December 2022 Issue

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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

DIARRHEA & GOATS

A goat with diarrhea has a problem, but it may not be what you think it is.

For purposes of this article, the definition of "diarrhea" is anything other than normal goat pills in adults and kids eating solid food and baby poop in newborns and very young kids that are not yet eating solid food.

Diarrhea is NOT an illness. Diarrhea can be a SYMPTOM of a serious health problem, or it can be the result of the goat's body cleaning toxins out. You must figure out which it is BEFORE you give any medications, including scour-halting products. Do NOT attempt to stop diarrhea (scouring) until you figure out the underlying problem. Keep the goat hydrated while you quickly do this research.

There are four major causative agents of diarrhea in goats: bacteria, viruses, parasites (worms and cocci), and management practices (i.e., overcrowding, poor sanitation, or nutritionally-induced problems such as overfeeding).

When you see diarrhea in one of your goats, do not run for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, Kaeopectate, or Scour Halt. First figure out what is causing the scouring, then treat appropriately. Use a rectal thermometer to take the goat's body temperature. Do a microscopic examination of the feces. Check the goat for dehydration. I have never found the skin-pinch test to be helpful in determining dehydration. It doesn't take much reduction of water in the rumen to change the pH from alkaline to acidic and result in a sick goat.

With ANY sick goat, do a fecal using a McMasters slide to find out worm and cocci loads. Almost everything begins with Haemonchus contortus ( barberpole stomach worm).

Diarrhea can be the symptom of many different illnesses, including bloat, ruminal acidosis, laminitis/founder, copper deficiency, aflatoxin poisoning, anaphylactic shock, plant toxicity/poisoning, renal (kidney) failure, selenium toxicity, coccidiosis, enterotoxemia (clostridium perfringens type C&D), salmonellosis, E. Coli, caprine herpes virus, heavy parasite infestation, and goat polio. Take a fecal sample and run a fecal examination before (or, if time constrained, concurrent with) starting treatment. See my website's article on how to do your own fecals (www.tennesseemeatgoats.com).

Diarrhea is not always the result of an infectious disease. It can be nutritionally induced by overfeeding on milk or grain, by using poor-quality milk replacers, or by sudden changes in feeding schedules or in the type of feed, hay, or forage/browse being offered.

Diarrhea the consistency of pudding or even watery stool is sometimes the body's way of purging itself of toxicity. If the feces is slightly soft or pudding-like, I let it run its course while I figure out the cause and keep the goat hydrated with electrolytes and monitor its rectal temperature. When body temperature is above the normal range of 101.5 to 103.5 degrees F., I use a fever medication (vet script: Banamine injection) and if I conclude that it is a rumen-related problem, an antibiotic (vet script: SMZ-TMP tablets) to control infection while hydrating the goat with electrolytes.

Very watery diarrhea requires more diagnosis and intervention. TIP: Black diarrhea indicates blood in the stool and likely coccidia. Grey or whitish diarrhea may point to E Coli or salmonella. Green diarrhea usually means the goat ate too much fresh green forage. Brown diarrhea, sometimes tinged with red, is common with does who have kidded and post-birthing debris is being passed.

Neonatal Diarrhea Complex, which is the term used to describe diarrhea occurring in kids under one month of age, usually occurs during kidding season when extremes of weather take place, for example, excessive heat or cold or heavy rains. Kids less than one month of age do not have functioning immune systems. Dehydration, acidosis, electrolyte depletion, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can result. The kid becomes weak and can't stand, has a dry mouth and cold extremities, body temperature drops below normal, and the suck response may be lost.

If the conditions are right to convince me that dehydration is a real possibility, I will use an oral electrolyte (Bounce Back)  and stomach tube the goat if it won't drink on its own. I will  administer sterile Lactated Ringers Solution electrolytes under the skin (sub-cutaneously) if the goat is seriously dehydrated and body temperature is sub-normal (less than 100*F).   NEVER  put fluids into a cold stomach (body temp  99*&F or less).

I also use Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) for subcutaneous rehydration in goats which I have concluded that additional liquids should not be added to their stomach contents. This is hard to describe, but sometimes a sick goat will have a sloshy feel or sound in the rumen which experience tells me that adding fluid to that rumen isn't the way to rehydrate it. There are articles on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com that detail which products I use and under which circumstances.

Sick kids should be isolated from the herd (preferably staying with their dams if circumstances will allow), placed in sanitary facilities, and fed from containers that are off the ground level to prevent further contamination. Administration of oral and sub-cutaneous electrolytes along with an appropriate broad-spectrum antibiotic (liquid Sulfamethoxazole with Trimethprim: vet script) is my treatment protocol for kids. My preferred oral electrolyte product is Bounce Back. I don't use any oral product that has psyllium or clay as an ingredient.

If I determine that the problem involves toxicity, the laxative Milk of Magnesia is used to induce mild diarrhea so that the goat's digestive system can be stimulated to pass the toxic material. Laxatives are dehydrating, so the goat must be kept hydrated with electrolytes.

Coccidia and/or worms are often the cause of diarrhea in kids. Both of these conditions are transmitted by fecal-to-oral contact and occur most often in heavily managed situations where pens and troughs are not kept clean and dry and where overcrowding exists. Accurate diagnosis of worm load and coccidia oocyst infestation is possible only by doing a microscopic fecal count using gridded McMasters slides.

Diarrhea caused by coccidia is best treated with oral doses of Albon or its generic equivalent Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% (vet script). How I use this product is described in my article on Coccidiosis on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. CoRid (amprollium) is still available over the counter, but you must use Vitamin B1 (thiamine) injections along with CoRid because it is a thiamine inhibitor.

Overfeeding on grain (sacked feed, shell or cracked corn, formulas concocted by the goat raiser or colleagues) or quick changes in feed, hay, or forage/browse can cause severe ruminal acidosis, shutting down the goat's digestive system, and can result in death. Heavy parasite loads can cause diarrhea in adult goats. Almost anything which messes up the proper functioning of the goat's rumen can cause scouring.

NEVER feed sweet feed/horse and mule feed/textured feed/ sileage/haylage/baleage (no molasses-add alfalfa-based products like ChaffHaye at my ranch) to goats. Any feed that is molasses based can mold and cause serious illnesses like Listeriosis.

Gastroenteritis, usually caused by E. Coli or other similar bacteria, should be medicated with SMZ-TMP tablets in adults and SMZ-TMP liquid in kids. All sulfa-based products are prescription only.

Never use Immodium AD to control diarrhea in a goat. This product can stop the peristaltic action of the gut, bringing the digestive process to a halt, and death can be the result.

Recognize diarrhea may be a symptom of a serious health problem and investigate to find the cause before running for scour halt medications. Sometimes, but not always, diarrhea is helpful in clearing up what is wrong with the goat and supportive care may be all that is needed.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 12.1.22

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