Goat Diseases and Women’s Health

Episode 124
For the Love of Goats

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Can goats threaten your health if you’re a pregnant woman? If you are a woman, there are some specific precautions you should be taking with goats giving birth and also when using drugs for synchronization.

Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and a reproductive specialist, is talking about zoonotic diseases that are of special concern to pregnant women, including toxoplasmosis, chlamydia, campylobacter, brucellosis, and q-fever. We talk about wearing gloves, a face mask, and even eye protection to protect yourself from unexpected splashes of goat body fluids, which can contain infectious organisms that can threaten pregnancy and the unborn child.

In addition to diseases, women of all reproductive stages can be affected by drugs like Lutalyse, Estrumate, and CIDRs when they come in contact with skin or mucus membranes. The potential for negative outcomes is much worse, however, for pregnant women.

One of the things we forgot to mention in this episode is that you should never perform mouth-to-mouth on a newborn baby goat because of the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease, a topic that we did discuss in our episode on Infectious Causes of Abortions in goats.

For more information, you can also check out our episodes on Zoonotic Diseases.

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Transcript – Goat Diseases and Women’s Health

Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:17
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode. This episode is especially important for women and anyone who knows women, who raise goats. We are going to be talking today specifically about women’s health issues related to raising goats because there are some very important things that you should be aware of so that you don’t wind up getting sick. Today we are joined by Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Thanks for joining us again, Dr. Stewart.

Jamie Stewart 0:50
Thank you for having me again.

Deborah Niemann 0:52
So you may remember last year, Dr. Stewart and I talked about infectious causes of abortions in goats. And some of those are also zoonotic. So we’re going to talk about that a little bit today. In fact, let’s just go ahead and get started with that specific topic. One of the things that I think every pregnant woman in America knows about, like as soon as you get pregnant, you go to the doctor or midwife, your first visit, they ask, do you have cats? And the reason they ask that is because of the possibility of toxoplasmosis. And most people think like that’s where it ends. You know, if you don’t have cats then you’re good. But this is also something that you could get from your goats. Can you talk about that, Dr. Stewart?

Jamie Stewart 1:33
Absolutely. So toxoplasmosis, yes, we always think about it as related to cleaning the litter box. And it’s always a good excuse to get your significant other to clean the litter box when you’re pregnant. But it’s also, as we talked about in the previous podcast, about how it’s one of the important abortifacients and very common in our goats. And especially if you have barn cats around, that tends to be how it gets spread a lot. But certainly it can also, if you have the midst of an abortion storm, it can also be spread through just the placenta itself. So the goats that are all nosy go up to the placenta, they start ingesting it, and that’s why they can pick it up. And the same way that the goats can pick it up through handling the placenta and nosing through it, when we go out and we do things like assist with lambings or help her clean her placenta or even just clearing the placenta or dealing with the neonates that just came out and reviving them, anytime we’re handling those, that’s going to be putting us at a risk of toxoplasmosis. And so one of the biggest things is, you know, if you’re dealing with a situation where one of your does has aborted is you want to be very careful about handling those, especially if you’re pregnant. When you’re not pregnant, it’s a little bit less of a concern, but you should always practice good biosecurity. But when you’re pregnant, it might be a situation where, you know, you would think twice about, ‘Okay am I going to be the one to go handle that or do I send somebody else out to go collect those remains and clean out that area?’

Jamie Stewart 3:12
And I talk to my students about this a lot because in veterinary medicine, we have a lot of women that are coming through the profession. And it’s especially important because that’s what we get called out for is for abortions and kiddings and things like that where we’re going to be kind of in the depth of all of these fetal membranes and fluids and things like that. And so we need to make sure we’re protecting ourselves. So I talk to students about this a lot. And, you know, if you’ve got a male partner at your clinic to make sure they’re going out or if you’ve got a male partner at home, make sure he’s going and cleaning those out so you have minimal contact, because it’s not even just through contact of the hands. It’s- you know, you get contact on your hands and it gets on your clothes and you touch it. And then that somehow ends up, you know, you ingest it without even noticing or we have our phones out all the time to take pictures so we can send it to the vet. So any time you do something like that, you’re contaminating that device. If you’re writing- if you have a pen out and you’re writing something down so- that we might not even think about it as being a potential source of contamination. Then we grab that phone or that pen later after we’ve washed our hands and we think we’ve done everything correctly, but we haven’t. So the least amount of handling that you can get with those aborted remains and sometimes they can be born normal and still be contaminated with some of the- you know, we’ll talk about a few other abortifacients, too. So you always have to be mindful of that, especially if you’re pregnant.

Deborah Niemann 4:38
Yeah. And so you should definitely be wearing gloves whenever you are handling newborns, definitely when they’re wet. At what point is it okay to be handling them without gloves?

Jamie Stewart 4:50
I would say probably by the next day after the mom’s sufficiently cleaned them off, and the placentas have been cleared out and they’re dry, you’re starting to get safer, but absolutely still at least wash your hands every time after handling them.

Deborah Niemann 5:06
Okay. So what about chlamydia? I know that’s a disease that a lot of people probably recognize that name also. How is that related to our goats?

Jamie Stewart 5:16
So chlamydia is another one that we consider zoonotic and not only zoonotic, but also something that we would be concerned about as causing abortions in humans. So, and I’ll just- I’ll go ahead and clump that one with our other common abortifacient that we’ll see, which is Campylobacter. And I’ll expand more upon that one later because there’s some important differences with it. So those are similar situations, as they can cause these late-term abortions and both of them are considered zoonotic and a risk for human women that are pregnant. So anytime you’re handling the fetuses- but with Campylobacter, we’re also concerned sometimes about the fecal spread of it too. So when you’re cleaning feces and things like that, we have to be mindful that that’s always a potential concern also.

Deborah Niemann 6:05
And then what are some of the differences between what you see with chlamydia and Campylobacter?

Jamie Stewart 6:10
So with both of them, you can see the issues with potential abortions or things like that. Campylobacter, kind of to expand upon that is we’ve got two main species of Campylobacter that will affect our doe population. So we’ve got Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter fetus subspecies fetus- or we just tend to call it Campylobacter fetus. And fetus is the one that we’ve mostly associated with causing abortions in the past and mostly thought about the concern of humans and abortifacients. However, we have diagnosed some abortion storms and goats that are caused by the Campylobacter jejuni which is the one that we typically associate with diarrhea in goats. However, we’ve found that it can cause abortion in them and if it can cause abortion in them, it can certainly cause abortion and reproductive failure in women too. So the Campylobacter is one that we’re concerned about not only throughout the breeding season, but also outside of the breeding season because of its potential to cause zoonoses and the fact that it can be present from the fecal oral spread as well.

Deborah Niemann 7:23
Okay. And then another disease that we talked about is brucellosis.

Jamie Stewart 7:29
Yes. And the good news about brucellosis is it’s mostly- the brucellosis that we would be concerned about is mostly eradicated in most areas of the United States, minus places like Yellowstone. So of lesser of a concern, but we always kind of think about it and kind of clump it with all of these zoonotic diseases. So in goats, they can get something like Brucella abortus if they’ve been co-housed with things like cattle. So those would be the ones that would most likely pick it up. Otherwise the other Brucella that we would commonly associate with raising goats is melitensis, which is not present in the US. So luckily that’s not of a concern here, but if you do live in another country, it might be of concern and certainly it’s another abortifacient. So again, handling those tissues, things like that. If you’re milking goats, that’s one that can get be present in the milk. So anytime you’re handling anything like that, you want to be mindful of the risk, especially again, if you’re a pregnant woman. Cause that’s one’s an important abortifacient also.

Deborah Niemann 8:37
Right. And then another disease that we had talked about was Q fever. What do you see with that?

Jamie Stewart 8:44
Yeah. So Q fever we typically don’t necessarily associate this one with women being pregnant, but anytime we have a disease that can cause a severe enough fever in a human, we definitely want to be mindful of the risk with our pregnant women because anything that causes a high enough fever will adversely affect babies. So that’s the one we know definitely will spread through milk. It’s not associated with abortion in the females, but if she has Q fever when she lambs, it’s something that- or sorry, kids, it can be something that’s spread through any of the bodily fluids. So again, you’re getting excessive exposure to the bodily fluids. So, you know, if you’re not pregnant, you can still get the Q fever part of it. And, you know, usually just, you have to get your antibiotics, but especially more of a concern when you’re pregnant and the fetus is getting exposed to those high temperatures too.

Deborah Niemann 9:39
Okay. And for most of these, well, for some of these, you could get clued in by the fact that the goat is giving birth to dead kids, to stillborns and stuff. But not always, right? Sometimes she might give birth to healthy kids, but still be carrying something. So you can’t assume that you’re safe just because your goat gave birth to healthy kids.

Jamie Stewart 10:00
Right. So even- Yeah, so if you are a pregnant woman and even if everything’s been going swimmingly for the whole kidding season, you do want to make sure that you’re protecting yourself and not even with just gloves. So you know, if you’re assisting with delivering kids and being in the thick of it, you want to- we always recommend at least wearing a mask too. So you know, if something splashes in your face. And some people also recommend eye protection too, because again, anytime you get something splashed through the eye, that’s a mucous membrane that something could technically get absorbed from. So we definitely want to make sure, if you’re a pregnant woman and you have to be doing this because nobody else is home, then make sure that you’re protecting yourself and you know, wearing a minimum of gloves and a mask. And then eye protection is even an added bonus.

Deborah Niemann 10:54
Yeah. It’s amazing. There have been times in my life on the farm where you get splashed in the face and you are not expecting it, you know. I mean, it’s just really at any time you could get splashed. So it’s something we always have to keep in mind as a possibility. So I’m really glad that you mentioned that. Now before your goats are even pregnant, there are some things that pregnant women or even women who are trying to get pregnant need to be aware of. And that would be like drugs for synchronization of a pregnancy. So like when you’re trying to get your goats pregnant, there are some drugs that you might use that could cause a problem for you if you’re pregnant.

Jamie Stewart 11:37
Yes. So the big drugs that I want to talk about are going to be our prostaglandins, which you’ll most commonly know as Lutalyse or Estrumate. So those fall into the same category of prostaglandin. And then we’ll also talk about the CIDR devices, which have a synthetic progesterone in them. And we use those again for helping to synchronize these females. So those are the big ones that we want to be concerned about. So the prostaglandins, again, you might notice these as something that you could potentially use in the late gestation period if you need to induce parturition in your goats, for whatever reason. We talk about it with things like pregnancy toxemia, or if we have concerns with a singleton that’s getting too big and she’s getting over her due date. And endogenously, it’s what is going to help terminate that pregnancy in a normal parturition process. So it’s present in the body for goats and it’s present in the body for humans too. So it’s the same mechanism. And so we use it during synchronization because what it does is it causes lysis of the structure on the ovary that’s helping to maintain pregnancy called the corpus luteum. So that corpus luteum is producing a whole bunch of progesterone and it’s going to help maintain that pregnancy. So that’s why we use prostaglandin when we’re synchronizing, and that’s why we call it short cycling is because if she’s in that- what we call the luteal phase where she’s not in estrus and we want to bring her into estrus sooner, we can give her that prostaglandin and Lyset-CL and bring her into estrus sooner.

Jamie Stewart 13:13
However, if you’re pregnant and you’re exposed to the prostaglandin, it’s going to do the same thing for you. So even if you’re not pregnant, if you accidentally self-inject yourself with prostaglandin or you splash it in your eye these are ones that we think of that can be getting absorbed transmucosally too, so even if you’re not pregnant it can absolutely mess up your cycle, it can cause cramping, it can cause- again if you’re trying to get pregnant, it can cause your cycle to become irregular. For the men out there that might be interested in listening, it can cause some cramping in them too, but probably not as severe because of the presence of the receptors, but for any women it’s definitely a big concern and any woman that’s pregnant. I don’t recommend handling it at all when you’re pregnant even with gloves. So if you’re not pregnant, I always tell my students put gloves on please just to make sure that it’s not getting on the hands and getting absorbed anywhere, and then if you are pregnant I just don’t recommend handling at all, I always recommend finding somebody else to come do your injections for you.

Jamie Stewart 14:18
Even as a veterinarian I don’t handle it when I’m pregnant, I will find somebody else, a student, a technician, someone who can come with me if that’s something that’s on my docket for the day to do and I have them handle that drug because again the issues with splashing, it’s- you could lose your entire pregnancy from that and it’s not it’s not worth the risk. With the CIDRs, a little bit less of a concern. CIDRs are not something that I will exactly not handle when I’m pregnant, I just use a little bit more caution and make sure that I’m wearing gloves and being mindful of what I’m doing with them, because again the the whole premise of the CIDR devices it is absorbed through mucosal surfaces we put them in the vagina and it basically- the progesterone from the device leaches through the membranes of the vagina to get into circulation so that’s the whole premise of them, so again they can get absorbed through our hands things like that ,and again, for non-pregnant females it’s probably not the progesterone is probably not going to do much for you, but I always recommend wearing gloves with it because it is a hormone. With pregnant humans, the concern might be exposure of the baby to an exogenous source of progesterone that we don’t know much about. Granted during pregnancy they’re already exposed to different types of progesterone, but our body’s in control of how they’re exposed to it and so it’s not a source that’s synthetically made. So if you accidentally touch it and rub against you, it’s probably nothing to be worried about, but just to be safe. Again as a pregnant woman, just make sure you’re wearing gloves when you’re handling that so that you don’t get any outside absorption.

Deborah Niemann 15:58
Excellent. Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything that women have to worry about if they’re postmenopausal with these things?

Jamie Stewart 16:08
Nothing really of concern that I can think of. The one thing I would think of- and this again might be if you live in a country outside of the United States, or if you somehow obtain drugs that are not necessarily from a veterinarian for breeding. So things like exogenous estrogens that some people will use for bringing them into estrus, it’s technically not legal to use it in our food animal populations in the United States, but if you go somewhere like Canada or if you go down to Mexico, you’ll see them using it a lot for inducing estrus. So that one for both pregnant women and postmenopausal women, that could you know- Again you’re reintroducing some of that estrogen if you get exposed to it and so that could just kind of make you- from postmenopausal women I would say most likely make you feel off. It might exasperate some of your other symptoms especially if you’re taking any exogenous hormones. Any of these hormones could interact with those so the progesterone could offset the estrogen you might be taking so it’s always worthwhile to at least talk with your doctor if you do feel like you had uh excessive exposure to any of these drugs that we would be using.

Deborah Niemann 17:26
Okay thank you so much for that. Is there anything else that women need to be aware of that we haven’t talked about today?

Jamie Stewart 17:33
The only things- you know, you’ve already had a whole podcast on the zoonotic diseases, so we know other things not related to kidding that can cause diarrhea, so obviously being mindful that Campylobacter even not with kidding can cause some issues but other causes of diarrhea: salmonella, e.coli, anything that can cause a high fever in a human can be of concern for a woman who has a fetus because high temperatures can be really bad for the fetal growth and development. So anytime you’re working with animals if you’re pregnant, you’re also immune suppressed yourself. You want to make sure that you’re being extra good with your biosecurity and using gloves and washing your hands afterwards. Again, making sure pens, phones, things like that get washed. You just want to be extra cautious because your immune system is not functioning like it should be

Deborah Niemann 18:25
Great. I am so glad you mentioned phones because that’s an area that I think a lot of people just don’t even think about. It’s almost like part of your body you know because we use them so much now, that we might not- and I do think about this every now and then. Like the number of germs that is probably on my phone, is probably insanely high. You know, because we’re just constantly doing things and grabbing our phone. So thank you for mentioning that.

Jamie Stewart 18:52

Deborah Niemann 18:53
Thanks so much for joining us today. I think people are going to find this really helpful.

Jamie Stewart 18:59
Thank you.

Deborah Niemann
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

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