ears, lower legs, genitals, and teats.  Secondary infections may develop such as staph and mastitis, as well as rumen upset due to lack of proper diet during infection.  In severe infections, maggot or blowfly infestation may occur.  Foot and Mouth disease, Pearmouth, goat pox, and bluetongue resemble sore mouth infection, but FMD has not been seen in the US since the 30’s.  View pictures of Sore Mouth.


Always wear rubber gloves when treating sore mouth, preferably ones that go up to the elbow.  Viruses are not treatable with antibiotics, and antibiotics should only be used to treat a secondary infection.  Do NOT remove scabs from an infected goat.  Doing so will increase likelihood of spreading the virus to the handler and promotes scarring.  There is no treatment for Sore mouth, you can only make the goat more comfortable and aid in the healing of the sores.  Apply Gentian Violet to the sores – this is found or ordered through local drugstore.  This is an ole’ timer’s remedy and not only helps heal the lesions but also deters secondary infections.  If unavailable use an antibacterial ointment.  Vaccinating an infected herd may reduce symptoms and healing time, but has not been proven to protect a herd from becoming infected.  A B1/B12 regimen should be used to help the goat stay active and help fight off secondary infections.  Probios may be needed if the goat goes off feed.  Tube feeding may also be required especially in kids affected with the virus.  Horse fly spray can help deter flys from infecting the goats with maggot infestation.

Show Goats – IMO if you have goats you show and have had sore mouth in your herd, it is best not to show your goats in the future.  Goats can be carriers of the virus and show no symptoms but still be contagious to other goats.  IMO it is irresponsible to bring a goat to a public arena where it could possibly infect other goats.  With that said, shows will allow previously infected herds to show their goats if they have been vaccinated two months prior to show.