Clinical study


Contagious ecthyma, also called contagious pustular dermatitis is a viral dermatitis of goats, sheep, and wild ruminants worldwide. Contagious ecthyma induces acute pustular lesions that progress to scabs in the skin of the lips, around the outside and inside of the mouth, face, ears, vulva, lets, scrotum, teats, and feet, usually around the coronet and in the interdigital region.

Usually, contagious ecthyma would be estimated to last between four to six weeks and restore to health spontaneously, without any form of intervention. The severe and extensive forms of contagious ecthyma are rarely and usually described in young goats.

In this study two goat flocks with 503 animals (84 kits) were clinically evaluated to identify and characterize contagious ecthyma lesions, in the period October 2010 – March 2012. The results confirmed the presence of contagious ecthyma cases in both flocks in a proportion of 2.38% (12/503). Lesions were located in the skin of lips (100%), muzzle (91.66%), ears (66.66) and feet (50%). One kid had generalized contagious ecthyma.

Keywords: sore mouth, scabby mouth, goat orf infection, contagious pustular dermatitis

Contagious ecthyma (Gk, ek, out, thyein, to rush) is a common infectious and contagious disease that can affect sheep, goat, wild ruminants (steenbok, alpacas, chamois, thar, reindeer, musk ox, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, dall sheep) as well as human beings and canides [8, 11].

In the end of the 19th century, for first time, in Germany is described contagious ecthyma in small ruminants [2, 13]. In Romania, close to Bucharest, Paul Riegler identified in 1935 a similar disease in sheep and goat herds [14]. Today, contagious ecthyma has been found worldwide, especially in countries that raise sheep and goats [13]. The young animals (4 – 6 months) are most affected, registering the worst forms, goats are more sensitive than sheep, and the improved goat breeds are more susceptible (Boer or Boer crosses, more rarely Saanen) [11, 12]. Most vulnerable year periods are seasons with extreme temperatures (late summer and winter), when the immune system of the animals can be affected by sudden changes of temperature [2, 9, 13].

After 8-10 days of incubation [9], the goats with contagious ecthyma develop papillomatous lesions around the mouth and nostrils. The infection may also affect ears, inside of the mouth, lower legs and udder of nursing ewes. Usually, contagious ecthyma would be estimated to last between four to six weeks and recovery occurring without treatment. Nevertheless, the lesions can develop into extensive disease, with secondary bacterial infection, and sometimes fatality [6, 9, 14, 15].

Diagnosis is based on the herd history and the lesion characteristics, but the accurate diagnosis is based on immunologic tests and viral isolation [9].

The economical losses are due to the decreased of dairy goat production, and lower growth and mortality in young goats [4]. In young goats, morbidity can approach 100% and mortality up to 20%. [7, 10, 13].

The first objective of the goat contagious ecthyma study was the evaluation of the new clinical cases present in period October 2010 – March 2012, in goat flocks located in different counties. The second objective was the analyses of the dominant pathological aspects associated with the contagious ecthyma in young goats.


The research was conducted in two flocks with 503 goats, located in two Romanian counties (Brăila and Giurgiu). The goat breeds have been Banat White, France Alpine, Charpatian, and their cross-breeds. Goats were raised in a mixed management system (range pastures and shaded pens). All goats were not vaccinated against orf infection.


Figure 1. Kid with severe, hard and dry proliferative

contagious ecthyma lesions in the skin of lips and muzzle


Figure 2. Kid with papillomatous proliferative

contagious ecthyma lesions in the skin of ear

The method used in this research consist in physical exam of animals that were evaluated for specific contagious ecthyma lesions (multifocal areas of papules, blisters, pustules, crusts or papillomatous proliferations) around of the mouth (lips, muzzle), ears, feet (interdigital region), teats and vulva/scrotum.


All adult goats (419/503) were without papule, vesicle, pustule or crusted lesion on the skin. In both flocks were identified 84 young goats, with age between two and16 weeks. The lesions described in contagious ecthyma were observed in young goats at a rate of 14.28% (12/84).

 The most common location of contagious ecthyma lesions has been around the mouth (fig 1). The lesions in the skin of lips have been in all clinical cases (12/12), and the muzzle lesion in 91.66% (11/12). Progressive evolution of the contagious ecthyma was previously described in several experimental infections. Lesions on the lips appear about 4-7 days after infection, initially patches with a diameter of 0.5 mm, often go unnoticed are observed. The lesions have been on the soft skin areas or crossing of mucous membranes and skin (lips, commissural, on the wings of the nose). Macules fast moving up to the state of the crust over a period of 1-2 weeks (vesicle, with 1-2 mm diameter, passes the pimple in about 2 days) [9, 11, 13].

In 66.66% (8/12) of clinical cases were observed lesions in the skin of ears (fig 2). The ear lesions progressed through the same sequence of stages: papule, vesicle, pustule and crusted lesion. In sheep lesions were associated with ear tagging [1].

Foot lesions in young goat were described in 50% (6/12) of cases (fig 3). Clinical signs identified were similar to those described in other papers. The foot lesions affect the coronary band and soft tissue of interphalangeal area. The hair was sintered, wet, and it falls off with cutaneous layers (fig. 4). Foot lesions can evolve independently, but often are accompanied with other skin lesions. A new epithelium is forming in two weeks.

In other clinical studies, foot lesions have been described as the most common location observed due to overlapping injuries and co-infection (e.g., Fusobacterium necrophorum, Dichelobacter nodosus) that masks the characteristic appearance [11, 13].

The lesions inside of the mouth were observed in only one kid, classified as generalized contagious ecthyma. Lesions were located in soft gingival tissue, tongue, cheeks, hard palate, typically up to the pharynx, esophagus, ruminal pillars, sometimes abomasums and intestines. The lesions were ulcerative, red-brown and swollen. Mandibular and retropharyngeal lymph nodes were sensitive.


Figure 3. Contagious ecthyma foot lesions in young goat.

Denudated skin lesions with moist and ulcerative lesions in the coronet


Figure 4. Hard, dry and crusty contagious ecthyma

foot lesions in young goat



Table 1. Location of lesions observed in twelve clinical cases of contagious ecthyma in two goat flocks with 503 animals, located in Braila and Giurgiu counties.



This study indicates that in period October 2010 – March 2012, in two flocks located in Braila and Giurgiu counties, contagious ecthyma has been a proportion of 2.38% (12/503). All lesions were observed in young goats (12/84), and clinical disease weren’t observed in adult goats (0/419).

Both farms haven’t vaccination program for goat orf infection, and this low proportion of the clinical cases suggest that the contagious ecthyma is endemic in both flocks. Lesions were located in the skin of lips (100%), muzzle (91.66%), ears (66.66) and feet (50%). The lesions inside of the mouth were observed in only one kid with generalized contagious ecthyma.



Dr.Tiberiu CONSTANTIN, As.Univ. FMV Bucureşti

Dr.Stelian BĂRĂITĂREANU, Conf.Univ. FMV Bucureşti




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