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Professional Version

Epiphysitis in Goats

(Bent Leg, Windswept Legs)


Evelyn MacKay

, DVM, Texas A&M University

Reviewed/Revised Sep 2022 | Modified Oct 2022
Topic Resources

Epiphysitis may result from imbalance in the calcium-to-phosphorus concentration ratio. It occurs in young, rapidly growing kids (more often in males than in females) and in young does in late pregnancy or in the early stages of their first lactation. These does are young (eg, 12 months), extremely heavy milkers, or carrying twins or triplets. Epiphysitis is sometimes compounded by rickets Rickets in Animals Rickets is a disorder affecting the skeleton of growing animals. Primary causes are insufficient dietary phosphorus or calcium, an inappropriate ratio between these minerals in the diet, or... read more .

Conditions that have been implicated in its cause include an excess of dietary calcium with a calcium-to-phosphorus concentration ratio of >1.4:1 (generally >1.8:1), excess protein intake, excess dietary iron, indoor housing of kids, or lack of vitamin D due to prolonged overcast weather and low vitamin D levels in the feed. Carotene has an anti-vitamin D effect. Vitamin D has poor stability in prepared feed, especially when mixed with minerals. Alfalfa is high in calcium (1.4% calcium to 0.2% phosphorus) and protein. Owners frequently feed kids milk for prolonged periods because of a lack of commercial outlets for goat milk.

Clinical Findings and Diagnosis of Epiphysitis in Goats

Epiphysitis starts with lateral or medial bowing of one or both radii. Later changes may consist of lateral deviation of the digits on the forelimbs or hind limbs, lameness and reluctance to walk, an arched back, and soft swelling and pain in the carpal, metacarpophalangeal, tarsal, and metatarsophalangeal joints.

Diagnosis of epiphysitis can be confirmed with radiography.

Treatment and Control of Epiphysitis in Goats

Once the probable cause or causes are identified, the diet should be corrected and the appropriate supplement given—usually injectable vitamin D or phosphorus or oral balanced calcium and phosphorus supplements.

Predisposing factors also must be corrected. The diet of growing kids should be changed to slow growth rate. The mating of young does < 7 months old should be discouraged, and buck kids should be separated from doe kids by 3 months to avoid unplanned matings. The diet for young does in milk with limb deformities should be corrected to allow for normal bone growth. Proper nutritional management stops limb deformities from worsening, and such deformities self-correct over time in most does.

Hooves should be trimmed to maintain as even and normal a weight-bearing surface as possible. Normal conformation may not be achievable in severe, chronic cases; however, regular trimming should be encouraged to maintain comfort and ideal hoof growth patterns.

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