Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE)

Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) is a viral disease of goats. It is caused by a small ruminant lentiviruses (SRLVs) which includes ovine maedi-visna virus (MVV) and caprine arthritis-encephalitis virus (CAEV).

What are SRLVs?

They are considered genetically as a single pathogen causing a multisystemic inflammatory disease, maedi-visna (MV) in sheep and caprine arthritis-encephalitis (CAE) in goats. Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is notifiable under the Diseases of Animals (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and any suspicious signs must be reported to a Divisional Veterinary Officer or their Private Veterinary Practioner (PVP).

Current situation

A recent case of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) was detected, in a female Boer goat, as part of the annual sheep & goat health serological survey. This is the first recorded case of CAE in Northern Ireland (NI) which did not arise from a post import check test. The affected goat died on farm and the remaining animals were slaughtered under DAERA supervision. For further information, see the Press Release First case of goat disease Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) in NI.


The Department would urge farmers to think carefully before importing goats from GB or mainland Europe. ALL goats coming into NI are tested post-import, with goats from unaccredited herds also isolated and restricted for six months, with a further post-import test at five months.

What are the clinical signs?

The main clinical sign of CAE in goats is lameness. Most goats are infected at an early age, remain virus positive for life and develop disease months to years later. Other clinical signs can be:

  • arthritis
  • varying degrees of lameness
  • poor condition of coats and possible loss of hair
  • ‘hard udder’ syndrome
  • goat kids may experience paralysis in the hind legs that can progress to the front limbs

How is CAE spread?

The CAE virus is primarily transmitted to kids via colostrum in the first few feedings after birth. Blood (e.g. contaminated instruments such as needles, dehorners, etc, and open wounds) is regarded as the second most common way of spread. Disease spread within herds may also occur through direct contact, exposure to formites at feed bunks and waterers, and ingestion of contaminated milk infection can be transmitted at mating although it is more likely that the male is infected by the female.


In the event of a disease notification the Department will restrict movement of animals under the Movement of Animals (Restrictions) Order (NI) 2004. The animals must be removed from the premises, either by re-exportation (if possible) or slaughter. This will be done under DAERA supervision. 

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