Icterus, Jaundice, 'Geelsig'
By Dr Mackie Hobson BSc(Agric),BVSc

Friday, 26th February 2021

Icterus, also called jaundice (geelsig), is seen as the yellow colouring of the mucous membranes and skin. This is due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood caused by the breakdown of red blood cells.

The accumulation of bilirubin may be caused by excessive destruction of red blood cells or liver disease preventing the excretion of bilirubin in the form of bile.

There are a number of possible causes with only a few having being diagnosed in Angora goats to date. The most common include ‘Geeldikkop’ (Tribulus terrestris), Rift Valley Fever (RVF), Wesselsbron, ‘Ganskweek’ (Lasiospermum bipinatum), Anaplasmosis, Enzootic icterus (Copper poisoning), Prussic acid poisoning, Verminosis (wireworm), Clostridium perfrigens Type A and Hepatic lipidosis.

Poisons effecting the liver


  • Lasiospermum bipinnatum (‘Ganskweek’) REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS


Poisoning has occurred in Molteno, Graaff-Reinet, and Bethlehem areas with goats in Molteno on the farm Post Retief having been poisoned.

  • Asaemia axillaris (‘Vuursiektebossie’) occurring in western and central karoo. No reported poisoning in angora goats.
  • Senecio spp (Ragwort, staggers bush, ‘dunsiektebossie’) Eastern parts of South Africa, No poisoning in Angora goats reported
  • Crotalaria spp (Dune bush, wild Lucerne, ‘besembos’ ‘duinebos’) Occurs in North West Cape province. No poisoning in Angora goats reported.
  • Cestrum spp (Inkberry, ‘inkbessie’) Coastal areas and OFS. No poisoning in Angora goats reported but very toxic to goats.
  • Hertia pallens (‘Springbokbossie’,) Upper and Eastern Karoo, Western OFS, Northern Cape.

Usually under drought condition. No Angora goat poisoning reported.

  • Pteronia pallens (‘Scholtz-bossie’ ‘witbossie’). Western Karoo areas under drought conditions. Poisoning not reported in Angora goats.
  • Xanthium spp (Asteraceae) (‘Kankerroos’ ‘Boetebossie’) Poisoning not reported in Angora goats.
  • Galenia Africana (‘Kraalbos’’Geelbos’). Causes ‘waterpens’ ascites

No poisoning reported in Angora goats.


  • Brachiaria decumbens. Not reported in Angora goats


  • Photosensitivity
  1. Aspergillus flavus

Although no poisoning has been reported in South Africa in Angora goats the disease has been created experimentally. These moulds grow on a variety of grains, maize, and foodstuffs.

These are usually associated with moisture and high temperatures and the production of toxin (aflatoxins)

  1. Senecio spp (Ragwort, ‘dunsiektebossie’)

Not all spp of Senecio are toxic. A problem in cattle, sheep, and horses in the eastern and central parts of South Africa. As goats at this stage not in these areas only a potential problem. Not palatable but sometimes after fires, fresh growth may be eaten.

Acute poisoning in sheep results in death without real clinical signs. Often lambs die within a day after being introduced into a new camp. Chronic effected sheep are weak, thin, and sometimes ascites

  1. Lantana camara (exotic ornamental weed). No poisoning reported in Angora goats and really just a cattle problem.
  2. Asaemia axillaria (Asteraceae) ‘Vuursiektebossie’ occurs in mountain karoo extending into the central Karoo. Always grows near water. No poisoning in Angora goats reported.
  3. Lasiospermum bipinatum (Asteraceae) ‘Ganskweek’ REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS


  1. Asthanasia trifurcate (Asteraceae) ‘Klaasloubos’ in South East/West Cape Province (Only reported incidence of poisoning in Grabou)
  2. Microcystis aeruginosa (Blue-green Algae). No poisoning reported in Angora goats.
  3. Phomopsis leptostromiformis (fungus on lupins) reported in winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape. Not reported in Angora goats

Photosensitivity resulting from biliary system

  1. Pithomyces chartarum a fungus poisoning seen when grazing grass/clover pastures. No poisoning in Angora goats reported.
  2. Tribulus terrestris ‘dubbeltjie’ ‘geeldikkop’ REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS -COMMON POISONING.


  1. Panicum maximum ‘ buffalo grass’ buffelsgras’. Poisoning not reported in Angora goats.


Parasitic - Anaemic conditions that can result in Jaundice/Icterus


  1. Roundworms: Haemonchus contortus, REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS
  2. Anaplasma ovis (Gallsickness) REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS but usually mild subclinical.


  1. (Biliary/Redwater). Not reported in Angora goats

Poisons affecting red blood cells

  1. Enzootic icterus ‘Geelsiekte’ (Copper poisoning). REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS


  1. Allium spp (Onions). No poisoning reported in Angora goats
  2. Brassica spp, Allium spp (Onions, Kale, Rape). No poisoning reported in Angora goats
  3. Prussic acid poisoning ‘Geilsiekte’. Kweek, Lucerne, Oats, Daisy, ‘Steekgras’ ‘Rooigras’, Sorgum, Wheat, Maize, Acasia pods. REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS


  1. Sorghum spp. Not reported in Angora goats
  2. Cynodum spp ‘kweek’ See Enzootic icterus
  3. Dimorphotheca, Osteospermum (Asteraceae) plants of the daisy family
  4. Eucalyptus cladocalyx (Blue gum ‘blokom’)
  5. Nitrate or Nitrite Not reported in Angora goats


  1. Acasia nilotica ‘stinkpeul’ –See Enzootic icterus
  2. Pteridium aquilinum (Brackern fern) Not reported in Angora goats
  3. Melitosus spp ‘white sweet clover’ Not reported in Angora goats


Viruses effecting the liver



  1. Wesselsbron disease. REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS



Bacteria effecting the liver


  1. Leptospirosis Not reported in Angora goats


  1. Clostridium perfrigens Type A. Toxin may cause icterus REPORTED IN ANGORA GOATS


  1. Eperythrozoonosiscaused by the bacteria mycoplasma ovis (formerly known as Eperythrozoon ovis. Not reported in Angora goats
  2. Clostridium Novyi, (Black disease, Bacillary haemaglobinuria, infectious Necotic hepatitis) Not reported in Angora goats
  3. Clostridium septicum (Braxy) Not reported in Angora goats
  4. Bacterial icterus, severe bacterial infection may cause jaundice


Metabolic conditions effecting the liver

  1. Hepatic lipidosis (Floppy kid syndrome) REPORTED IN ANGORA GOAT KIDS


  1. Pregnancy Ketosis (‘Domsiekte’)



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