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How do I Treat Common Goat Diseases?

By Nicole F.
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Treating common goat diseases usually requires a combination of diagnostic care, medication, and isolation. A lot depends on the specific disease at issue, as well as how many goats from your herd are impacted. The first step is usually to keep a close eye on your goats. Being familiar with their normal behavior will help you to notice any subtle changes in their health. There are many common goat diseases, and while some of them can be treated at home, others may require professional veterinary care. Veterinarians should be consulted for more serious problems or when home treatments don't help. Common examples of intervention-worthy conditions include a disease known as “blackleg,” parasites, and the bacterial infection listeriosis. Prompt treatment is usually required to prevent permanent damage or death, which means that being proactive and staying on top of your goats’ health is really important.

Learn to Identify Common Behaviors

A goat normally displays symptoms right away if there is a problem. Usually the first symptom is depression, and the animal will hang its head, lose its appetite or generally act miserable. If the goat has a virus or other kind of infection, it is important to isolate it from the rest of the herd so the infection doesn’t spread.

Check for Swelling and Fever

Owners also can feel around the goat for swelling and bloating, both of which can be symptoms of specific problems; checking the animal for fever, typically with a veterinary thermometer, can also be a good idea.

Sometimes goats simply eat too much rich food and become bloated, which can be relieved by administering baking soda or mineral oil. It is important to keep in mind, however, that worms or other infections can cause bloating as well. Making sure worming schedules are up to date is important to ensure healthy goats. Another common problem caused by too much rich food is laminitis, which causes temporary lameness. Laminitis often can be treated by giving the goat a soft bed and starting it on a non-protein diet, such as hay or grass.

General Fixes

Even if you aren’t sure exactly what’s bothering your goat, some general fixes might bring about improvement. Changing up the animals’ diet and making sure it has enough clean water and food are good places to start. A clean place to rest out of direct sunlight might also help, particularly in the warmer summer months. If nothing you do seems to bring about an improvement, it may be time to get the animal a more formal exam. Most experts recommend a check-up if things don’t improve on their own within a day or two.

Identifying Blackleg

If your goat doesn’t have bloat and you know it doesn’t have worms but it is acting sad and looks swollen, it may have ingested bacteria from the soil and contracted blackleg. Blackleg is a potentially fatal disease that causes spongy swelling, fever, and rapid breathing. Swelling generally is noticeable in the neck, back, shoulders and hips. It typically hits very quickly, and the only cure is antibiotics. These high-powered medications are usually available only from a licensed veterinarian.

Parasites and Viruses

Goats also tend to be susceptible to coccidiosis, a parasitic disease causing diarrhea and dehydration. Coccidiosis and other goat diseases caused by parasites and viruses must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian on account of how specific and nuanced the symptoms tend to be. Some forms, such as foot and mouth disease, are so serious that the goat must be put down. Sometimes catching the disease early enough can avoid this outcome, but not always.

Listeriosis

Another common, yet serious, goat disease is listeriosis. It is recognizable by the peculiar way one side of the goat’s face will become paralyzed, as if it had a stroke. A veterinarian should be called if you ever notice this since, if left untreated, the goat can die within 24 hours. Goats can and often do carry this disease for years without any symptoms, and then suddenly display them. Listeriosis is contagious, which means that total isolation is usually the best course. If you put the animal in a shared barn stall or other communal place, it should be completely sterilized before other goats have access to it.

Importance of Prevention

Proper care and prevention are two of the best ways to keep diseases like these away from your goats. Keeping water and hay clean and making sure that pastures and barns are clear of manure can help prevent the spread of infection. Checking goats daily for proper feeding and behavior can prevent most problems, and taking precautions the moment illness is suspected can go a long way when it comes to saving lives.

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