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Goat Health Care | Maintaining your Goat's Health
Goats are susceptible to contracting parasites, whether it is internally or externally. Keeping your goat healthy and controlling pests is often a confusing matter to new livestock owners because the vast amount of information available is often contradictory. Understanding the difference between the natural and chemical substances can also confuse many people. It may not be a hard subject for others no more than it is to research it. Even when you think you have parasites and diseases under control, you also have to worry about what and how you can protect them from getting injured or sick on a day to day basis. It seems something that is way over your head when you first start out, but you will get the hang of it; it is often no longer difficult the more you do it.
5.1 – Various parasites and diseases
No matter what you do, no matter how often you clean, goats will have worms. This fact is initially shocking and disturbing to most new goat owners. They also normally have internal parasites. Before you get too freaked out, the good news is they are picky in choosing their hosts and do not favor humans – not that we would get infected even if some tried. However, parasites can easily jump from goat to goat, and they can infect one another, especially through their fecal matter. In the past, it was a normal practice to deworm every variety on a goat without mercy. Today we understand it is better to deworm after particular diagnoses are in effect. We now know a dewormer will not work on every kind of worm, and before any action is taken, a vet should name the exact species that is causing the trouble. Though most people visit a vet to get a diagnosis, some people have learned to do this on their own by doing a fecal analysis. It is often positive if eggs are present in the worm, but that does not mean when eggs are not present you can rule it out.
Barberpole Worm: You can also call Barberpole worms the Haemonchus contortus. This species of nematode is an internal parasite that has proven to be very adaptable to its environment and resilient. It is the reason of thousands of deaths in goats annually. It latches itself inside the goats’ stomach and feasts on its blood. Should the goat be infested with a large amount, it can develop anemia. Although it is capable to grow three-quarters of an inch long, it is rarely seen in their fecal matter. A typical symptom to look out for is a lack of pigment under their eyelid. Normally, a goat will have lower eyelids that are dark red. The lighter the color gets, the more likely the goat is anemic. If the eyelid turns nearly white, the goat has reached a dangerously anemic level. The “bottle jaw” symptom is a swelling below the goats jaw due to heavy worm infiltration. Goats will have clumpy poop as a sign symptom and a dramatic drop in milk production. Goats often ingest them while grazing. Barberpole worms love climates that are warm and wet. However, should the temperature be too hot, cold, or dry, the parasite will not be able to withstand it.
Brown Stomach Worm: Also referred to as Ostertagia or Telodorsagia circumcincta. This worm is the second killer after the barber pole. It also resides in the stomach and can injure the lining, causing the goat to have troubles digesting. Symptoms include bottle jaw, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and slow growth. It thrives in wet environments and can tolerate cooler climates, unlike the barber pole. It also is ingested while a goat is grazing.
Bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus columbriformis): This worm loves to hang out in the small intestines. The eggs are usually in the goats poop. The larvae enjoy temperatures around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Goats will get this type of worm by eating contaminated grass and diarrhea is a usual symptom. This type of worm will seldom ever kill a goat, but it does alter their ability to receive nutrition correctly from the foods they eat.
Tapeworm: The tapeworm, or Moniezia, is one of the rare worms that anyone can visibly see through fecal matter. Poop that appears stringy or looks like rice is often a clear indication. They usually do not disturb goats unless there is an army of them that result in the intestines getting blocked. Rather than goats getting infected by them through grazing, these worms need an intermediate host to help them out.
Liver Fluke: (Fasciola hepatica): This parasite also requires an intermediate host, usually a snail, involved to infect a goat while grazing. The worm then travels around until it reaches the liver where they take months to mature. After a few weeks, goats will typically become anemic or experience weight loss and possibly death in extreme cases. Fluke live in wet areas, and people that are aware of this will not allow their goats to play in creeks or ponds. Goats are highly likely to ingest this parasite during the springtime.
Lungworm: There are several species that exist such as the Muellerius capillaries and the Dictyocaulus filaria. When the goats consume the larvae, they will become infected and move into, of course, the lungs. The primary symptom is often chronic coughing as well as weight loss or decreased production.
Meningeal worm: This worm uses a partner to get a goat infected, which is the snail. As the name suggests, this worm will enter the goat’s brain and eventually cause paralysis and death. Neurologic systems like weakness, twitching, circling and keeping the head at one side occur. There is no sure way of diagnosing this type of worm other than observing the symptoms. As long as you can find and treat it early, goats can completely recover from it. These killers are waiting for their victims in grass that is wet, so you do not want your goats to be anywhere near swampy places.
You cannot completely eradicate worms from your goats, but you can hold control parasites from extreme infiltration. The best step would be to allow goats to develop a natural resistant towards parasites. Dewormers are often the next step, and they typically chemical based products you can find in markets. “White dewormers” is a white paste or liquid made of benzimidazole, fenbendazole, and albendazole. There are several ways to find the proper drugs and be aware of the right dosage amounts for your milk and meat goats. You can consult with the Food Aimal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), www.farad.org, which is a company the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) backs up. It is maintained and kept updated by various universities. Macrocyclic dewormers is a transparent liquid or gel. The last class, imidazothiazole dewormers, are often distributed in a solid form such as medicated feed.
Do not forget about the external parasites, they too can cause a range of health complications. There are typically four types of external pests and can affect goats: lice, mites, ticks, and fleas.
- Lice – The chewing lice are parasites that enjoy crawling around a goat’s hair where they can eat away at dead skin. The sucking lice would rather feed on their blood. If your goat is anemic and internal parasites are rules out, you might want to examine their hair to see if there is anything crawling. If you see a goat excessively scratching or constantly rubbing its body along fences and trees, they possibly might have lice
- Mites – They usually will cause hair loss and crusty lesions on a goat where you see them often scratching themselves because they are itchy.
- Ticks – it is not common for goats to get ticks. Nonetheless, there still is a possibility it can happen. It usually depends on where you live.
- Fleas – This is also one of the least common you will see with goats as with ticks.
5.2 – Injuries and Illnesses
It is easy to treat your goats as if they were your children the more you grow attached to them. Illnesses and injuries are bound to happen, yet it is not hard to get worried even over the tiniest of matters. Fortunately, a goat will rarely fall sick when they are in a clean environment and properly nourished. As long as you bring home a goat that came healthy and free of diseases, there is not much for you to worry over. The only concern you would have is making sure they never get them.
An abscess is a type of injury that involves the portion of the skin elevated, red and inflamed. Usually, the mass is filled with blood or puss, possibly both. The common cause of abscesses in goats is due to Caseous Lymphadenitis, CL, which is highly infectious especially when broken skin is in the mix. The lymph nodes in the neck are typically affected. The only way to be certain a goat has CL would be to aspirate and culture the swollen area to check for a positive or negative result. Sadly, once a goat has CL, they are stuck with it the rest of their life.
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis, or CAE, is an incurable retrovirus that may transmit through body fluids, colostrum or milk. When CAE reaches an advanced stage, a goat will end up having arthritis, pneumonia, mastitis, or weight loss in adults. Kids that have caprine arthritis encephalitis will usually have a form of encephalitis instead, which is swelling of the head due to fluid accumulation. There may or may not be symptoms with this which can cause easy spreading of this contagious illness to their offspring or other goats that reach contact with any body fluids. CAE is not a typical illness, however, as long as you find out whether you goat has this, it is easy to stop further spreading.
Foot rot is a condition that develops when a goat is exposed to wet pastures or bedding too often over a span. The wetness will eventually cause their skin to break down and contract the infection. Foot rot is something that is easily preventable as long as dry bedding are available; you trim the hooves regularly and keeping the goats inside during wet climates.
Goats will acquire tetanus through an open wound that infects the goat. The marker symptom of tetanus is muscle rigidity. In the earlier stages while the goat is still able to stand, each of its legs will spread wide apart. As the stage advances, soon the goat’s legs and neck will extend rigidly. You should contact a vet as soon as you suspect or know they have tetanus because it spreads swiftly. Treatment, however, is usually not a success, so it is better to prevent it from happening altogether. Vaccinations are available and should be given each year for continual protection. Avoid any methods that will tear the goats’ skin and remove any sharp objects, namely metal, off the ground.
A sore mouth can be detected by observing a goats’ mouth and looking for any hard, crusty sores. Mouth sores are contagious, and if one goat has it, it can spread to the entire group. If you ever be in a predicate where you are caring with a goat that has this, practice safety and put on gloves as it can be passed along even to humans. The sores are painful so if a goat has a sore mouth they will not want to eat and over time, they lose weight. Sores can develop in some other areas: ears, eyes, scrotums, teats, vulva or the anus. Unfortunately, there is no available treatment to give and though it goes away own its own in due time, waiting a month or two for it to heal is hard to handle.
Urinary stones, or urinary calculi, is often an issue that only bucks experience because they have a small urethra. If you castrate wethers too early will have urethras that are even smaller. The penis of a goat is also very tiny, and even a tiny stone can create a blockage. When a male goat is standing in its normal position to urinate, it will not be able to even when the thought is there. If you do not treat it soon enough either the bladder or urethra will burst after one to two days, resulting in their death. As soon as you notice your buck cannot urinate, you should notify the vet.
White muscle disease occurs due to selenium deficiency in younger goats. These kids often pass away from this disease because their immune system is still too weak to fight it.
Scrapie is in the same family as the mad cow disease. It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). It is one of the more rare diseases that is not caused by a virus or bacteria; it is due to prion. There is no known treatment, but there are tests available to test its presence. Scrapie is highly contagious. A goat could have TSE for some years before symptoms develop, if at all. Goats tend to rub themselves on fencing or houses, and they will bite areas they feel uncomfortable. Weight loss and neurological complications can also occur as it progresses.
Vaccines are an excellent choice to prevent goats from getting a disease or curing a complication should a goat develop. Nonetheless, vaccines are not available for every sort of disease out there. Vaccines can even be a “hit or miss” kind of thing so it is a very personal decision as to whether or not you will want to vaccinate your goats. Going with or going against vaccines have benefits and risks no matter that you choose. Goats that are sick and are not given vaccines can pass away, which is a terrible feeling. There is also the situation where you could administer a vaccine to a healthy goat, and they pass away due to a reaction. If you goat should ever get sick, there are many routes you can take to treat them or make their death less painful. Vaccinations are the least enjoyable subject to go over, but a general knowledge of common diseases is helpful because you know what you can monitor.
5.3 – How To Keep Goats Healthy
I am certainly no veterinarian, and I do not it to seem as if I know all protocols and specific treatments you should follow. I only want to give the best overview available to anyone who are new goat owners. If you ever experience a problematic situation, your first source should be your veterinarian if you already have one, or consult with a vet in your area. Here are some simple tips I recommend you keep as a practice:
- Keep a clean and dry environment for the goats you handle. There should be a decent drainage area where you choose to house them. Set a schedule and routinely shovel any manure or debris. Shelters should be draft and moisture free.
- Do not buy more goats than you can handle or have the space for. Should you overcrowd goats, it can cause stress, a buildup of debris and risk of contracting infections are high, and they can easily spread.
- Watch your goats daily. The more you decide to do, the better. When you do realize you have a sick or injured goat, you will want to be on it the soonest you can. It is not a wise idea to wait it out to see if they heal over time on their own.
- Monitor your pastures and the general property you allow your goats to roam and remove any potential hazards. If you see any protruding nails, sharps objects, pulled down wires or anything else of that nature, remove it. Make this a weekly or monthly routine. Goats love to roam and jump on things. You do not want to allow them to climb and jump on storage such as hay or other equipment; they can injure themselves in the process.
- Minimize the amount of stress your goats can have as it can make them ill or kill them. Be slow and gentle to them when you are hauling, weaning or handling them.
- Have a first aid kit in handy and understand how to use it. There are kits readily available with your goats’ in mind. Keep it a good practice to replenish whatever item you used in the kit back as soon as you can. Take a look at the perishable items every so often and through away any products that are expired.
- Keep your goats protected as much as you can from predators, namely through proper fencing.
- When you buy feeds for your goats, it is best not to experiments with foods you are uncertain about in regards to safe eating. You also want to learn how to formulate their food concentrate or buy the premade bags. Do not forget about their social order; look for any timid goats that shy away from eating because they need to eat just as much.
- Keep an ongoing supply of fresh water. Ensure they do not freeze during the winter and place waterers in shady areas during the summer.
- Quarantine all goats you take in and disinfect their pens often. You will want to separate a specific area of space to the “hospital pen” when you have sick goats. You do not want them crowded together with your goats that are not ill.
- Get rid of any carcass and birthing tissue immediately and do not permit any of your animals to ingest it. Have a biopsy on all deceased and aborted goats to determine the cause of death. As your vet for details about the results once they are ready.
- Two diseases you absolutely should vaccinate no matter where in the gold you are is tetanus and enterotoxemia. You also want to test the goats you let in for caprine arthritis encephalitis and Johne’s disease.
That was Chapter 5: Goat Health Care from our Homestead Handbook: Raising Goats