“I think my goat is sick.”
I get this question (statement?) more often than I would like. Usually followed by a description of various symptoms. “She seems sluggish.” “His coat is really rough.” “She isn’t growing very fast.” “His neck is swollen.” “She won’t eat.”
And nine times out of ten the answer is the one ailment that we forget to even consider as a potential disease.
A silent, stealthy killer that takes over our pastures and herds and is impossible to get rid of.
If you have a sick goat, most of the time this common culprit is to blame.
I’m talking about worms ya’ll. Or if we are getting technical, internal parasites.
Internal parasites are probably the most common cause of many goat ailments and often result in a majority of goat deaths from illness.
Not kidding. Are you shocked? Were you expecting something a little more exotic?
Internal parasites, particularly gastrointestinal worms are vicious and cause everything from a rough hair coat to death.
So, let’s talk symptoms.
First off, most of the time if you notice symptoms a goat’s parasite load is already going to be heavy and you will need to quickly take action.
Symptoms can include a rough hair coat or a goat who is not shedding out properly, lethargy or fatigue, weight loss, little or no appetite, anemia and bottle jaw. All leading ultimately to death.
A good indicator of anemia is a lack of color in the gums and inside the eyelids.
Bottle jaw is a swelling under the jaw resulting from severe anemia. If you see bottle jaw you need to act immediately.
Side note – not all swelling under the jaw is Bottle Jaw. Check for anemia to be certain. Not sure how to check, don’t worry, I explain below.
How do you know if your goat has worms?
The quickest way to check for internal parasites is to look at the inside of the eyelid. Pale pink in the eyelid is a good indicator that you have a worm infestation. If the eyelid is white you need to give care immediately. You want to see a nice medium or bright pink.
This method is known as the FAMACHA system and it is a great way to regularly and easily check your herd for parasite loads.
Need more information? The wormx site has a lot of resources, www.wormx.com/famacha or talk to a knowledgeable goat vet.
The best way to check is to take a stool sample. Take it to your local vet and ask them to do a fecal. It’s quick and cheap and can tell you not only if your goat has worms but exactly what kind.
There are different kinds of worms?
Yes, there are. Remember when I said if we were being technical we would call them internal parasites?
That’s because there are entire families of different internal parasites, like stomach worms, lung worms and liver flukes, oh my. There are enough varieties of internal parasites that identifying them would need to be entirely its own blog post.
The important thing to understand is that there are different types of worms and a fecal can pinpoint exactly what type of worm or worms you are dealing with and the best treatment option. Not all treatments work on all worms and wormer capabilities can vary regionally.
Get a fecal done.
But my goat is down or has bottle jaw or white eyelids, what do I do right now?
If your vet is open the best thing to do is load the goat up and go. Better to pay an office visit and not need it, than to need it and not go. Especially if the goat is down.
What if my vet is closed?
This answer is a little harder. First instinct says to kill the parasite immediately.
But if you don’t know what to treat for you may not be treating the problem. For instance, both liver flukes and barber pole worm can cause anemia but the same medications won’t treat both. And you run the risk of under or over dosing which can be dangerous with certain medications.
If your vet is closed you need to decide whether your goat needs emergency vet services.
I know, expensive, but better than a dead goat.
If your goat is down, you need a vet.
If the animal is not in immediate danger you need to treat the symptoms until you can find out exactly what you are dealing with.
How do I treat the symptoms?
- If you have several goats, go ahead and separate the ill goat. An area close to the herd but separate to minimize stress to the sick animal is best.
- Make sure and provide plenty of fresh water and fresh grass hay. Just a reminder, they do still need shelter of some sort.
- Do not give sacked or grain feeds now. If the animal is entirely off feed, you should probably plan on emergency vet services.
- Provide a liquid electrolyte. A livestock variety is best and can be found at most feed stores. In a pinch, Pedialyte or Gatorade will do.
- Provide a probiotic. I love Jumpstart Plus made by Manna Pro and have had good luck with it. Follow the dosing instructions on the tube.
- If the goat is anemic, start an iron supplement. Don’t expect immediate results, it can take a long time for a goat to rebuild it’s red blood count. Be careful with this one and make sure it is approved for goats. Red Cell for equines is acceptable. Once you get to the vet ask about Lixotinic, I have had good results with it.
Even if your goat perks up some with the above treatment you need to make sure you either get the goat to the vet or have a fecal done as soon as possible so that you can treat for the right type of worms and kill them.
Treating the symptoms will not solve the problem, it just buys you some time until you can find out exactly what the problem is.
An effective treatment plan is the only way to get rid of the worms and get your goat on the road to recovery.
Remember, internal parasites (worms) are the number one killer of goats. In order to cure your goat you will need to treat the problem, not just the symptoms.
If you have a goat you suspect is wormy:
- Have a fecal done (they are very inexpensive),
- Get the appropriate wormer to treat your goat’s particular issues and,
- Provide additional nutritional support for the symptoms.
To help prevent parasite death or illness in the future use a system like FAMACHA to regularly monitor and treat your herd.
*Handy Hint – a resealable plastic bag (Ziploc) is a great way to get a fecal sample to the vet. Turn it inside out, put it on like a glove, scoop up the sample and while holding the sample turn the bag/glove right side out and seal up. Clean hands and no mess. If you can’t get to your vet immediately, keep the sample refrigerated for up to 24 hours.