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Goats/Older Goat With a Broken Leg


My 4 year old Doe Goat, Clover has a broken front leg. It is broken right under the knee so it was dangling. We have had the vet up here twice. The first DR put a splint on it and said there was a good chance it would heal. Well when she put the splint on it the leg was swollen so when the swelling went down the splint slipped down as well.
We then re-splinted it ourselves. We then had another DR come up from the same office and take a look at it after a few weeks, since the splinting had slipped and we were told to call and possibly get it casted. She took the splint off and examined the leg. There were no compound fractures involved and our splinting of the leg was really great. Clover is up limping on it and getting around. Slowly but still getting around.
This vet told us that the leg was never going to heal and that we need to consider getting it amputated or have her put down. Clover only seems to be in pain when someone is touching the leg, which makes sense. Her appetite has not been affected by this.
The vet suggests getting the leg amputated way up on the shoulder. They would take the complete leg and shoulder.
My question is will the leg heal being splinted just enough for her to get around? Or should we do an amputation? If amputation why can't they just nub the leg, like they would do on a human, instead of taking the whole thing?
Thank You.

ANSWER: I am surprised the vet casted it without letting the swelling go down first.  Sounds like your casting job did a good job for helping though.

I am in hopes that the vet described why an amputation would be necessary.  Osteomeylitis is the disease of broken bones where an infection starts and then spreads through the whole body and can be fatal.  With that said osteomyelitis usually happens only with compound fractures where the bone has broken through the skin and outside bacteria is causing the infection. The only way to stop the infection from killing the goat is to amputate.

Re amputation, the vet is correct.  Amputation at the shoulder (most vets have never done this procedure in goats) is best - this allows no hanging/leftover limb to get caught on things.  If this were a back leg then euthansia would be the only thing that could be done as goats stand and lay down and get all their muscle power with their rear legs.  So a rear leg loss would not allow the goat to function.  A front leg loss will allow the goat to function, with the remaining leg moving more towards the center front of the goat creating a tripod effect for the goat.  

Some questions for you:  Does the leg seem hot to touch?  Is it painful to touch?  Does it dangle, or does it seem to have a good connection at the fracture site?  Is the leg swollen still?  

We had a goat who was stepped on by a horse and had a compound fracture of a front leg - our vet amputated at the shoulder after two days of casting and the goat had a fever (over 102.5) and was not weight bearing on the leg at all.  This goat went home the next morning and lived another 10 years, kidding four times, and being able to run up and down hills with ease using her tripod legs.  

I would take a temperature on her - if over 102.5 then would expect osteomyelitis has set in.  If no fever and she is otherwise seeming to do well - eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, and a little weight bearing (sounds like she is)on the limb, then you could do the following and wait a week or two weeks.  Place her in a small 5 x 5 pen to limit her movement currently, give calcium tablets, increase her protein intake, give selenium, vitamin K to help with healing of the fracture.  Would also give her arnica montana, a homeopathic medication for trauma/bone and muscle injuries.  Would also give aspirin to keep swelling and pain down.  

Hope this helps - let me know - if you would like to call me too you are welcome to at 360-742-8310  Donna

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you for your response. To answer your questions: The leg is splinted but when we had taken the splint off for the Vet it was not hot to the touch nor is the leg swollen at all. It does not seem all that painful to touch, just when the vet was looking at it she moved it around a lot. The vet said she could already feel scar tissue forming.
There was no compound fracture. No puncturing of the skin at all. When the splint was taken off the leg did dangle.
She is putting weight on the leg and acting normal. Takes her time and only does what she can.
Should we leave the splint on for a few weeks and see if it will heal at all? The vet is trying to rush us to make a decision.
Thank you for your help in this.

ANSWER: Thanks for the update.  The "dangle" worries me but if she is putting weight on it that generally indicates there is stability/healing.  The only thing with a splint is if it is too tight and does not allow circulation enough to allow healing.  The other item is if there is no weight bearing then the bone sometimes has a harder time growing/meshing together - if you can take the splint off a few hours a day to see how she is progressing might help with decision making, but I also would advise she be in a small stall (5x5) in order for her not to re injure her leg.  Also with the small stall, nothing on the ground that she could trip over - water buckets up off the ground as an example.  Would like to know her temperature if possible - use of a digital human thermometer works well - used rectally.  Without an x-ray to tell if the fracture is mending or not no one can tell how things are progressing.  The temperature really would help to tell us if there is an infection brewing.  I hope this helps.  The main thing I always look at is if the goat is in pain where it is grinding its teeth, lethargic, dragging the affected limb, not eating and drinking well which all can indicate a less than good prognosis for healing.  Let me know - Donna

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

I wasn't able to take her temperature today as I am a stay at home mom with 2 children under the age of 2. However we will be taking her temperature tomorrow to see where it is at. When I went for a walk today we stopped by the fenced in area where she is located and she is not having hardly any trouble at all. She is walking/limping on the leg and is definitely eating well. I don't think the splint is too tight, when it was too loose before she wouldn't walk on it, and then when it was wrapped too tight before she wouldn't put any weight on it either.
We are not able to put her in a 5x5 pen, we only have 2 goats so we can't separate them, also we don't have a place for a 5x5 pen. She is definitely not dragging the limb, is not lethargic, or grinding her teeth.
She does have some worms that we are treating, with safeguard. But other than that she is acting completely normal.
But we will definitely check her temp tomorrow.
Thank You

Thanks for the update.  All sounds good.  I totally understand if you cannot keep her confined.  Keep me posted - thanks again - Donna

Wanted to let you know that I am helping my daughter and her family move to another state and won't be on the allexperts list to email, but you can contact me via phone if you have a question - will be off the list from 5-18 through 5-23.  Thanks - 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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