Nursing the sick goat

Importance of nursing care for sick goats

source: Jenny White
Country Smallholding April 2002
starts p52, 2 pages long

Goats tend not to fall ill often, but can be difficult when they are ill. They need nursing, starting with assessing their temperature. Normally, this can vary from 38.6 dg C to 40.6 deg C, or 102 deg F to 104 deg F, and sick goats can be compared with healthy goats in a herd, to see what is normal for the ambient conditions.

Poisoning can cause the temperature to drop, as can shock after an accident, or when a goat has given birth. Goats use their rumens to generate heat from fibrous foods, so goats that are off their food cannot keep warm naturally. They should be given a goat coat if they are cold, or a blanket, if they are cold and immobile, since they need draught-free ventilation to prevent respiratory problems. Deep straw also helps by giving insulation, and a bale can be used to provide support, since it is not good for goats to lie flat out. They should also have warm water, or at least water that is not chilled. They can be provided with water at two-hourly visits, and should be left undisturbed at other times. A dessertspoonful of glucose with salt (2 teaspoonfuls) can be added per litre of water.

Herds should be monitored, and bicarbonate of soda used if a goat vomits and laurel or rhodedendron poisoning is suspected. Some 45 mls water with a teaspoonful of bicarb can be used, together with a goat coat. Peppermint oil drops in olive oil can help with bloat from wet or rich pasture, and massaging the sides of the goat also helps.

Top quality hay is good for recovering goats, due to its stimulation of the rumen. Bran mash or oatmeal drinks can be provided, though not concentrate until cudding is properly resumed. Oak leaves act as astringents, which can help in small amounts with scouring goats, but not with goats unable to eat and lying down, since they are already prone to constipation. Warm milk may help weak goats, but small amounts of fibrous foods have a better effect on the rumen. There is anecdotal evidence that cider vinegar may be beneficial to goats.

Worms can cause anaemia in goats, and fleas and lice may attack sick goats. A convalescent diet helps them to recover after such attacks.

Convalescents may need support to stand up, and leaving a pen door open may also encourage a goat to walk. Goats recovering from kidding-related illnesses may become more cheerful if they feed a kid, their own or a foster kid.