Toxoplasmosis in Goats

By Barry Whitworth, DVM

Abortions in small ruminants is caused by a variety of microorganisms. One microorganism that is found throughout the world and can cause reproductive issues in small ruminants is Toxoplasma gondii. T. gondii is one of the most common parasites of small ruminants. In addition to small ruminants, this parasite infects many other animals and humans. Cats play a central role in maintaining and transmitting the parasite. Although sheep get toxoplasmosis, the disease is much more severe in goats.

Cats are the definitive host of T. gondii. Cats become infected with the microorganism when they ingest rodents, uncooked meat scraps or aborted infected fetuses and/or placentas from sheep and goats. Usually, cats do not show any clinical symptoms of the disease. The parasite replicates in cats and is passed in their feces. Feed, hay, grass, and water contaminated with cat feces is the source of infection for small ruminants. Once the organism is ingested by a goat, it enters the blood and spreads to other tissues. If the animal is pregnant, the parasite will invade the placenta and spread to the fetus which may result in death of the fetus, abortions, stillbirths, or birth of weak kids. Infected goats may give birth to normal kids as well.

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