WEAK KIDS OR FLOPPY KIDS?
Diagnosis and Treatment
Weak kid or floppy kid? Making the proper diagnosis can be confusing to goat producers. This is a life-threatening distinction because the causes and treatments are very different, and if the wrong choice is made, the kid will probably die.
A weak kid is a starving kid, either from a stressful birth that has resulted in hypothermia (sub-normal body temperature means a chilled kid) or from the nursing kid's inability to get sufficient milk from its mother. In the latter case, the kid could have gotten separated from its dam or it could have been out-maneuvered for milk by stronger siblings. The dam might have mastitis or congested udder or she may not have received proper nutrition during her pregnancy therefore she cannot produce enough milk for her kids. A weak kid born out of a doe infected with an abortion disease is starving because abortion organisms cut off the placental food supply in an effort to kill the kid in utero. If the dam is infected in the latter part of her pregnancy, the kid can be born weak but unable to stand and nurse. Whatever the situation, the kid is weak because it is starving.
A floppy kid is a kid that has been overfed on milk, usually as a result of bottle feeding but sometimes because the dam has been penned in such close quarters with the kid that she cannot walk off and keep the kid from nursing too often. This usually does not occur until a kid is about seven to ten (7-10) days old. Newborn kids do NOT have Floppy Kid Syndrome, unless they are being overfed as bottle babies. When a kid is overfed on milk, it is unable to digest the contents of its milk stomach quickly enough before more milk is put into it, setting up an overeating-on-milk scenario. Similar to overeating disease in ruminating goats, the kid cannot digest all the milk, so a toxic situation is set up and it is poisoned from within. No vaccine exists to prevent pre-ruminal kids from overeating on milk. If the kid is being bottle fed, you must learn how much milk can be fed and at what specific intervals of time for the kid's weight and age in order to prevent Floppy Kid Syndrome. I have an article on Overfeeding Bottle Baby Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
WEAK KID SYNDROME
Weak Kid Syndrome is the term used to describe newborns who are unable to stand and or nurse -- regardless of cause. If you do not take steps to intervene quickly, the newborn will die. Kids thought to have been smothered or crushed by other goats usually were too weak to stand to nurse their dams and actually starved to death. Getting sufficient colostrum into a newborn during its first few hours of life is critical to its survival. See my article entitled The Importance of Colostrum to Newborns on my website's Articles page mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Kids born prematurely for any reason, newborns of does infected with abortion organisms late in pregnancy, and hypothermic kids (sub-normal body temperature) experience Weak Kid Syndrome. Cold and/or wet weather strikes, the doe goes into labor, and her newborns are at risk for hypothermia. A weak kid cannot stand to nurse its mother. A dam is not going to waste her energy or colostrum on a kid that cannot stand and is -- to her - clearly not going to survive. If the kid can stand at all, its back legs will be splayed apart from its body. A very weak kid will be limp and its neck may fold back like a bird's neck towards one side of its body. Such a kid is not only weak but is dehydrated, cold, and almost dead. Do not confuse this kid with the occasional newborn who develops early-onset fever due to its inability to regulate its body temperature during extremes of weather. A kid born with fever or who develops fever soon after being born has the ability to suck but won't nurse until medication is given to stabilize its body temperature at the normal level. Goats with fever go "off feed." This condition is discussed in depth in my article entitled Weak and Abandoned Newborns on my website's Articles page. A weak kid does not have the strength to suckle; suckling takes energy that the weak kid doesn't have.The first thing that you should do with any sick goat is to take rectal temperature. Normal goat body temperature is 101.5*F to 103.5*F. Body temperature below 100*F means the goat is in critical condition. Fever is much easier to bring down than sub-normal body temperature is to bring up. Fill a sink with very warm water and put the kid's body in it, holding its head out of the water. Gently massage the kid's legs to stimulate blood circulation. A cold stressed newborn's body will shunt blood to essential organs (lungs, heart, kidneys -- not stomach) to sustain life, leaving its legs with poor circulation and therefore cold. When the chill is off the kid's body and its body temperature is at least 100*F (sometimes this requires multiple sinks full of warm water and constant taking of rectal temperature) , remove the kid from the warm water bath, towel the kid dry, and administer Lactated Ringers Solution under the skin (SQ) at each shoulder.
Do NOT put colostrum into the stomach of a kid whose body temperature is under 100*F. If you do, it is likely to die. When the body is struggling to stay alive, the stomach is not at that point in time an essential part of survival and blood is shunted to vital organs like heart, lungs, and liver. If you put colostrum or milk into the kid under these circumstances, there will be no blood flow to the stomach to assist in digestion, the colostrum or milk will remain there undigested, toxicity will set in, and the kid will die.
Lactated Ringers comes in various sizes up to a 1000 mL IV bag, but do not give it intravenously to the kid. The goal is to hydrate the kid's body tissues -- not to put it in its bloodstream. The knot of fluid which appears under the skin will soon be absorbed by the dehydrated kid's body. Continue to give Lactated Ringers Solution until the kid's body quits absorbing it rapidly, but space the dosing over reasonable periods of time. Give the kid's body time to absorb and process the fluid. A newborn kid can live several hours on SQ fluids and without colostrum in its stomach. Rehydration to get the body temperature above 100*F is vital. LRS can be used frequently and safely in small amounts as described. Anytime a kid is dehydrated, whether from Weak Kid Syndrome, pneumonia, eColi, diarrhea, or other causes, Lactated Ringers is a good product to use for rehydration. Many illnesses are accompanied by dehydration and fever is always dehydrating. Do not trust the skin pinch test to determine dehydration. (Adults usually require stomach tubing because it is difficult to give them enough Lactated Ringers Solution SQ to resolve their dehydration problem.)
Once the kid has been hydrated with LRS, use a hand-held hair dryer set on *low* temperature and blow warm air across the kid to help raise and hold its body temperature. Take care not to burn or further dehydrate the kid. For quick energy, put some molasses or Karo syrup on your finger and rub it onto the kid's gums and inside the kid's mouth.
Stomach tube a weak kid who cannot hold its head up with a small amount of Karo syrup or molasses diluted in warm water or with a solution of equal parts of 50% Dextrose and water. A weak kid with sub-normal body temperature is able to absorb these simple sugars while it cannot digest colostrum or milk. Give the simple-sugar mixture slowly and in small amounts -- probably no more than two ounces at a time, depending up the size and breed of the kid. Do not put colostrum or milk into a weak kid that cannot hold its head up until its body temperature is above 100*F. Once the kid's rectal temperature is above 100*F, milk the kid's mother and stomach tube a small amount of colostrum into it, even if it cannot hold its head up. If the dam's colostrum is bad (stringy or bloody or won't flow when the seal over the teat has been carefully removed with a fingernail), thaw some colostrum that has been previously frozen in plastic soda-pop bottles or use colostrum replacer and tube feed the kid no more than two ounces at a time. It is important to use the dam's colostrum if the producer wants to graft the kid back onto its mother. A dam uses smell to identify her kids; the kids' feces must smell right or she will reject them.
Colostrum should be thick and creamy in consistency and yellowish in color. Occasionally colostrum will be so thick that it cannot be tube-fed. Dilute very thick colostrum with a small amount of goat's milk so it will flow through a stomach tube. Colostrum is required to get the newborn's digestive system operating. A combination of five (5) cc's strong coffee (not too hot) mixed with molasses or Karo syrup can be given orally to *jump start* the kid. Jeffers (1-800-533-3377) sells Goat NutriDrench which can be given to weak kids as a source of quick energy.
Orally administer CMPK or MFO (calcium-magnesium-phosphorus-dextrose solution). Often given to does experiencing Hypocalcemia ("milk fever"), CMPK or MFO will help stabilize a weak kid whose calcium balance is off from the stress of hypothermia. Use a one-cc syringe and give as little as one quarter of one cc (1/4 of one cc) at a time orally. Try to get one cc per pound of bodyweight of CMPK or MFO into the kid. Example: a six-pound kid should get up to six cc's of this product orally -- given very slowly. Also give from one to three cc's (1 to 3 cc's) of Fortified Vitamin B Complex given into the muscle (IM) -- again in small doses. Both of these products are available over the counter from Jeffers (1-800-JEFFERS) and are inexpensive. Thanks to Donna Palmer, Crown Hill Nubians, Central Point, Oregon, for this tip.
Premature kids or "dummies" who don't catch on to nursing quickly can benefit from having from one-half to one cc (1/2 to 1 cc) of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) injected IM to "wake up the brain." Girls born prematurely have teeth than are about half erupted from their gums, while premature boys usually have their teeth totally unerupted (still inside the gums).Stomach tubing is easy but can be a big stressor to you the first time you do it. Have a vet or an experienced producer demonstrate how to stomach tube properly and read STOMACH TUBING on the Articles page of my website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. The stomach tube must go into the esophagus and not into the kid's lungs. If fluid is tubed into the lungs, the kid will contract pneumonia and die. You must know how to use a stomach tube on both kids and adult goats. You might kill the kid by stomach tubing incorrectly, but it will surely die if you don't try. Now that the weak kid has received life-sustaining colostrum, wrap or cover it loosely in a towel, set a heating pad on *low* inside a box and place another towel over it, then put the kid on the towel-covered heating pad. Note that today's digital heating pads cut off every hour, so make sure you find an old-style heating pad that runs until you turn it off. The only place I've been able to find them is Walgreens.com. Jeffers (1-800-533-3377) sells a farrowing pad that provides a constant and even source of heat. In very cold weather, also use a heating lamp with a 150 to 200 watt clear bulb over which a metal guard has been placed so that the kid cannot touch the hot bulb. Infrared bulbs are suitable for extremely cold climates only and should be placed out of reach of the kid and any other animal. Test the heat with your hand and adjust height and wattage accordingly. Keep electrical cords out of reach. Set the kid upright on its sternum and turn it from side to side every 30 minutes to avoid pneumonia. Keep the kid hydrated; heating pads have a dehydrating effect. Use Lactated Ringers Solution for hydration as needed. A good indication of hydration is when the kid can urinate and when its body no longer quickly absorbs the LRS when injected SQ. If you are lucky enough to find a weak kid whose temperature is slightly sub-normal but more than 100*F and it can stand and hold its head up, then most of the foregoing treatments can be skipped and the kid can be placed at its dam's teat to nurse. Squeeze a bit of the dam's colostrum into the kid's mouth and it will usually begin to nurse if it has sufficient strength. Nursing takes energy. Check the kid's sucking response by putting your finger in its mouth. A kid that is only slightly *weak* will suck the finger. Remember that most weak kids won't be strong enough to nurse on their own but instead will require stomach tubing.
FLOPPY KID SYNDROME
Floppy Kid Syndrome has been seen in meat goats in the USA since the early 1990's. The introduction of intensive management of goats with the importation of Boers into the United States brought FKS to producers' attention. Producers understandably tend to confine expensive goats in small areas, creating conditions under which kids can demand and receive more milk from their dams than their mothers would normally feed them. Unconfined dams allow their kids to nurse for frequent but short periods of time. When a doe cannot limit the amount of milk that her kids receive at each feeding, Floppy Kid Syndrome can occur. FKS most often occurs when producers are bottle feeding kid goats; they almost invariably overfeed them on milk.
FKS usually doesn't appear until the kid is seven to ten days old because it takes a few days for the undigested milk to build up in the kid's stomach and life-threatening toxicity develops. An exception to this time frame -- bottle babies -- is covered later in this article. The kid literally overeats on milk on a repeated basis and is unable to fully digest the milk before it refills its stomach by nursing again, creating a toxic condition like Enterotoxemia (Overeating Disease). Untreated, a painful and rapid death occurs. Treatment must be swift to save the kid. The solution is simple and usually the opposite of what producers think should be done. Take the kid off milk completely for at least 36 hours. Substitute Bounce Back, ReSorb, or equivalent electrolytes in place of milk and add baking soda to neutralize the conditions in the kid's stomach. Administer C&D anti-toxin (*not* the toxoid) immediately. Use Milk of Magnesia to push the partially-digested milk through the kid's system and out of its body. Prescription Banamine, given IM via injection, will calm the gut; dosage is 1/10th's of a cc per 100 pounds body weight (absolute minimum dosage is 1/10th of 1 cc) given IM. Because most FKS kids are wobbly-legged and stagger like they are drunk if they can walk at all, tube feeding may be necessary.Dissolve one teaspoon of ordinary baking soda in eight (8) ounces of warmed electrolytes and mix thoroughly. If the kid will not suck a bottle, stomach tube one to two ounces (30 - 60 cc's) of this solution into the kid's stomach. Wait an hour or two and tube feed another one to two ounces. Don't bloat the kid's stomach; use common sense about how much it can hold. Administer a SQ injection of C&D anti-toxin ( follow label directions) wherever loose skin can be found. SQ injection over the ribs is a good location. C&D anti-toxin helps counteract the toxic effect of the undigested milk in the kid's stomach and should be used every twelve (12) hours. In the unlikely event that the kid is old enough to have already received its two-injection series of CD/T vaccinations, you will have to wait at least five days after all FKS treatment has been completed and start the CD/T series over again. However, a very young kid should not have received its first and second CD/T injections. The dam's immunities passed to the kid via mother's milk are supposed to protect the kid during its first month of life, at which time the kid's own immune system starts developing. But if the kid is overfed on milk, no medication can prevent Floppy Kid Syndrome.
Because Floppy Kid Syndrome is accompanied by a bacterial infection in the kid's gut, antibiotic therapy is advisable. Obtain a vet prescription for Sulfadimethoxazine with Trimethoprim (or Primor) or use a sulfa-based over-the-counter antibiotic like Neomycin Sulfate (brand name Biosol) and orally medicate for five consecutive days. Dose the kid with Milk of Magnesia orally (five cc's per 20 pounds body weight) to speed the elimination of the undigested milk from its body. Mineral oil can be effective but must be stomach-tubed into the goat. Because mineral oil has no taste, the goat may not identify it as a substance to be swallowed and instead can be aspirated into the lungs. A warm soapy enema can be given to remove hard-packed feces from the lower intestinal tract via the anus; however, an enema will not move undigested milk from the stomach. When giving a warm soapy enema, use a 3 cc Luer-slip syringe and carefully put the slip (tip) portion of the syringe into the kid's rectal opening. Repeat several times, remembering that this is very delicate tissue that is easily damaged by rough treatment.
Diarrhea sometimes occurs with FKS. This is good; the kid's body is trying to eliminate toxic substances. Do not use diarrhea medication unless the scouring is a liquid of watery consistency, threatening dehydration, and be very careful how much anti-diarrheal is given under such conditions. Diarrhea is a symptom of an illness -- not the illness itself. See my article on Diarrhea on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Do not give Immodium AD to a goat. Immodium AD slows and can stop the peristaltic action of the gut, immobilizing the undigested milk in the kid's stomach, making the situation worse. Do not use an anti-diarrheal product that is clay-based or psyllium-based. Your goal is to get the toxic milk out of the kid's system quickly. If diarrhea becomes watery, orally dose the kid with up to six (6) to ten (10) cc's of PeptoBismol up to three times a day and use injectable Banamine to quiet the gut. Keep the kid hydrated with electrolytes.
The electrolyte/baking soda solution will both rehydrate the kid and soothe its gut. A kid can survive on the electrolyte/baking soda solution for two or three days if that time is needed to get its system cleaned out. Do not start feeding milk again until the kid's feces have returned to normal form, it can stand and nurse, and the kid has been re-hydrated. Then ease the kid back onto milk by feeding equal parts milk and electrolytes.
Bottle babies require special comments. During the first two weeks of life, bottle babies should be fed with individual bottles to control the amount of milk that they receive. See my article on overfeeding bottle babies on the Articles page of my website. You should try to mimic the dam, who feeds small amounts of milk frequently to her kids to avoid stomach upset. Folks new to bottle babies can cause Floppy Kid Syndrome by overfeeding milk. A kid will drink as much as you will let it drink; the sucking response makes it feel safe and secure. Multiple bottle babies can be fed on a Lambar available from Jeffers (1-800-533-3377). A Lambar is a milk-feeding system consisting of a three-and-one-half gallon bucket with lid and holes around it into which nipples attached to feeding tubes are placed. Training kids to use a Lambar is easy and your workload can be lightened IF you can keep kids from drinking too much, overturning the bucket, and knocking the lid off. Build a frame and secure it to the floor, then place the bucket inside it. I personally prefer to use individual bottles so I know exactly how much milk each kid receives. In all cases (Lambar or individual bottles), proper cleaning of equipment both before and after use is essential.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 4-4-14
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