Friday, May 09, 2008

Goat Bloat

Or, what happens when your goat gets into the pig feed... and let me tell you, it's not good.

This actually happened back in March, the day before the piggies were born, so I was dealing with bloat and birth all in the same day. It made for a very long day. This is the first chance I've had to blog about it, so here it is.

This is Latte on a good day. Quite svelte, no? That's her little boy, Dragon, who will be a year old next week.

This is Latte on a bloat day. Looks uncomfortable, no?

Puts that whole premenstrual water retention thing into perspective, doesn't it? Boy oh boy, was she uncomfortable! Thankfully though, she was never down, so we were able to walk her lots, massage her lots—I'm talking every two hours or so—and she recovered just fine, but it was a bit scary nonetheless.

A goat can die from bloat, as can any ruminant, so it's a really serious condition. The clinical name for this particular kind of bloat is enterotoxemia type D, and it's caused by the overgrowth of clostridia perfringens type D, a normal inhabitant of the gut that goes on overload—this is the CD part of the standard CD&T vaccine. We do vaccinate our goats, and this probably is what saved Latte's life.

A ruminant can go toxic pretty quickly from overeating: the CD overgrowth produces an epsilon toxin, which is a particularly nasty neurotoxin that increases vascular permeability and facilitates its own uptake, and the ruminant's behavior really reflects this. Some descriptions say "depressed," but really it's more like a drunkenness or drugged out look. Hard to describe, but clearly different behavior and noticeable in the eyes.

If the goat is down and you can't get it up, tubing to release the gas can help, and worst-case scenarios involve making an incision in the goat's left side to release the pressure, which is, at this stage, putting pressure on the lungs and diaphragm. Here's a website that describes the process pretty clearly. Thankfully, none of this was necessary for us, and again, the vaccine was probably a relatively cheap and easy insurance policy.

I thought long and hard about moving away from vaccines, and was seriously considering it, but this incident turned my thinking around. Goats are notorious for getting out of and into everything, and with our homestead situation where we keep so many different animals, there's just too much of a chance that something like this could happen again, despite our best efforts at precaution. I'd rather give a vaccine once a year than risk a downed and possibly dead goat.

At any rate, the evening I knew the goats got into the pig feed, I pulled all food and water even though neither was showing signs of bloat at that point. Pulling both food and water can help prevent acidosis as well as preventing the grain in her gut from swelling further. Unfortunately, I had no way of knowing how much feed the goats ate, as they got into the whole can of feed. Yes, I know. Bad farmer.

We gave them some baking soda, which helps break up the gas bubbles and balance the pH of the rumen, which is becoming increasingly acidic with the bloat—called ruminal acidosis. The next morning, it was clear that Latte had bloat while Dragon seemed, thankfully, unaffected. She wasn't taking the baking soda, so I got a few mouthfuls into her. I also drenched her with peanut oil, which ostensibly breaks the surface tension of the gas bubbles while also greasing the digestive track to move the food out more quickly.

We also began massaging and walking her around the barnyard, getting her running whenever possible. The kids were really helpful with this part! An old farmer's trick is to put the ruminant in a wagon attached to the tractor and ride them around the pastures, the idea being that all the bumping will help dislodge the gas bubbles.

Latte made it through the day, but was showing no signs of passing gas or feeling any relief, and she still wouldn't touch the baking soda. When things were similar the next day, we continued our regimen of massage and walking. She began to show interest in some hay, so we gave her that as well as some dried maple leaves, as roughage helps get the rumen back in shape. I also chose, at this point to give her some simethicone, as there was no evidence that she had yet been able to pass any of the gas. After a single dose, she began feeling much better; her entire demeanor changed within a few hours and a second dose was never needed.

Over the next couple of days, she continued to recover with no signs of residual affects. I continued to monitor her for signs of founder, or laminitis, and pneumonia, a secondary infection that can result from drenching improperly. With laminitis, basically what happens is that the laminae, a network of tissue and blood vessels that hold the hoof in place, break down and are no longer able to hold the bones in place, possibly filling the hoof with blood and causing the bones to rotate downward. Severe founder causes the goat to walk on its knees rather than feet and will follow it through life. Here's a good article on founder.

Pneumonia can occur when liquid, like the peanut oil, enters the trachea and therefore the lungs. Proper head positioning during drenching is important to help prevent this from occurring, and using a flavored oil like peanut rather than tasteless mineral oil, which you might see recommended, can help encourage the goat to swallow, thus eliminating the possibility of oil entering the trachea.

So, very long story that, thankfully, had a happy ending. Latte is fine and happy out on pasture right now, looking svelte but losing that girlish figure as her impending birth approaches. We hope, anyway. Check back around the beginning of June to see whether we have some new kids on the farm.


Verde said...

keeping lots of animals keeps a person busy. I went through that a few years back when the 4-H lambs got out and knocked over the grain bucket.

The one was always a little stunted - but he tasted good!

Country Girl said...

I am sorry this happended but glad to hear of your experiece and how you treated her. We are new goat owners.

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