So what is the big deal? Well….Toxo is one little bug that can cause big, big problems. People that are not pregnant and that have good immune systems generally just get slight flu like symptoms and don’t even know it was the bug. It doesn’t really go away, it goes to your brain tissue and some in your muscle tissue and just sits there for years. If you get AIDS or Cancer and are immunosuppressed for some reason, the little critters can come out of their “cysts” and cause severe problems or even death. The biggest problem is in pregnant women or young children with immature immune systems. The organism will infect unborn babies and cause severe birth defects or miscarriages. It can get into the retina of the eyes and cause blindness or it can get into the brain and cause neurologic disease in children.
So why are we concerned with it in goats? It does many of the same things as it does to people! If the doe gets infected while she is pregnant, the organism can multiply in the placenta and infect the fetus. This can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, weak kids and kids with neurologic disease. Occasionally, but not often, the infected doe will run a fever, but most show no clinical signs other than abortion. If the doe has a bad immune system she may develop a neurological form of the disease. Is there another reason we worry about this in goats? Yes—infectious organisms can be passed in the milk and will also be in the muscle of the goat. As I said earlier, adults that have a good immune system could get infected by drinking the milk but they will show no or only very mild signs of a problem. However, infants or immune compromised people that drink infected goat milk could come down with very severe disease. Pasteurization or boiling of the milk will kill the organism. Goat meat that is infected could also infect a human and that is one reason to cook your meat until the juices run clear. Meat does not have to be well done but the juices must not be pink or red, they must be clear.
How can we diagnosis this? Because most adult does do not show symptoms it is hard to diagnose it in the adult animal. Diagnosis is most reliable if the aborted fetus and the placenta are sent to the lab. If your doe aborts, do NOT let her eat the placenta and do NOT throw it away. The placenta is the key to diagnosing many causes of abortion (not just toxoplasma.) Wrap everything up, including the aborted fetus, and put it in a plastic bag in a refrigerator. Most of the time it can actually be frozen but not always. Until your vet examines the tissues and determines which tests need to be run, it is best to refrigerate. Remember, you cannot refrigerate it forever without the tissue breaking down. Examination and laboratory analysis need to be done within 2-3 days maximum. Blood tests can be run on a weak kid but the blood must be drawn BEFORE the kid gets colostrum. Antibodies may be passed from the doe to the kid in the colostrum that would make the test positive. These antibodies would be present in the doe if she had ever in her life been infected. If she was infected BEFORE the pregnancy the Toxo will not cause a problem. The problem is only if she is infected during the pregnancy. Therefore, antibodies passed to the kid will show in blood tests but do NOT mean that Toxo was the problem.