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Goats/milk fever/shipping fever complex


QUESTION: Can a goat get milk fever 4 weeks after kidding? I got a goat that developed symptoms of pneumonia (labored breathing, wheezing), trouble lifting back legs when walking, weak (she was eating multi flora leaves and couldn't break them off as well as her 4 week old kids were doing, a couple times she took a mouthful of hay and then just stood there. Otherwise her appetite was good. breathing was labored even in the shade with a warm breeze. She didn't wobble, but she did seem sort of stiff in her gate and she did fall twice. Trouble getting up even with help when laying down twice. She would bump into things with her head when walking around in the barn. She wasn't able to turn easily. She went down hill fast (3 days# and died on the 3rd day after eating her grain that morning she died by 11AM. Kids were nursing but didn't seem to be getting much milk. Her udder felt fairly full but not hard or hot. She appreciated mint udder cream applied. She was vaccinated for CD&T approx. 8 weeks before I got her. She was wormed for brain worm by previous owner due to a barn mate having it. Hay and grain was mixed half and half to gradually introduce her to the new feed. She was used to pasture and had access to pasture with supervision after I got her.
I gave 3cc Pen G once a day for two days for the breathing, 2cc tetanus antitoxin as her feet were trimmed short before arriving and some of the symptoms resembled tetanus.
I rewormed her with Bimectin as per advice for possible resistant worms #I only use chemical dewormers when needed quickly - otherwise I only use herbal wormer and diatomaceous earth).
Symptoms resembled parts of enterotoxemia, tetanus, milk fever, shipping fever complex w/? pneumonia, and or brain worm. The kids were given tetanus antitoxin as they hadn't been given it when disbudded 3 days previously and they are doing great. Bottle feeding and eating hay and fresh browse by hand.
I tried to get a necropsy done but couldn't find a vet willing to do it or to send her to get one done. I hate not understanding what happened. The owner said that there was nothing wrong with her and that she was very hardy, had been to fairs and never got shipping fever complex, but she did have some slight trouble with walking normally, but she ascribed that to having problems with her hooves not being shaped normally and that with diligent trimming she had been fine even with that in the past. It sounds like shipping fever complex w/ pneumonia to me as well as milk fever, although she did show slight improvement with ability to chew hay after giving the tetanus antitoxin. Thanks for any help you can offer in helping me diagnose what happened.

ANSWER: What was her temperature/measurement please.  Did she have difficulty kidding?  Was the weather cold/wet? Did she have a warm place to be in? What feed regimen did you have her on?  Was she peeing and pooping?  Did her poop look like regular pellets? Shipping fever is only when they are shipped/travel - did she travel recently?  Had you noticed her having difficulty eating or not eating and drinking days before you started treatment?

As to your question, if the doe was on alfalfa hay then milk fever/hypocalcemia is possible.  Sounds more like a pneumonia for which penicillin must be given at 3 cc/100 pounds body weight twice a day with the first dose being a double dose and then treating for 5 days.  Also during this time the goat must have probiotics to keep the rumen healthy/alive.  Also, if the goat is not eating well then vitamin B complex with thiamin (human tablets are fine) must also be given to keep the neurologic system functioning.  Doubt brain worm - you're talking about meningeal deer worm?  Doubt tetanus or enterotoxemia.  

As an aside, many times a necropsy will not help with diagnosis and many times a vet is not experienced enough with goat necropsies anyway to really tell you anything helpful.  It is a difficult task at best.  

Hope this helps - let me know about the questions I posed and I will get back to you - Donna

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QUESTION: Pneumonia sounds most likely to me and possibly milk fever (don't think she was on alfalfa but the feed change might have been too low in calcium?)
Temp. was 102.3 the day before she died. She ate her grain the following AM and was deceased by the time I got back home at 11AM. I only had her 3 days total. The kids are fine and I am bottle feeding them. The weather had been very warm and then suddenly turned very cold 40's the day after I got her. Plus she may have been older than the predicted 4 yrs. The little barn that I kept her and her kids in was well ventilated and deep bedded but dry, but when the cold weather hit so suddenly I should have closed the windows some. I should have used the amount of penicillin you recommended but it happened so quick, I didn't even know she was sick at first. I did notice the first day that something just didn't seem right as she was breathing hard and not lifting her back legs very well walking in tall grass or over brush. I wish I had not wormed her as I found out later she had already been wormed. I'm sure that made it worse and I feel terrible about it as I hate using chemical wormers except in emergencies where worming is needed quickly. I usually only use diatomaceous earth and an herbal wormer once a week. Thank you for your response. I will use bovi sera to prevent shipping fever complex in the future although the previous owner said she had taken her to fairs many times and never had a bit of trouble. Sorry I took so long to get back. Bottle feeding and work has kept me jumping.

Hello - thanks for the update.  Sounds more like a pneumonia, which is not shipping fever unless it was within 2 days of being transferred to your place.  Sounds like the weather could have made things worse.  Know the feeling of bottle feeding and work - we bottle raise all our kids - 10 to 20 every Spring and I work full time too.  Keep up the good work.  Hang in there.  Donna


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Donna Ruelas-Semasko/Edelweiss Acres


All goat health care, nutrition, judging questions about all goats - packgoats, dairy goats, pygmy goats, meat goats, fleece goats.


27 years health care/nutrition of all types of goats, 17 years experience in packgoats, 20 years experience in 4H goat projects as leader, superintendent and judge. 20 years experience in putting on goat care/nutrition seminars.

NAPgA, The Evergreen Packgoat Club, 4H, ADGA.

Hobby Farm, many newspapers, 4H newsletters, Packgoat Manuals (youth and general), judging information pamphlets, seminar handouts about health care and nutrition.

4 years of college, ongoing education in goats.

Awards and Honors
Small Farm Award of Thurston County

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