Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAE)

What Is It and Why Should I Care?

Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) is a contagious viral disease of goats. The disease is typically spread from mother to kid through the ingestion of colostrum or milk. CAE virus may also be spread among adult goats through contact with body secretions including blood and feces of infected goats.

There are 5 major forms of CAE in goats: arthritis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), pneumonia, mastitis, and chronic wasting. The arthritic form of the disease is most common in adult goats, while the encephalitic form is most common in kids. The chronic wasting form of the disease can occur either seperately or in addition to any other form of CAE.

Where Is the Disease Found?

North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand

Can the Disease Affect People?

CAE is not a public health threat.

What are Signs of the Disease?

Arthritic CAE

  • Lameness (may be sudden)
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Abnormal posture
  • Reluctance to rise
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen joints
  • Walking on knees

Encephalitic CAE

  • Incoordination
  • Inappropriate placement of limbs
  • Progressive paralysis
  • Depression
  • Blindness
  • Head tilt
  • Seizures
  • Death

Pneumonic CAE

  • Deep, chronic cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss

Mastitic CAE

  • Hard, swollen udder(s)
  • Decreased milk production

In addition, CAE virus may also cause a chronic wasting disease in which goats continue to lose weight although appetite is unaffected.

Can It Be Treated?

There is no specific treatment for CAE. However, goats may be given supportive care including pain medication and antibiotics for opportunistic bacterial infections. Even with supportive care, the encephalitic form is usually fatal. Any goat suspected of having CAE should be reported to the State Veterinarians or USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge immediately.

How Can the Disease Be Prevented?

CAE infection and spread may be prevented by purchasing only test-negative animals or maintaining a closed herd and removing kids from infected does immediately after birth. Kids should receive only heat-treated colostrum and pasteurized milk or milk replacer. Individuals testing positive for the CAE virus should be removed from the herd.

Where Can I Find Additional Information?