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  • Writer's pictureDiana Reed

Goats Symptoms - Ones You Should NEVER Ignore

Although there is no list I could make that would cover all symptoms, this list will give you a great start on the more common things to watch out for with your Goat Herd.

With practice, you will get so good at looking out for these signs that you will find yourself scanning your herd every time you are with them, - - and this will saves lives.

Developing a Goat Skill Set

Learning to visually notice Goat symptoms is a Skill Set that every Goat owner must develop. The basic skills are easier to master, such as taking vitals or a goat temperature. Then there are the acquired skills, such as your favorite doe just giving you a look that isn’t normal for her, or maybe she is isolating herself instead of hanging out with her friends.

Because Goats are "Prey Animals" ( meaning that they are hunted by other animals ) they have learned to "Hide" their symptoms so that they do not appear to be weak or sick. This makes it hard for Goat Owners to see potential problems as well, but as you get to "know" your animals personality and normal routines, you will develop a more refined skill of observation which will make you take a further - hands on - look into a Goat displaying an "off" behavior.

Those that learn to read Goat symptoms will be able to catch things early,

when the task of turning them back around to wellness is more likely to succeed

with less time and resources than goat symptoms that are missed or not caught for several hours.

Common Signs to watch for when you go out to your Goat Herd

If I notice a Goat that is “Off Feed” or just picking at their hay or grain, I start running a few questions through my head.

  • Did she consume something toxic or get bit or stung?

  • Is there a fever indicating infection or illness or is she hypothermic?

  • Is something broken or bruised or causing pain?

  • Is it metabolic issue such as pregnancy toxemia or ketosis?

A Goat that is “Off” will often show other Goat symptoms as well.

  • Is she moping around or lying down with her head and ears low?

  • Is she not interested in life around her?

  • Is she crying or unusually silent?

This is a great time to take some Vitals. If you contact your veterinarian, having the vitals ready to give them will often speed up getting a diagnosis.

Normal Goat Temperature generally ranges from about 101.5 to 103.5 degrees F.

Younger animals and hot days will tend toward the Upper end of that range,

while mature animals and cold days will tend toward the Lower part of the range.

If it’s a hot/humid summer day and I have a young doeling that gives me a Goat temperature of 101.5 - I will definitely be thinking along the lines of Hypothemic,

In the same way, a Mature Goat that temps at 103 or 103.5 in the dead of winter is going to have me thinking Fever (unless they were just playing or bouncing around),

Even though both of these temperature examples are within the “acceptable range” as far as science goes, there could be more to the story as we just noted. Now of course, if those Temperatures were out of that range - that would definitely get my immediate attention.

Other vitals to note are Caprine Heart Rates being approximately 70-90 beats per minute and Respirations (rise and fall of the ribs for a cycle of breathing) is 10-30 per minute for mature stock and 20-40 per minute for young stock. Another Goat symptom that has me on Immediate Alert is finding a Goat Hunched over

or Arched at the loin/lower back area. This indication is Pain and could be a stomachache from ingesting something toxic, or an ulcer (uncommon), it could be a kidney issue, a lower back injury or a bladder infection or urinary calculi, among other Goat illnesses.

The arched back indicates Pain to that lower region. If you are not confident at sleuthing through Goat symptoms, it is always okay to call your veterinarian.

Unhealthy are the Goats with heavy parasite loads, unthrifty coats, hunched backs, grinding their teeth, prominent ribs, drooping tails or diarrhea. These are very Serious Issues. .Your observation skills will grow as you get more time “under your belt”.

Diarrhea is Never to be ignored. Several ( but not all ) sources of this could be

  • Disease,

  • Feeding milk replacers,

  • Coccidia or other Parasites,

  • Bacteria,

  • Quick feed changes/rather than GRADUALLY changing/mixing.

  • Overeating on something causing acidosis or enterotoxemia. (like Chicken crumble / mash or getting into the grain barn)

  • Moldy Grain or Hay

Getting into something Toxic to the Goat, including moldy feeds, also causes the Runs. Diarrhea that is ignored will frequently give you a dead goat.

Before calling your Vet, note the color and consistency of the poo, is there blood, or no blood, and is there mucus? All these answers will give important information towards a diagnosis.

Bloat often goes with diarrhea and some of its causes. Bloat can also come on when a ruminant is lying on its side for too long. Bloat of the Rumen (Left Side of belly when standing Behind your Goat) is another Emergency not to postpone until “Later.”

Later may be too late for any treatments.

Coughing. There are the Dry Coughs which can often be Allergies, or Dust Inhalation from Hay or Grain.

There are the Wet Coughs, which can

be chronic or leftover problems from having an illness or parasite overload.

Often (but not always), there will also be a running nose with this issue.

Lungs tend to be the weakest link in our Goats, so I don’t like hearing them cough.

Pneumonia in Goats is often brought on by wild weather or outdoor temperature fluctuations. , A Goat getting really wet or not having protection from the wind, or even the sheer stress from being transported makes them more susceptible to pneumonia and flu like symptoms..

Of course, they can pick up bacterial and viral lung issues from taking them to the show barn and goat exhibitions as well.

When coughing is heard, take the vitals, and try and figure out why they are having their problem. Keep them comfortable if they have a fever, and support those lungs. Place your ear on their rib cage and listen. Only heart sounds should be heard. One should NEVER hear lung noises, - if you do, you will need immediate support.

Goats that are Itchy or Missing Hair need to be checked for external parasites such as

mites, fleas, or goat lice. Also, pay attention to skin damage that may make your animal susceptible to a skin infection. Goats that are missing hair on the bridge of the nose and/or the end of the tail, (giving a forked tail appearance) and in advanced situations also hair loss to the ears, often will be a Copper Deficiency. Loss of their coat color also often falls in this category. Copper deficiencies ignored will negatively impact your herd’s Immunity.

Other Goat symptoms that one shouldn’t neglect are limping, bleeding, swollen joints, stiff joints, mastitis, swollen tissue or abscesses, and bottle jaw.

  • Limping , Bleeding, Stiff Swollen Joints can range widely from an Injury from a issue in the field, an accident involving hierarchy or dominance, a predator attack, a miscarriage, or more serious like CAE ( Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) Virus )

  • Bottle Jaw is a swelling under the lower jaw that is often indicative of a severe life-threatening parasite overload.

  • Mastitis is an infection of the mammary gland with varying symptoms from simple unevenness to hot, or swollen, or even black or blue-looking tissue to milking clots, strings, or blood.

  • Swollen Tissue or Abscess can also range widely from an injury in the field to CL ( Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL)

Always get help in the above situations unless you are very confident in working with them. These can be very serious indications of a bigger problem.


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