Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) is a viral disease that affects goats. It is caused by the Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV), which belongs to the lentivirus family. CAE primarily affects the joints and central nervous system of goats, leading to chronic inflammation, arthritis, and neurological disorders.

Etiology of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis:

The Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV) is a retrovirus that primarily infects goats. It is closely related to the Maedi-Visna Virus (MVV) that affects sheep. CAEV is transmitted through body fluids such as milk, colostrum, and semen. The virus can survive for an extended period in the environment and can infect goats of all ages.


The signs and symptoms of CAE can vary depending on the affected system. The disease can be classified into three forms:


The most common form of CAE is arthritis, which primarily affects the joints. The infected goats may exhibit swollen and painful joints, lameness, and difficulty in movement. The joints, especially the knees, hocks, and carpal joints, may show chronic inflammation and thickening of the synovial membranes.


In some cases, CAEV can cause encephalitis, leading to neurological symptoms. The infected goats may display abnormal behavior, such as circling, head pressing, muscle tremors, incoordination, and paralysis. These neurological signs may progress over time, leading to severe debilitation.


In rare instances, CAEV can cause pneumonia in infected goats. The goats may show respiratory signs such as coughing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge.


The transmission of CAE primarily occurs through direct contact between infected and susceptible goats. Here are the details of CAE transmission:

  • Vertical Transmission: The most common route of transmission is from an infected doe (female goat) to her offspring during pregnancy, birth, or through the consumption of infected milk. The virus can cross the placenta and infect the fetus. Infected kids can also acquire the virus from ingesting the virus present in the colostrum or milk of infected does.
  • Horizontal Transmission: CAE can also spread horizontally between goats through various means:
  • Direct Contact: Close contact between infected goats and susceptible goats can result in the transmission of the virus. This can occur through activities such as nose-to-nose contact, mounting, or sharing of feed and water troughs.
  • Contaminated Equipment: The virus can persist on equipment, such as needles, tattooing instruments, or dehorning tools, which can serve as a source of transmission if used on multiple goats without proper disinfection.
  • Ingestion of Virus: Goats can become infected by ingesting the virus-contaminated material, such as feed, water, or bedding, that has been contaminated by the bodily fluids (e.g., saliva, nasal secretions) of infected goats.
  • Breeding: Bucks (male goats) infected with CAEV can transmit the virus to susceptible does during mating.
  • Indirect Transmission: Although less common, CAE can be transmitted indirectly through fomites, which are objects or surfaces that can harbor and transfer the virus. These can include contaminated clothing, boots, or vehicles used in handling or transporting infected goats.
  • It is important to note that not all goats infected with CAEV show clinical signs of the disease. Some goats may be carriers and can transmit the virus without displaying any symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to implement proper management practices and biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of CAE, such as isolating infected animals, practicing good hygiene, and avoiding the use of shared equipment without proper disinfection.
  • Regular testing and culling of infected animals from the herd can also be implemented as control measures to minimize the transmission and impact of CAE.


  1. Serological testing: Blood samples can be collected and tested for the presence of CAEV antibodies. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is commonly used for serological testing. The presence of CAEV-specific antibodies indicates exposure or infection with the virus. However, it is important to note that serological testing alone cannot differentiate between active infection and exposure.
  2. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): In cases where confirmation of active infection is required, PCR can be used to detect the presence of CAEV genetic material (RNA or DNA) in samples such as blood, synovial fluid, or tissues. PCR can provide a definitive diagnosis of active infection.
  3. Histopathology: In severe cases of CAE, post-mortem examination and histopathological analysis of tissues, such as joint tissues or brain tissue, can be performed to observe characteristic lesions associated with the disease. This method can provide conclusive evidence of CAE.

It’s important to consult with a veterinarian experienced in goat health to accurately diagnose CAE. They will consider the clinical signs, conduct appropriate tests, and interpret the results to provide a definitive diagnosis and guide further management strategies for the affected goats.


Prevention is crucial in controlling CAE. Here are some measures that can be taken:

  1. Test and cull: Regular testing of goats for CAEV is recommended. Infected animals should be identified and culled from the herd to prevent the spread of the virus.
  2. Isolation: New goats should be isolated and tested before introducing them to the herd to prevent the introduction of infected animals.
  3. Separate kids: Kids should be separated from infected does at birth to minimize the risk of transmission through colostrum and milk.
  4. Pasteurize colostrum and milk: Pasteurization can help destroy the virus present in milk and colostrum, reducing the risk of transmission to newborn kids.

VACCINATION  of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis:

Currently, there is no commercially available vaccine for CAE. However, research is ongoing to develop an effective vaccine.

It is important to consult with a veterinarian for specific prevention and control strategies tailored to your herd’s needs, as the management practices may vary depending on the region and individual circumstances.

TREATMENT of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis:

Symptomatic treatment: Treatment mainly focuses on managing the symptoms associated with CAE.

  1. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to alleviate pain and reduce joint inflammation in goats with arthritis. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage and duration of treatment.
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  3. Supportive care: Providing proper nutrition, housing, and supportive care is important to maintain the overall health of infected goats. This includes a balanced diet, clean water, and comfortable living conditions to minimize stress and enhance their immune system.

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