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How to Diagnose Feed-Related Problems in Goats

Making sure your goats have proper nutrition is one of the most important things you can do as a goat owner. Many health problems, such as scours, bloat, and enterotoxemia can be traced back to what your goats ate or didn't eat.

Scours

Scours is one of the most common problems in kids as they adjust to food. Too much milk at one feeding or too much grain can cause scours in kids. So can coccidiosis, enterotoxemia, a bacterial infection such as E. coli or salmonella, or even pneumonia. Adults can also get scours as a symptom of another illness or, more frequently, in response to too much grain.

You can help prevent scours by keeping the goats in a clean environment, increasing milk or feed gradually, and making sure the goats get plenty of clean water, exercise, and fresh air.

At the first sign of scours, do the following:

  • Stop milk and grain.

  • If scours are severe, give some kaolin pectin. In mild cases, this is all you need to get the goat back to normal.

  • Make sure that the goat is drinking plenty of water.

    If a goat seems weak, give her some commercial or homemade electrolytes. Always wait at least an hour before giving milk to a kid who has gotten electrolytes, and never mix the two.

Contact a veterinarian and ask for a fecal test in the following cases:

  • Scours continue for several days despite treatment.

  • Scours are frequent and completely liquid.

  • Scours are bloody or black.

  • The goat is weak.

  • The goat refuses to eat.

  • The goat exhibits signs of pain such as teeth grinding.

Bloat

Bloat is caused when too much gas is trapped in the rumen. When the goat can't belch and gas builds up, she can die. Goats are most likely to become bloated in the springtime, when they first have access to lush pasture.

If your goat's left side is bulging, he's lethargic, not eating, and grinding his teeth (a sign of pain), he may have bloat. In severe cases, a goat lies down and doesn't want to stand up.

If you have a bloated goat, follow this advice:

  • If the bloat is caused by grasses:

    • Using a drenching syringe, give the goat a cup of mineral or corn oil

    • Offer baking soda left out in a container so he can eat it whenever he wants

  • If the bloat is caused by grain

    • Using a drenching syringe, give the goat milk of magnesia, 15 ml per 60 pounds

    • Remove drinking water until the problem has cleared up.

  • For either type of bloat

    • Walk the goat.

    • Massage the goat's left side.

    • Situate the goat so that his front legs are higher than his back legs.

    • Offer the goat roughage such as straw, tree branches, or blackberry leaves when he's ready to eat again.

Enterotoxemia

Enterotoxemia comes about when a goat eats too much grain, lush grasses, or milk. This slows digestion, and the intestine becomes poisoned by Clostridium perfringens type C or D bacteria, which normally live there. Enterotoxemia occurs more often in kids but can also affect adults — usually when they're under stress, such as from kidding.

In some cases, an affected goat shows no symptoms and then will go down and never recover. More often the goat develops a high temperature, severe abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, and loss of interest in food and other goats. Kids with enterotoxemia often cry loudly. In some cases, the goat has seizures or throws its head back. Treatment is generally ineffective. Sadly, only a necropsy after the goat dies can definitely tell you that the goat had enterotoxemia.

If you have a goat with symptoms of enterotoxemia

  • Think about what he ate recently. If the goat recently got into grain or you increased the amount of grain fed, you may be dealing with enterotoxemia.

  • Stop feeding grain and/or milk. Both of these feeds only add to the problem.

  • Make sure that the goat is hydrated. Dehydration can kill the goat.

  • Feed roughage such as straw or branches. Roughage helps the rumen start working again.

  • Give the goat CDT antitoxin as soon as possible. If you give the antitoxin and the goat improves, it is likely to have enterotoxemia.

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