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Diagnosing illness and nursing the sick goat
The diagnosis of disease in any animal is an enormous area and so in this article I am only going to cover the more common ailments that afflict the domesticated goat to help you deal will problems quickly and efficiently and to offer guidance for the nursing and care of the animal to hopefully bring the problem to a satisfactory conclusion.
How can I tell if my goat ius unwell?
Goats by their nature are normally bright and happy creatures, at times rather precocious and very quick to let you know if they need your attention.
He/she should greet to you in the morning with a face full of anticipation, head erect, ears pricked and often quite vocal. Feeding time in the commercial herd is usually quite a noisy affair!
An unwell goat may not get up when it sees you, it may lay with its head resting on the bedding or ground. It may show no interest in food or getting up to go out to graze. YOU will know what is the norm with your own goat/s and anything that strays from that should be viewed as suspicious.
Approach and diagnosis So you have found your goat looking definitely "one degree under" so what should you do?
Firstly, if there are other goats around it, remove those from its immediate environment. If those goats are constant companions, just move them from the area but not out of sight of the afflicted goat. If it is a goat with a kid or kids at foot, pen them away from the mother but again where she can see them easily from the position she is in.
Talk gently to the afflicted animal and run your hands over it staying as calm as you can-the old equestrian adage of "what's in the brain goes down the rein" applies equally well here but in this case replace "rein" with hand. Your goat is an acutely sensitive animal and it will pick up on any vibes that you give it. Calm from you will mean calm for it. Noisy and rumbustuous people have no place around animals' least of all sick ones.
Closely observe the goats' reaction to you while checking obvious places like eyes, mouth,(check breath too) legs, feet, udder and the tail end. Is she twitchy in certain areas? Does she resent being touched in certain places? Does she resent being touched at all?
Look for signs of cudding or extremes of that such as drooling.
Is she bloated?
Does she have diarrhoea or are there normal droppings around from the previous few hours?
Take her temperature, preferably with the plastic style digital thermometer which should be in everybody's First Aid Kit. The normal temperature should be between 38.6 and 40.6 degrees C with the average being 39.3 C.
Smear the end of the thermometer with a little petroleum jelly and insert the first inch into the rectum, whilst holding the tail gently at the tip. Most digital thermometers bleep when the correct time is up but if not; keep the thermometer in place for at least 30 seconds.
If the temperature is raised, there is almost certainly an infection establishing itself and a vet should be called as anti-biotics at least will be required. If it is subnormal the goat needs urgent attention and a vet should be called, particularly if she has recently kidded.
Check respiration which should be 15 to 30 breaths per minute and also rumination which should be one to one and half times per. minute.
Some of the problems encountered will be obvious and common sense can prevail plus your previous knowledge to establish whether or not this is a self help situation of whether veterinary intervention is required. IF IN ANY DOUBT-DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL THE VET!!
In my experience, goats are either very well or have a nasty habit of deciding to die and getting on with it, so unless you feel able to cope with the current state of affairs, get some help.
Nursing and aftercare There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that careful and attentive nursing of the sick or recovering goat is the key to success once diagnosis has been achieved. Whilst your vet is invaluable for complex diagnosis and will prescribe the appropriate medication where required, that is where his responsibility ends and yours begins in ernest.
Feeding One of the greatest problems with sick adult goats is that the gut flora can become badly unbalanced and one of the best ways to redress that is to give the goat some live yoghurt (maybe its own?) As with humans, this will help enormously with the problem. Most goats will eat this readily either on its own or mixed with rolled oats or something similar. Sweetening it with honey is also a good way to introduce it. A 5oz pot every day for five days will make quite a difference.
Be prepared to go out and about collecting various small amounts of browsings from the hedgerows in the warmer months, when available to tempt the goat to be interested in her food again. Traditionally, feeding a sprig of Ivy or Honeysuckle has always been considered a good natural "physic" for the goat and I have also found this to be the case. In quantity, both these plants are poisonous to the goat but used in this way, seem to stimulate appetite to some degree.
Fruit, such as bananas and dates are often readily eaten and a few strange ones that you won't find in the veterinary books that can often get them going are Liquorice Allsorts, Ginger or Digestive biscuits. The main thing is EVERYTHING IN MODERATION. Once the goat starts to eat effectively, you are almost there! Keep up the gradual encouragement and increase in amounts and avoid leaving quantities of uneaten food around as they will quickly become soiled and unpalatable.
Environment Time is the essence of nursing, be prepared to spend time sitting with the goat, stroking and talking to her. If you are out at work all day, try to arrange for someone she is familiar with to visit her once or twice while you are out and if possible leave a radio playing-Classic FM seems to be the favourite of most animals-NOT Radio One which is too noisy and has rhythms which upset and unsettle most animals, though it never ceases to amaze me how many people have loud and raucous pop music playing around their animals! (This should precipitate some reader response!!) Her pen should be light and airy with a view of the outside if at all possible. Putting a sheep hurdle across the doorway instead of a solid door can be helpful in getting the goat to begin to take an interest in the outside world.
If the goat is prone for more than a few days it may suffer bed sores and its state of mind generally can become quite depressed. If possible get someone to help you reposition the goat every few hours. Prop her up with straw bales for support if you can. This will also ensure that she is not in any draughts. Your efforts may also help the goat make the decision to get up of her own volition. If she shows a desire to go outside, let her because a change of environment can sometimes make all the difference but be prepared to stay with her and bring her back in again if necessary. Common sense must again prevail here, depending on time available, turnout facilities etc. Don't let other goats interfere with her but don't deprive her of caprine company if possible.
Water Clean, fresh water should be available at all times and preferably at head height. Tepid water can often be more acceptable than cold. Again, if the goat is lying down, putting water within its reach in a shallow container such as a dog water bowl is a good idea as reaching into a bucket might be quite impossible.
Bedding It is essential to keep bedding as clean and dry as possible. Replenishing straw twice daily is essential. Keep the bedding fairly deep so that any efforts to rise are assisted by the bedding. This bedding can cause the goat to slip and fall and will undermine her confidence to try to get up.
If you do not normally bed your goat on straw, now is the time to use it. Bank up the sides of the stall with the straw to diminish draughts and use bales as described in the previous paragraph for support.
With diligence and determination and God on your side, a successful outcome should be achieved. You may have been lucky with your goats so far and not had any illness at all. Despite this, if you haven't got one already, now is the time to check your First aid kit for all the necessary bits and pieces that maybe so invaluable if fate takes a negative turn and so below I have listed what is in my First Aid Box: Clinical Thermometer Antiseptic or saline solution for wounds Round ended sharp scissors Aloe Vera Gel Hoof Shears Honey Stethoscope Arnica Cream Torch Petroleum Jelly Cotton Wool Sulphur ointment (home made) Bandages Japanese Mint Oil Iodine Tea Tree Oil "Purple" spray Epsom Salts Surgical Spirit Liquid Hand wash Next time: External Parasites and Skin Conditions