Friday, March 28, 2014

My thoughts on mastitis

I have had a couple of cases of mastitis on my farm in the past. Mastitis is a general term for an infection in the udder. Most mastitis is caused by Staph bacteria but it can be caused by other pathogenic bacteria. Staph is the same bacteria that cause MRSA in hospitals. Staph lives on the skin and circulates in the body. Sometimes it gets where it shouldn’t be and causes a problem. Staph inside the udder is a problem because milk is a perfect media for growing bacteria and Staph can proliferate wildly in there. This proliferation causes the symptoms associated with mastitis. 

Topical Staph infection is seen as little whitehead pimples covering the udder skin. The pimples don’t normally cause problems other than looking alarming. Topical infection normally occurs when the udder is moist due to wet living conditions or through milking technique. This infection can be cleared up by carefully washing the udder before and after milking with an antiseptic solution. FightBac teat spray works well when sprayed on the pimples. Resist the urge to pop the pimples because this will just spread the bacteria. Be careful to wash your hands in between goats when milking in order to not spread the infection.

Staph abscesses are not uncommon in goats prone to mastitis infection. A Staph abscess is a localized infection and usually presents as hard ball between the size of a pea and a golf ball, located just under the skin of the udder. Sometimes the abscess will burst and drain. I have had luck with carefully opening Staph abscesses with a large needle and then expelling the pus into a paper towel. I wear disposable gloves, spray the abscess with disinfectant before and after opening, and use a sterile needle. The gloves and anything that has pus on it is burned in order to get rid of the contamination. Once the abscess is cleaned, I take a tube of ToDay mastitis treatment or SpectraMast mastitis treatment and fill the abscess with this antibiotic. I repeat the cleaning and antibiotic treatment until the abscess is dried up. 

Staph mastitis occurs when the bacteria are inside one or both sides of the udder. It is very important to keep a CMT (California Mastitis Kit) on hand during milking season in order to test the goats weekly for mastitis. This way you can track any changes in the milk and make sure that the goats do not have subclinical (non-symptomatic) cases of mastitis. Sometimes only one side of the udder is infected. In any infections, it is imperative that you do not spread the bacteria from infected udder halves to uninfected ones. Make sure the infected udder side is the LAST thing you touch when milking. Do not go from infected to uninfected. To treat mastitis inside the udder, the goat will need infusions of an appropriate antibiotic. Not all mastitis is killed by ToDay (the most commercially available mastitis antibiotic). To find the correct antibiotic for the mastitis, it is essential to get a culture of the infected milk done by a vet. Most veterinarians who are familiar with cow dairys are capable of culturing goat milk. A house call may not be necessary to get a milk culture done. Some vets will allow you to drop off clean, fresh milk samples for testing at their office. Having a vet culture the milk is important because they can pinpoint which antibiotic the bacteria will be killed by and will be able to write a prescription for the right one. Many strains of Staph bacteria are resistant to ToDay so using it without testing will not cure the problem. Follow the directions on the box to treat your goat.

Sometimes mastitis can be systemic and not isolated to the udder. I have had two cases on my farm where goats became feverish, stopped eating and were sick from systemic mastitis. The infection had moved from their udder into the rest of their body to make them sick. I treated this by giving the goat shots of Penicillin, along with teat infusions of mastitis antibiotic. If your goat is showing signs of fever and not eating, look at their udder first. They may have systemic mastitis and will need not only their udder treated, but the rest of them treated as well.

Most goats who suffer from any of these types of mastitis will be prone to recurrent infections throughout their lifetime. Mastitis signals that the goat carries some form of pathogenic bacteria, typically Staph, on their skin or in their surroundings. Some goats have udders shaped in ways that make them more susceptible to mastitis. Goats are more prone to mastitis when they have teats very close to the ground, or with loose teat sphincters that leak, or with floppy teats that can get stepped on. They can also re-infect themselves from time to time. If you have a goat with multiple cases of mastitis, it may be a very good idea to retire her from breeding in order to save her from future infections.

When drying off a goat who has had mastitis during her lactation, it is a good idea to treat her with a mastitis dry treatment. A dry treatment is an antibiotic that is formulated to be infused into the udder and left there during the dry period. It helps to clear up any bacteria that may be trapped in the udder after drying off. ToMorrow is a commercially available dry treatment. A dry treatment not only helps while the goat is not lactating, but it can help prevent mastitis within the first few days of freshening. One of my goats freshened with mastitis because I didn't use a dry treatment on her. Her udder was hot, painful to the touch, and producing chunky infected milk right after kidding. I was lucky I had frozen colostrum on hand because all of her colostrum was not useable until the infection was cured. 

No comments: