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As a goat nerd, I regularly stalk, and participate in, a variety of goat groups. Many of these groups focus on goat health and care, and I tend to see a lot of the same questions pop up. When you belong to a lot of these groups you find a lot of the same questions regarding sick goats. Generally the first rule of thumb is to consult your vet when you have any questions regarding your goat’s health an well-being. However, vets aren’t always an option for everyone when it comes to goats. Here are the top five questions I often come across in the goat groups I belong to.
My goat’s poop looks all clumpy today, like dog poops. What’s wrong with them?
A goat’s poop is a good indicator of goat health. Typically a goat’s poop are firm-ish brown pellets. If a goat’s poop gets “clumpy”, there can be a variety of reasons. First and foremost, take your goat’s temperature whenever you feel there is an issue. A fever will indicate some kind of infection while an extremely low temperature will indicate a serious issue involving the rumen.
If the goat’s temperature is within normal range, consider if there has been any kind of diet change, i.e. rich pasture, new grain or hay or any increase in protein consumption. These can all cause fecal changes.
The thing to consider is parasites. Check you goat’s eyelid color against the FAMCHA chart to spot check for anemia. Send out a fecal sample to get a parasite count and treat accordingly. I can not stress this enough. Not all wormers treat for all parasites, so giving your goat a wormer without knowing what you may be treating for could just end up doing more harm than good. Getting a fecal sample run is very cheap and easy. Most vets will run a fecal sample for around $20, or you could mail them out to a place such as MidAmerica Agricultural Research, who run fecal samples for $5 a piece.
While investigating the cause of funky poops, we always give the goat in question probiotic paste and blackberry leaves when possible. Adding electrolytes to their water can help as well.
My goat has had liquid diarrhea for a week – how do I make it stop?
Runny diarrhea, a.k.a. scours, can bring a goat down quickly and be indicative of a serious issue. As in the last scenario for clumping poops, get a temp, consider any diet changes, and get a fecal run STAT.
There are many serious illnesses that can cause a goat to scour. In young kids it’s typically coccidiosis, presenting with dark and very foul smelling liquid poops. Ecoli, plant toxicity, enterotoxemia, and more can cause scours, and determining the cause quickly is crucial. If possible, always consult with a good livestock vet. Try to figure out the root cause and get it treated as quickly as possible.
When we have a goat that presents with scours, we quarantine them in their own stall so they can’t spread anything contagious. This also keeps them from being bullied and stressed by the other goats. They are given water laced with electrolytes to help guard against dehydration. We may even administer an electrolyte drench. Drenches of slippery elm bark and offerings of blackberry leaves can help ease scours. They receive NO grain while the scours persist. If the scouring continues to be aggressive, we administer kaolin pectin to try to get them to halt. Preventing dehydration and monitoring the goat’s temperature while trying to get the scouring to stop is essential.
My goat is coughing. What antibiotic should I give them and how much?
This question is very common, and always makes me shake my head. Goats cough. They eat hay, which is dusty. They live in a dusty barn and play in the pollen filled, dusty outdoors. Dry air tickles their throats. Sometimes they have allergies. Sometimes they get a cold. Coughing does not equal medicating.
Once again, check the goat’s temperature first. If there is a fever in conjunction with the cough, then it’s time for antibiotics. If there is yellow of green colored phlegm with the cough, this can also indicate an infection that would need treatment.
My goat is loosing hair around their eyes and ears – what’s wrong?
Goats can experience hair loss for a variety of reasons, including stress, hormonal shift, external parasites, fungal infection and mineral deficiency. Typically hair loss around the facial area is either external parasites or a zinc deficiency, especially if the exposed skin is scabby and thick. When the hair loss is caused by external parasites, the goat can reach these facial areas with a rear hoof to itch at, causing these to be popular areas of hair loss. The top of the muzzle may also have hair loss from rubbing against things. Check carefully for visible lice. If you can’t see any live parasites, you could be dealing with mites. Treat accordingly with a topical treatment or an oral treatment.
Facial hair loss can also be very indicative of a zinc deficiency. Thinning hair around the eyes and mouth and a thickening skin are all signs. We free feed ZinPro to our goats so they can keep their zinc balanced. Our vet has indicated that zinc deficiency is becoming a growing problem, and a lot of breeders aren’t aware it’s an issue.
My goat looks really thin, but I just wormed her. What can I do to get weight on her?
First and foremost: All wormers are not created equal. Any given wormer will not treat all wormers, just a specific few. It’s important to have a fecal test done on your goat if you suspect internal parasites in order to be sure you’re treating for the right worm. Blindly worming your goat may not address the issue at hand, and contribute to breeding wormer resistance.
If you’re confident your goat is parasite free, check your goat’s diet and be sure it’s well balanced for the job they’re performing. Dairy goats require a high grain ration and high quality hay at all times in order to keep up with the caloric demands of producing milk. Grain is not always required if your goat’s not in milk, but you should be sure the browse and hay they are receiving is enough to maintain a good body condition.
If internal parasite levels are good and the diet is well balanced, then the next step would be to consider a wasting disease such as Johnes. A fecal test is considered better than a blood test for Johnes, so that can be collected and submitted by anyone to an appropriate lab such as WADDL.
I don’t claim to be a veterinarian or any kind of expert, but I do know there are always a few rules of thumb when it comes to goat health concerns:
- Take their temperature – this can tell you a LOT, very quickly
- Run a fecal. It’ cheap and easy and can give you a lot of insight
- Have a basic grasp of goat care and maintenaince before getting goats, specifically in dietary needs, mineral supplementation and basic care concerns
- Make sure you have a vet or an experienced goat mentor to consult if you have serious goat health concerns – Facebook groups and other online forums are often not timely in an emergency situation and will offer a lot of conflicting diagnoses and potential treatments