In Summary
  • He had bought most of the animals from other areas of Kajiado County to ensure there was minimal change in the animals’ environmental condition.
  • In addition, one of the goats had diarrhoea. All the goats had elevated body temperature or fever and higher than normal breathing rates. One goat had muffled heart sounds.
  • The disease is spread by the Amblyoma species of ticks. It is caused by a bacterium known as Rickettsia ruminantium. Immature and adult ticks are infected with the bacteria when they feed on infected or carrier animals.
  • To effectively control heartwater, farmers should treat their animals against ticks with chemicals once per week.

About two months ago, Isaac who rears goats in Kitengela came to my office in Nairobi with three goats in his covered pick-up truck. He found me at the reception just finishing off with another client.

Isaac looked disturbed and eager to have his case attended to. “My goats have been dying in the last two months and treatment does not appear to help,” he told me. He further wondered why he kept getting strange cases on his farm.

I recalled the last time Isaac had visited me he had some chicken that were unable to stand though they generally looked fine. I diagnosed them with severe roundworm infestation in the intestines and two of them died after treatment.

The worms were so many that they caused intestinal blockage, when they were killed by the medicine. However, the rest of the chicken recovered.

Isaac is still new to livestock farming and he has yet to learn a lot. I assured him the problem in the goats was unlikely to have anything to do with the worms in the chicken but I would thoroughly interrogate any possible linkage.

At his car, Isaac gave me the full history of the disease in his goats. He had 100 Small East African breed goats of various ages on his farm.

He had bought most of the animals from other areas of Kajiado County to ensure there was minimal change in the animals’ environmental conditions.

Around June this year, he bought five male Gala bucks from Isiolo aiming to improve the average body size of his goats. However, in July some of the goats started getting sick.

It started with two goats which showed poor appetite, weakness and getting startled by loud noise. One of the goats died soon after showing poor appetite while the other one started going round in circles before dying.

None of the goats from Isiolo was affected. The first two goats died without treatment and Isaac did not get a doctor to carry out post-mortem examination.

One of his friends, who also keeps goats, told him the animals sometimes die of strange illnesses but he could stay without losing another goat for a long time.

CLINICAL EXAMINATION

His friend’s advice did not hold and within two weeks, three other goats showed similar symptoms.

The goats were treated but they also died. One of the goats had stiff legs and would sometimes topple over and keep pedalling the legs as though riding an imaginary bicycle.

The three goats in the car started showing signs similar to the others two days before. Isaac decided to bring them for a second opinion. I examined the goats and confirmed the signs of disease as Isaac had described.

In addition, one of the goats had diarrhoea. All the goats had elevated body temperature or fever and higher than normal breathing rates. One goat had muffled heart sounds.

One of the goats lay on the side, kept pedalling and would get startled on being touched or when I tapped the floor of the car.

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