- 1 Why find out more?
- 2 A healthy goat
- 3 Other signs of illness
- 4 Goat diseases
Why find out more?
If you’re a novice at raising goats, or feel a bit green, this article will help you to identify what a healthy goat looks like and signs to look out for if your animal is feeling unwell. It will suggest some treatments and give advice to help you recognise when you need to call out your veterinarian. Let’s get started!
A healthy goat
A goat in good health will have bright eyes, a good, shiny coat and a naturally energetic and curious nature. Of course, when they’re chewing the cud or chilling out, they’ll appear relaxed, but as you get to know your goats, you’ll grow to recognise their individual characters. Spending daily time with your goats will allow you to get to know them, as well as being great for your own well-being! If one of your goats begins behaving differently from usual, then look further into the following details:
A goat’s normal temperature is between 101.5 and 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38.6 – 39.7 degrees Celsius, although this depends on the individual goat and also on the time of day. Their temperature will fluctuate, especially if the day is hot (showing a slightly higher temperature).
The best thing to do is to determine the normal temperature of your goats, by measuring their temperature several times whilst they’re healthy and making a note of your findings in their health records. It’s a good idea to take their temperature on a normal day and also on a hot day, so that you have an accurate understanding of what kind of natural variations might occur – and so that you have some figures with which to make a comparison, if your goat gets sick.
How do I take my goat’s temperature?
Your goat is not going to be particularly enthusiastic about this, but the easiest way to take your goat’s temperature is rectally, since this provides the most accurate reading of your animal’s internal temperature.
Catch your goat and find a quiet, enclosed space to keep it as calm as possible. An adult goat could be tethered, whilst a baby could be help on your lap. Maybe get a human assistant, just in case!
Use some lubricant on the end of the thermometer, such as KY or petroleum jelly.
Gently insert the thermometer into the goat’s anus. Keep it there until the temperature has been taken.
If your goat’s temperature deviates from the normal, you should check them for other symptoms.
Spending time with your goats, you will get to know their usual bleats. During rut and labour, goats will make a variety of different noises, but, in general, if a goat has removed themselves from the rest of the herd and is making no noises at all, this might be a sign that they are in pain or feeling unwell, since it is unusual for a goat to isolate themselves from their herd.
Perhaps you’re bringing a new goat home, so it’s quite possible they’re feeling pretty stressed from the journey. This could show as lethargy or disinterest in eating or drinking. You may also have a member of the herd who is low down the pecking order and is stressed due to being bullied, or perhaps it’s just that they’re not getting the right kind of care or wrong nutrition. Just as in humans, stress occurs in goats for various reasons.
Other signs of illness
If you notice some of these signs, call your veterinarian to decide whether you need a visit or if they can simply give you some advice over the phone.
Your goat is not drinking or eating normally; appearing disinterested in water or food. Or perhaps they are not chewing the cud, as usual.
Unusual faeces. Usual goat faeces are pellets; if these are runny or overly loose, your goat has diarrhea. If they are too hard, this could be because of a change in nutrition, such as moving from grass fed to a high carbohydrate diet, such as oats.
Your goat is finding it difficult to urinate, or is not urinating. This could signify a urinary tract infection, dehydration or kidney/urinary tract stone.
Coughing or unusual breathing.
A runny nose and/or weeping eyes.
A healthy goat will have salmon pink gums and eyelids. A sick goat might display grey or pale eyelids and/or gums.
Soreness in or around the mouth; blisters inside the nose or mouth. This could be the sign of a viral disease which is transmissible to humans, known as Orf virus.
Your goats’ posture, when healthy, will be upright, with head and tail held high. A goat that’s feeling ill, is likely to hunch their body, with tail down and they will be less responsive than usual to what’s going on around them. They might be holding their ears in an odd position.
Listlessness or fatigue. This might show from something as little as a lack of energy, to not being able to get up at all. If they have been lying down for more than a couple of hours, without moving, this is likely to indicate something quite serious and you should call your vet.
Shivering or trembling.
Hobbling or faltering stride.
Pressing their head against a fence or wall.
A hot udder. This could be a sign of an infection or possibly an abscess.
Isolation. As mentioned previously, goats are herd animals, so if your goat has separated itself, this could be an indication of something wrong.
A bulging or distended midsection; your goat might also make groaning noises. This could be a sign of bloat.
A rough, brittle looking coat.
Bloat is something which occurs when your goat is unable to burp. It can be life-threatening if left untreated. There are two main factors that might cause this:
The first can be due to changing what your goats eat too rapidly or consumption of poisonous plants. This could be something like feeding them soluble carbohydrates, such as grain, or your goats gaining access to such a food source and stuffing themselves, or over-eating the first fresh green clover in Spring. This causes a disruption to the pH of the rumen, killing the ‘good’ microbes in the stomach, and causing overproduction of ‘bad’ microbes. A foam is then produced by the rumen, which blocks up the oesophagus, preventing the goat from naturally releasing the gas as a burp.
The second reason is related to some kind of blockage to the oesophagus. If this is something which cannot gently be encouraged down the throat, contact your vet immediately. Never place too much pressure on an obstruction.
With bloat, it is better to play it safe. Phone your vet right away if in any doubt. In order to prevent bloat occurring, make sure to change your goats’ feed very gradually and keep your goats separate from any feed which is unsuitable for them.
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) is a virus that can turn into crippling arthritis, affecting the joints and making them swollen and stiff. It’s possible for your goat to have this, without appearing sick, as goats are very good at not showing any symptoms. You might notice that your goat seems a bit insecure on its feet, or if this disease develops further, your goat could develop a serious neurological condition, resulting in paralysis of the legs or neck. It is passed by contact from the mother goat to her newborn kids through her milk, so if your mother goat is diagnosed, separate the kids from her right away, and bottle feed them.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccination available for CAE at this time; treatments only exist to ease the symptoms, so if your goat is in too much pain, it may have to be put down. Again, contact your veterinary surgery for advice.
Apart from worms, pneumonia is one of the biggest goat killers out there and can be caused for a variety of different reasons, including bacteria, viruses and worms. Some of the related signs to look out for are:
A high fever (104 – 106 degrees Fahrenheit / 40 – 42 degrees Celsius) or low temperature (below 100 degrees Fahrenheit / 38 degrees Celsius)
Restlessness – such as frequently lying down and getting up, possibly accompanied by moaning sounds. These are a result of fluid-filling lungs.
Your goat might cough painfully and/or have a nasal discharge.
Once you have taken your goat’s temperature and diagnosed them correctly, your vet can recommend a suitable treatment plan, which will include a course of antibiotics, and medication to break the fever. If pneumonia is left untreated, your goat may well die.
This is a bacterial infection, which can be caught by many different animals, including humans. It is a disease which can be spread by ticks or wild birds, as well as in dried saliva or even dust. It can result in your doe having a late-stage abortion, or producing weak kids. It can be life-threatening for humans, so it is sensible to test your doe for the illness prior to her giving birth. There is no commercially available test at the moment, although an antibody test exists, which can show if your goat has had past exposure.
This is a bacterial disease, which lives within the intestine and is a chronic wasting disease. The main sign of Johne’s disease in goats is showing extreme weight loss, despite eating normally. This disease eventually ends in the animal dying. Unfortunately, it cannot be treated as yet, so prevention is the best way to avoid this horrific disease, including keeping pastures and barns clean and controlling the fecal-oral passage of infection. Your local vet should be able to give you advice on the proper way to minimise the likelihood of this disease affecting your goats.
This is an illness which is one of the main causes of diarrhea in baby goats and is brought about by microscopic parasites in the gut. Cases can vary from very mild signs, such as some loss of appetite, minor weight loss and short bouts of diarrhea, to the extreme signs, with severe diarrhea, presence of blood and mucus in loose faeces, weight loss – and sometimes death within only 24 hours. You must treat it promptly, in order to avoid your young animals dying. Your vet will prescribe the treatment.
Urinary calculi, or UC, occurs when crystals build up in the bladder, preventing the natural flow of urine. Once this occurs, the urine backs up into the bladder, which can cause it to rupture. Once this has occurred, the goat will die rapidly. UCs generally occur in male goats, although they can still occasionally happen in does.
Some of the main signs are:
Straining to produce urine, with only a few drops, if anything, being produced. Appearing in pain whilst urinating and perhaps moaning or uttering vocal signs of distress.
Very dark or bloody coloured urine.
Evidence of feeling pain, such as appearing hunched, grinding of teeth or pressing the head against a wall.
To sum up:
Don’t despair! Although you might be new to this and it seems that there are a mountain of goat diseases (and the ones listed here are nowhere near being all), take care to learn the basics and make sure you know your goats well, so you immediately notice if your goat is sick. Maintain a good relationship with your local veterinarian and always use trusted resources to help you learn more about raising goats. Prevention is certainly better than treatment, so take care to keep your yard clean and your pastures free from poisonous plants and over-grazing.