Walking into your barn to see shedding, itchy goats with patchy dry skin and white flakes of dandruff can be shocking and upsetting to see.
But don’t panic just yet! Dandruff is a relatively common issue that may be nothing at all, or it could be the precursor or symptom of a larger underlying issue.
Regardless, it is not difficult to identify and then treat goats who are suffering from a new skin issue.
We’ll get into the potential causes and show you how to prevent and treat dandruff from being a problem for you and your goats ever again.
Let’s get started!
5 Causes of Dandruff in Goats
Nutritional Deficiencies or Imbalances
Mineral deficiency usually appears as flaking skin, dull or scruffy fur, bald patches, hair loss, or rough skin.
While some pastures and hay will offer goats all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need, for others, it could be severely lacking.
Luckily, you can test the hay to find its nutritional value by taking a sampling to your local county extension office or by sending it to a laboratory in your state.
After it’s tested, you’ll be given the hay nutrient results, and you can then determine what needs to be added to your goats’ diets (or not).
Your goats’ water supply also affects the minerals they receive. Water piped in from the city may not contain nearly as many nutrients or minerals as water from a spring, well, or creek.
Nutrients and Minerals Goats Need
Here are the nutrients you can add to your goats’ diet. Without These, goats lose hair or develop flaky skin.
- Zinc (look for hair loss on the nose)
- Selenium (too much selenium will cause hair loss and flaking skin, too)
- Vitamin A
More Nutrients and Minerals Goats Should Have
These will not likely cause hair loss or dandruff (directly), but they are important and should be part of your goats’ well-balanced diet.
If your goats are severely deficient in these, it could lead to stress, which will eventually cause hair loss or dandruff (or both).
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Stress and Hormones
Physical and psychological stress can have intense and immediate effects on the body not only for humans but also for goats.
This will cause rapid hair loss and deep shedding which is usually followed by rough, flaking skin.
Stress and hormonal imbalances are often caused by factors such as:
- changes in routine
- dietary changes
- being removed or rehomed
- dirty living conditions
- different herd mates
- loss of herd mates
- illness, pregnancy
- labor and delivery
- dietary issues
- sexual cycle
- bullies in the herd
- persistent lurking predators
Droughts, smoky air, and unfavorable weather conditions can also cause stress and shedding.
Hair loss due to these factors usually occurs on the back and shoulders.
Irregular thyroids and adrenal dysfunction, both of which are hormone stressors, will also cause flaking skin in goats.
Stressors like dirty living conditions, predators, dangerous goat bullies, or no herd mates may also cause skin issues in goats.
Since these are situations you can control, it’s best to alleviate these stressors to manage dandruff in goats.
Goats naturally undergo a shedding process, and it’s normal for the skin to be drier, rougher, or flakier during this time.
This usually happens because hair loss exposes the skin to the elements, meaning the goat is prone to sunburns, drying out, and windburn.
Dry skin that isn’t protected and moisturized by the covering fur will harden and flake some until new fur grows back in.
Goats are most likely to shed in the spring or early summer.
This shedding happens all over the body but especially on the back, shoulders, belly, hindquarters, rump, and neck.
Parasites and Mites
Parasites and mites are much more likely to cause harm to your goat herd if the herd is facing lowered immunity, stress, improper diets, poor nutrition, or overcrowding.
If parasites or mites are to blame for your goat’s hair loss and dandruff, you’ll also see scabs, redness on the skin, plus extra rough texturing of the skin.
Mites will cause mange in goats. Sarcoptes scabiei var caprae will burrow under the skin, causing significant hair loss, lesions, dry, scaly skin, and redness in the skin. This will happen all over the body.
Demdex caprae, the second type of burrowing mite, causing follicle blockage.
This mite mostly targets the goat’s face, nose, and muzzle. It can potentially spread to the neck, shoulders, udders, and underbelly area.
Surface mites, like Psoroptes cuniculi and chroioptes bovis will stay on top of the goat’s skin and wreak havoc from there.
Psoroptes cuniculi is an ear mite and will cause hair loss in the ears. It lives in the ear, making crusts and creating a distinct, terrible odor.
Goats will lose balance, bite, scratch, and have spasmodic contractions of their neck, and of course, hair loss and flaky skin.
The chroioptes bovis mite starts at the other end of the goat at the tail, legs, and feet, which may spread to the underbelly and eventually the whole body if untreated.
Goat lice are another possibility. They make the skin incredibly itchy and the goat uncomfortable.
Biting lice (bovicola crassipes, bovicola limbata, or damalinea) and sucking lice (linognathus stenosis and lingnathus africanus) primarily cause hair loss.
This hair loss is usually followed by raw areas of the skin plus tenderness.
You can use Ivermectin to significantly reduce mites and parasites (internal and external) in goats while simultaneously increasing their body weight.
Fungi, Viruses, or Bacteria
Almost all bacteria infections follow directly after parasitic activity (read above section) because lesions, cuts, and scratches allow bacteria to enter the skin and the goat’s bloodstream.
This nasty bacterium causes symptoms similar to those of a fungus without actually being a fungus.
This bacteria causes crusty skin, skin discoloration (turning brown or tan), broken hair follicles, scabs, and prolonged wetness of the skin following rain.
During this prolonged wetness, Dermatophilius Congolensis released zoospores to spread the bacteria to the noninfected areas on the goat.
The best way to treat and prevent this type of bacteria is to provide dry shelters and mud-free pastures for your goats (at all times).
This causes lesions when goats roll in or lay down on the wet ground.
It causes inflamed hair follicles, lesions, scaling of the skin, plus significant hair loss.
Ringworm is usually the result of overcrowded goats in damp conditions for too long.
It’s a fungal infection that invades dead skin and lives on the goat’s hair follicles.
You’ll be able to identify it by circular raised lesions on the goat’s body, plus itchy and crusty skin around these lesions.
The hairshafts will become fragile, breaking down easily (and fast).
Treat goats with an antifungal spray. Thiabendazole is a topical fungicide that is usually diluted and gets applied straight to the ringworm lesions.
Clotrimazole is a topical antifungal cream.
Always wear gloves when applying it to the goat because you don’t want your hands to come in direct contact with the ringworm site as it is very easy for humans to contract.
Ulcerative dermatitis (Posthitis)
This venereal disease is caused by Parapoxvirus.
Animals are easily inflicted with Parapoxvirus when they have open cuts, sores, scrapes, shearing nicks, or breeding trauma to the reproductive parts.
You can identify this one by sighting crusted ulcers on the face, feet, external genitalia, and skin.
These lesions are five to thirty millimeters in diameter and three to five millimeters deep.
These lesions may or may not contain a thick viscous pus-like secretion that does not have an odor to it.
How To Cure Goat Dandruff
Most of the time, dandruff is the secondary result of shedding.
It’s harmless and will go away soon as the coat comes back in thick.
Give your goat lots of places to scratch and rid themselves of their winter coat. The undercoat is especially difficult for them to remove.
You can also wash your goat with warm water and a medicated shampoo or mild soap to eliminate irritants on the skin or in the fur.
Be warned that this will be an extra stinky task if you have an intact male goat.
Some goat keepers suggest rinsing goats with raw apple cider vinegar to remove leftover residues.
If you know that dandruff is the symptom of parasites, mites, bacteria, fungi, or viruses, you should treat the goat for its affliction.
Treating the primary issue will also treat the shedding and dandruff symptoms while also making your goat healthier and happier overall.
What Causes Flaky Skin On Goats?
Flaky goat skin can result from nutritional imbalances or deficiencies, stress, hormones, seasonal shedding, parasites, mites, bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
It can be completely harmless, or it can allude to a much more important issue that needs to be addressed.
Why Is My Goat Losing Hair?
Most goats lose fur due to seasonal changes and regular shedding.
However, hair loss can also be a side effect or symptom of nutritional deficiencies, stress, hormones, seasonal shedding, parasites, mites, bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
How To Tell If a Goat Has Mites?
Mite evidence can be seen by a microscopic examination of the skin.
Still, for those of us lacking a microscope, you can tell by your goat excessively shaking or rubbing their body or face, hair loss, crusty inflamed skin, red patches, foul-smelling secretions, lesions, and, of course, hair loss.
What Are The Signs of Zinc Deficiency in Goats?
You can tell that a goat is deficient in Zinc because they will have hyperkeratotic (a thicked outer layer of the) skin is hard, hair loss, and itching on the back, sides, shoulders, face, ears, legs, and udders of the goat.
Foaming mouths, joint stiffness, excessive saliva, poor appetite, and lethargy can be other indications.
You need to add more zinc to their diet if this is the case. However, if you have been feeding your goats zinc but still acting as if they are deficient, consider their calcium intake.
If you have been overfeeding the calcium (found primarily in alfalfa), the calcium will bind to the zinc and cause zinc deficiency. Crazy, right?
To fix this, you should reduce their calcium intake. Add grass hay or grass hay pellets to their diet and reduce the alfalfa fed to them.
Does My Goat Have Lice?
Your goat probably has lice if they bite or scratch their skin excessively, have a dull-looking coat, and may have thinner or balding patches in their fur.
Scabs, lesions, and bleeding from the skin could be signs of a sucking lice species.
Lice are most prevalent in late winter through early to mid-spring and almost always disappear when the sunshine and heat return.
Still, it’s important that you treat and remove lice as quickly as possible, so your goat’s immune system and overall health and wellness are not compromised.
You can treat lice using extra-label (off-label) topical and systematic chemical treatments.
Goat Dandruff and Flaky Skin: Final Thoughts
Goat dandruff may or may not be an issue or symptom of a disaster.
It’s important that you monitor your goats daily, checking for healthy coats, skin, noses, clear eyes, and good typical behavior every time you visit the barn.
The most common reasons for goat dandruff are nutritional issues, hormones, stress, seasonal changes, parasites, mites, fungi, viruses, or bacteria.
Luckily, all of these issues are easy to treat in very little time.