How to conduct a basic Post Mortem on an Angora Goat
By Dr Mackie Hobson BSc(Agric),BVSc

Tuesday, 29th March 2016

Most Angora goat farmers would have done a basic Post Mortem (PM) at some point in order to try determining the cause of death of one of their goats. If possible always try get a PM done by your local vet to get a positive diagnosis which may save time, unnecessary treatments, handling and further unnecessary deaths. A positive diagnosis may go a long way to influencing future management decisions on the farm.

Note: It is only worth doing a post mortem examination if the animal is freshly dead.

Always wear gloves; scratched hands may be invaded by dangerous micro-organisms.

Provide  a good history for your vet?

Your vet will always want a good history from you. Age/sex of goats? Did you see any clinical signs? Acute or chronic deaths? Numbers involved? When were they vaccinated and with what? When were they dosed and with what? Where have they been grazing? Changes in grazing/feed? Treatment and handling? Etc.


  1. Observe the dead Goat

Did the goat struggle before death)? What was the position of its head (Torticollis –pulled back).An Angora goat lying on its side ‘paddling’ before death may indicate a neurological condition (heartwater, certain plant toxins, puply kidney as examples)? Was it lying on its side or in a sternal position? How long has the goat been dead? Is it bloated more than you’d expect (Clostridial infections)?








Angora with head pulled back and evidence of paddling

  1. Do an external examination

Get an idea of the body condition of the goat? Check the body openings for any discharge- nose, eyes, mouth, and anus? Check the colour of the mucous membranes? Look inside the mouth-check lips, teeth, tongue? Feel the goat to see if any gas or any fluid (oedema) occurs under the skin? Any indication ‘bottle jaw’ or ‘swelsiekte’. Check the udder and vulva in ewes and prepuce and testes of rams.

‘Bottle jaw’                                                                              ‘Anaemia’


  1. Open the carcase
  • Place the goat on its side.
  • Cut the tissue/muscle attaching the front and hind right legs and reflect them away.
  • Cut the skin along the belly (midline) and reflect it back.

Check for any oedema under the skin, the colour of the tissue, any bleeding.

In this case there is evidence of subcutaneous oedema

  • Open the abdomen

Observe the contents in place

The amount of fat in the omentum and lumbar spinal area around the kidney will give an idea of the condition the goat was in. Was it a chronic or acute diease?

The small intestine is usually fluid filled. The large intestine and the faecal material should look normal and gradually change in consistency from soft to pelleted.

In this case ascites (fluid in the abdomen) is evident and poured out on the slab

  • Cut the diaphragm attachment along the inside of the ribs and cut through the sternum.

  • Push back the ribs to crack and so open the thorax and inspect the contents in place.

Check for any adhesions between the chest wall and the lungs or heart. Check for large amounts of fluid, pus, or bleeding. Any obvious lumps, masses or abscesses. Open the bag around the heart to see if it contains fluid or blood.

Check the individual organs:


Opening the kidney casule to examine the kidney

They should be firm to the touch, not soft or spongy. They should be the same firmness as the liver when palpated and if much softer (mushy) then a case of Pulpy Kidney may be suspected. They should be deep red in colour with the outer cortex being slightly darker.

A case of ‘Pulpy Kidney’ with soft kidney.

Liver: The liver if pressed with a finger the depressions returning to normal. It should be a deep red (reb-brown) with no variation. The texture should be moist and make a nice clean cut. The edges should be sharp - rounded edges may indicate swelling of the liver.


Normal red/brown colour, smooth surface and sharp edges.         Abnormal liver with rounded edges and discolouration


Spleen: The colour is dark bluish red and many white speckles cover the surface, its texture is like that of the liver. If the spleen is much enlarged, and if the white areas protrude, then there is evidence of abnormalities there.

Stomach: Examine the outside of the rumen for bleeding, wounds or abscesses. Open the rumen and check for amount and age of food inside (should be fairly fresh), ulcers or wounds in the lining, abnormal items such as plastic bags, pieces of wire, cloth, etc., and parasites. Open the milk stomach (abomasum) and examine for ulcers and parasites. Wireworm and Brown stomach worm occur in the Abomasum (melkpens). Wireworm can be identified with the naked eye as are about 2-3cm long and have the ‘barber pole’ striped appearance. The Brown stomach worm however is so small that they are hardly visible by the naked eye. Abomasitis with ‘ostrich leather’ appearance and ulceration of the mucosa may be seen with brown stomach worm. Parasite problems are the most common underlying cause of death in the Angora goat so it is important to check for the signs.


Abomasitis (inflammation of abomasum)                                 Abomasitis and ulcerartion of the abomasum from Brown stomach wall.

Wireworm visible on the surface of the abomasum

 Intesinal tract: Gas distended small intestine with green or reddish tinged and mucoid content may indicate a case of clostridial overgrowth in the same way severe inflammation and reddening of the intestines may indicate ‘rooiderm’


Inflammed red intestinal tract and bloody content of the intestine in a case of ‘Rooiderm’ Clostridial infection.

Bladder: Check the colour of the urine and whether blood is present. In fresh PM’s urine can be checked with a urine dipstick for glucose levels which could give an indication of ‘pulpy kidney’.

Lymph nodes: Check the mesenteric Lymph nodes (these are the lymph nodes draining the intestinal tract). Enlargement of the mesenteric lymph nodes may indicate stimulation by roundworms,tapeworm, coccidia, or infectious intestinal bacteria.

In this case the enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes can be seen suggesting a chronic intestinal tract stimulation

The other lymph nodes (submandibular, pre-scapular, popliteal, thorasic and abdominal) can be checked for signs of enlargement or abscess formation.



Check the pericardial sac for clear or bloody fluid. In some cases (pulpy kidney and pasteurella) the clear fluid may clot on exposure to air. Check the surface of the heart for signs of haemorrhage (plant poisoning, heartwater, pasteurella and clostridia infections as examples).


Opening the pericardial sac surrounding the heart                           Checking the heart  surface, no indication of haemorrhages in muscle wall


Haemorrhages visible on the surface of the heart muscle in a case of plant poisoning.



Check the lungs for colour, consistency and any adhesions to thoracic wall or heart. In cases of Pneumonia the lungs are dark red and solid and feel thick on palpation- mainly in the antero-ventral lobes of the lung.


Antero-ventral lobes dark red seen in a case of Pasteurella                             Adhesions to the ribs in another case of Pasteurella

 Taking samples:

Your vet may ask you to take specific samples according the possible causes of death. These may include tissue samples of:

  • liver, kidney, spleen, lung, heart, brain or parts of the intestinal tract
  • These samples must be small in size, about 1cm square. They should be placed in 10% formalin solution (10x volume : size sample)


Your vet may also ask you to take

  • Faecal samples for parasite identification and egg counts

  • Tie off a certain section (about 3-5cm) of the intestine to be kept refrigerated/on ice in case cultures are required.



Conducting a Post mortem is a valuable skill that can save the farmer Angora goat lives as well as saving money with unnecessary wastage of time, labour and treatment.

Getting to practice and recognising what is normal will go a long way to help recognise abnormal findings.




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