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Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV) has been lurking around the goat world for many years, but many goat keepers still aren’t familiar with it. It’s an important virus to know about in case you ever have to deal with it yourself.
What is BRSV?
As the name implies, BRSV is found predominantly in cattle, and is a respiratory virus. However, this virus is also found in sheep and goats. Many people in the goat world recognize it as a “show” disease, as it is common for it to run strong in show herds due to the stress on the animals, and their repeated exposure to other goats that could be carrying the virus. This virus is also found in the soil however, and can be introduced by bringing in new goats, so it is almost impossible to avoid.
It is highly contagious, and is passed along through oral secretions i.e. saliva and phlegm. This means sharing water bucks, bowls and air space where they can be coughed or sneezed on can lead to transmission of the virus. It is most prevalent in hot and humid conditions.
One of the main symptoms of BRSV in goats is a very high fever. This can be accompanied by nasal discharge, not eating, lethargy, heavy breathing, and general uncomfortable appearance. Unfortunately it can be hard to diagnose, as it presents with similar symptoms to several other respiratory infections.
Treatment and Management
Because BRSV is a virus, there is no treatment, except supportive care and management. Keeping high fevers down is key, as this can quickly dehydrate and deplete a goat. Banamine given every 12 hours is an effective way to bring down fevers. Devil’s Claw is an all natural treatment that can also be effective with pain and fever management. Clipping and bathing with cool water is another good option if the weather is warm enough for them not to take a chill. Always provide water that contains electrolytes, and drench them if needed to keep them hydrated.
For supportive care, Echinacea, or a good herbal immune support blend containing Echinacea can help. If the affected goat isn’t eating, a drench with Nutri-Drench or Power Punch can help to keep their energy up to help combat the virus.
Try to quarantine any goats that are affected by the virus. This won’t always help to stop the spread, but it will keep the affected goats from being bullied and harassed in their weakened state, leading to more stress on their systems.
Most veterinarians are recommending vaccinating yearly against BRSV. The intranasal vaccine Inforce 3 and the injectable Bovi Shield Gold 5 has been shown to be highly effective for use in goats. These will not necessarily stop them from getting the virus, but will help to limit the severity of the illness. Please consult your vet for dosage recommendations, as they are both off label for goats.
Important Points to Note
- Because BRSV is a virus, antibiotics will not assist in treating it. The virus will work it’s way through the goat’s system within a few days and resolve on it’s own. However, BRSV does open the doors to a secondary respiratory infection such as pneumonia or shipping fever.
- Once you have an outbreak of BRSV it can come back several times a few weeks apart
- BRSV in goats can be fatal, especially in very young goats, or those with compromised immune symptoms. Manage and monitor all symptoms carefully.
- Be sure to mitigate risk of BRSV by keeping stress low for your herd, and making sure you have adequate ventilation during warm, humid weather.