Diarrhea is not an illness but rather a symptom of other more serious health problems in goats. Before treating a goat for diarrhea, determine why the animal is scouring. Diarrhea-controlling medication can make the situation much worse. 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, I let it run its course while keeping the goat hydrated with electrolytes and monitoring 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 an antibiotic (vet script:: SMZ-TMP tablets) to control infection while hydrating the goat with electrolytes. Very watery diarrhea requires more intervention. For purposes of this article, my definition of "diarrhea" is anything other than perfectly formed goat pills in young kids and adults and baby poop in newborns and very young goats that are not yet eating solid food.
There are four major causative agents of diarrhea in goats: bacteria, viruses, parasites, and management practices (i.e., overcrowding, poor sanitation, or nutritionally-induced problems such as overfeeding).
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 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.
Neonatal Diarrhea Complex, which is the term used to describe diarrhea occuring in kids under one month of age, the cause of which may not ever be diagnosed, usually occurs during kidding season when extremes of weather take place . . . . 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.
Sick kids should be isolated from the herd (preferably remaining with their dams if circumstances will allow it because all goats dislike being alone), placed in sanitary facilities, and fed from containers that are well above 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. My preferred oral electrolyte product is either Bounce Back or ReSorb. I don't use any product that has either psyllium or clay as an ingredient. I use Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) for subcutaneous rehydration in goats into which I have decided I should not add to their stomach contents. There are articles on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com that detail which products I use and under which circumstances. The laxative Milk of Magnesia is used to induce mild diarrhea in toxic situations so that the goat's digestive system can be stimulated to rid its body of the substance that is making it sick. Laxatives are dehydrating, so the goat must be kept hydrated with electrolytes.
Coccidia and/or worms are often the cause of diarrhea in kids over one month of age. 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 or coccidia oocyst infestation is possible only by doing a microscopic fecal count.
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 negatively affects 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 moisture-laden alfalfa-based products like ChaffHaye at my ranch) to goats. Any feed that is molasses based can mold and cause serious illnesses like Listeriosis.
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 of a reduction of water in the rumen to change the pH from alkaline to acidic that results in a very sick goat. If the conditions are right to convince me that dehydration is a real possibility, I will use Bounce Back or ReSorb and orally drench 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. Never put fluids into a cold stomach.
Coccidia-induced diarrhea is best treated with oral doses of Albon or its generic equivalent Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% (now vet script). How I use this product is described in my article on Coccidiosis. Neomycin sulfate, marketed under the name Biosol, is a current over-the-counter product that will likely be script only before the year is out. 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. See my article on Coccidiosis on my website's Articles page at http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
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.
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 as a symptom of a more 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 8/2/16
Important! Please Read This Notice!
All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)
[GoatCamp™] [Tennessee Meat Goats™] [Myotonic Goats] [TexMaster™ Goats] [Which Breed is Right for You?]
All information and photos copyright © Onion Creek Ranch and may not be used without express written permission of Onion Creek Ranch. TENNESSEE MEAT GOAT ™ and TEXMASTER™ are Trademarks of Onion Creek Ranch . All artwork and graphics © DTP, Ink and Onion Creek Ranch.