Spring and summer are prime times for pneumonia in goats, although it can be a year-round killer of both kids and adults. Wide swings of temperature and changes in climatic conditions, such as wet weather coupled with high daytime temperatures, high humidity, and much lower evening temperatures, can set the stage for pneumonia. Kids especially have trouble controlling body temperature under such conditions, causing them to be susceptible to developing pneumonia. Pneumonia is one of the two main goat killers.
The most common and deadly form of pneumonia in goats is not easily recognizable. It does not present as a snotty nose, coughing, and congestion. Interstitial pneumonia has only one symptom: rapid onset of very high fever (up to 108*F or 109*F), followed by dramatic quick drop in core body temperature which, when it falls below 100*F, the goat's lungs are filling up with fluids and it is dying. The goat can look fine at nightfall and be dead by morning. Death can occur in as little as four hours. If you aren't aware of your goats' behaviors, you can easily miss the onset of Interstitial pneumonia. And if you do catch it and don't have appropriate prescription medications on hand, the goat is probably going to die.
Example: A goat that seemed healthy at nightfall is not eating and standing off by itself with tail and head down in the morning. Something is obviously wrong. No runny nose. Probably standing up because fluids are building in the lungs. If down, likely already dying. If fever is present, great. You have a chance to save the goat with Nuflor Gold and Banamine injections. If body temperature is below 100*F, the chances are greatly diminished.
Interstitial pneumonia usually occurs with wide swings of temperature. My experience in Texas has been that goats can handle rapid hot to cold cycles better than fast cold to hot temperature changes. In either case, wide swings of temperature make it difficult for all goats, adults or kids, to maintain body temperature. Kids are especially susceptible. Interstitial pneumonia is often the result of this inability. It is not a contagious disease.
The first step in determining appropriate treatment is to take the sick goat's rectal temperature. Body temperature tells you which way to proceed treatment-wise. Fever indicates infection or inflammation. Example: A newborn with "weak-kid syndrome" will have sub-normal body temperature that requires a different treatment regimen from a kid running a fever caused by an infection. Without taking rectal temperature, you might misinterpret visual symptoms, wrongly diagnose the cause of the problem, and medicate the goat incorrectly. The animal may die from incorrect treatment. See my article entitled Diagnosing Illnesses in Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
If high fever is present, it must be brought down quickly. Fever-reducing medication and appropriate antibiotic therapy must be started immediately. If fever is not present but all other symptoms indicate pneumonia, antibiotic treatment should be tried. (This is an exception to my "no antibiotic usage if fever is not present" rule.) If the illness has progressed far enough, the goat will try to sit down, moan with discomfort, and immediately stand up, because fluid has begun to accumulate in the lungs and abdomen and its kidneys are shutting down. A goat in this condition probably cannot be saved but I always try until efforts prove futile. A goat that wants to live can overcome amazing obstacles. But once the lungs fill with fluid, survival is unlikely. If I cannot save it, I do the humane thing and euthanize the goat to stop its suffering.
Banamine or generic equivalent (veterinary prescription) lowers high body temperature and helps alleviate pain and inflammation. Banamine should be used once every 12 hours for several days but normally no more frequently, because it can cause stomach ulcers. Common sense dictates that if nothing else is available to drop the fever into normal range and the goat is likely to die, use Banamine as needed. I administer Banamine into the muscle (IM), dosing 1cc per 100 lbs. body weight. A newborn kid with fever (depending upon breed and weight) is given 1/10th to 2/10th's of a cc (one-tenth to two-tenth's of a cc) of Banamine. If Banamine is not available, baby aspirin can be used. Treat kids with at least one baby aspirin and adults with at least three baby aspirin. Do not use other pain relievers, such as Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc. --- only baby aspirin. Baby aspirin is not a desirable alternative to Banamine, so buy a bottle of generic Banamine (flunixin meglumine) from your vet.
Keep a supply of prescription medications on hand for emergencies. Nuflor, Nuflor Gold, and Excenel RTU are excellent antibiotics for respiratory illnesses and do not require refrigeration. These thick liquids must be administered through an 18-gauge needle into the muscle (IM) to get into the bloodstream quickly. Use a luer-lock syringe so that the needle does not blow off the syringe. For maximum benefit in goats, Nuflor should be injected daily for five consecutive days at a dosage of 3 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight. Nuflor Gold, which provides some protection against mycoplasma that Nuflor does not have, should be dosed at 6 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight for five consecutive days. Minimum dosage for a newborn kid is 1/2 cc. Nuflor Gold is my antibiotic of choice for adult goats with respiratory illnesses. All antibiotics must be dosed for five consecutive days.
Excenel RTU is a ready-to-use shelf-stable form of Naxcel that requires no mixing and no refrigeration. These advantages make it more convenient to use and store than Naxcel. Excenel RTU is dosed at 3 cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight for five consecutive days and should be given IM (into the muscle) through an 18-gauge needle. During the first 24 hours, I give two injections 12 hours apart, then daily for the next four days. Minimum dosage for a newborn is 1/2 cc. I prefer Excenel RTU with newborns and young kids.
Naxcel is a good antibiotic but is limited convenience-wise by having to keep it refrigerated and the necessity to mix and use the entire bottle within seven days or freeze remaining dosages in individual syringes. Naxcel must be given to goats in dosages stronger than indicated on the label. A newborn kid must receive at least 1/2 cc per day for five consecutive days to be effective. A one-hundred pound goat needs four cc's per dosage for five consecutive days. As with all other injectable medications, I never give more than six (6) cc's per injection site to prevent tissue damage. If necessary, I split the dosage, giving half into one location and the remaining amount into another injection site. Always complete the five consecutive days of treatment even if the animal is looking better. Relapses are likely. Consult your goat veterinarian, establish a working relationship, and use these medications under vet supervision.
If access to prescription antibiotics is not available, then you will have to use over-the-counter penicillin or oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA200 or generic equivalent) Penicillin should be dosed at 5 cc's per 100 pounds body weight for five consecutive days, using a luer-lock syringe with an 18-gauge needle and injecting SQ over the ribs. I dose oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml using five (5) cc per 100 pounds bodyweight given SQ over the ribs with an 18 gauge needle for five consecutive days.
I am believer in using prescription antibiotics to treat pneumonia in goats. Nuflor, Nuflor Gold, and Excenel RTU are far superior to over-the-counter products and are worth the extra expense. I do not believe in the effectiveness of single-shot antibiotics with goats. The two most common causes of death in goats are worms and pneumonia. Wormy goats are susceptible to pneumonia.
Chest congestion can be relieved by giving an expectorant/antihistamine/decongestant orally to the sick goat twice daily at a dosage of approximately six cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight.Children's antihistamine/decongestant/expectorant syrups (Robitussin DM) may have to be used since Expectahist is no longer available unless your vet will have a compounding pharmacist make it for you. Relieving chest congestion is vital for a goat to survive pneumonia. Don't discount the importance of these oral medications.
Keep the sick goat in a shaded, dry, free-from-draft location with plenty of fresh water, electrolytes, free-choice grass hay, and green leaves. No sacked feed. If the animal is not drinking water, orally drench with electrolytes (Bounce Back or ReSorb). A 100 pound goat needs one gallon of fluids in small amounts over a 24 hour period. If dehydration is severe, sub-cutaneous (SQ) delivery of Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) is necessary. Refer to my articles about (a) dehydration and (b) how to stomach tube a sick goat on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Never forget the beneficial effect of green leaves(the goat's natural food). Oak, elm, and hackberry are favorites; do not feed cherry leaves, as they are toxic to goats. Fresh green leaves are easily digestible. Don't try to feed grain concentrates to a sick goat. The rumen is *off* and cannot properly digest grains. If the goat is off feed, give Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) injections every 12 hours dosing at 4 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight. Brain function depends upon the availability of thiamine, and it takes a healthy rumen to produce it.
Follow up all antibiotic treatments with an oral probiotic, but use it after the antibiotic regimen has been completed. Jeffers at 1-800-533-3377 or www.jefferslivestock.com carries a variety of suitable probiotics.
White or clear nasal discharge is usually allergy-related, but if fever is present, then infection or inflammation exists and must be treated. Using antibiotics when they should not be used decreases their effectiveness when they are really needed because the goat's body can build up resistance to repeated use. The ineffectiveness of penicillin with certain illnesses is an example of antibiotic overuse.
Colorado Serum makes a pneumonia vaccine that I give to my goats. While no vaccine is 100% effective, this one is safe and inexpensive and I encourage you to use it. If pneumonia is a frequent problem in your herd, you should use the newer and more expensive pneumonia vaccines Polybac B Somnus or Presponse that provide better protection. Polybac B Somnus and Presponse work better with my large herds of bucks who live in a constant state of stress. I vaccinate bucks every six months with one of these newer vaccines. Jeffers carries these all of these over-the-counter pneumonia vaccines.
Goats raised primarily on forage/browse or under free-range conditions are less likely to have as many health problems as goats raised under intense management. Sound practices that include good shelter during bad weather, clean pens, fresh water, good nutrition, and no crowding go a long way towards reducing many goat health problems. Those of you who must raise goats under less-than-ideal conditions must be aware of these facts and be prepared. Properly-fed goats can ward off illnesses that poorly-fed goats cannot overcome. Good nutrition and vaccinations are cheap protection against animal loss.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas Updated 7/3/17
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