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Goats/Oxytetracycline for Joint Ill


QUESTION: Since there are many different suggestions on the web for how to dose a goat with oxytetracycline, I'm hoping you can help me with this specific case.  A 45-lb mini-Alpine buckling was being treated for polio/thiamine deficiency and was starting to improve when his joints began to swell -- I was told this was most likely an opportunistic secondary infection and advised to give the buckling Oxy, which I have done.

While I have seen a 5-day course commonly recommended, it's also stated to be sure to treat with Oxy(200 mg/ml) for a full 10 days when treating Joint Ill, and I even saw a 14-day recommendation.  Because the buckling's joints have remained swollen, he has been treated for the past 10 days, the last dose given around 1am this morning, 6/3.  The amounts I gave him varied slightly because of the different protocols I read about, and I cut back by a couple of mls the last 3 days due to my concern about bombarding his system.  But for Days 4-7, he received 2.5cc once per day.

His hydration varied during the treatment which could have impacted its efficacy -- at first he was quite dehydrated, and then briefly seemed to be a bit over-hydrated.

I have also given him probiotics several times, and he still suckles from his mother with assistance many times each day, although he does not yet drink water on his own and I still give him some Ringers solution SQ daily. His temp is stable around 102.9.  I haven't completely stopped giving him thiamine by IM injection, though I've reduced the amount and increased the dosage interval to about once every 24 hours, still keeping my eyes open for any sign he needs more.  His pellets look more and more normal each day... he's eating increasing amounts of fresh grass and herbs with enthusiasm and seems to really be on the mend in many ways.

He is not yet standing, and unfortunately there is still a small bit of swelling in at least one front knee.  I realize I have given him a heavy load of antibiotics - I don't use them casually (have given them only once before in the 6 years we've had our herd) and in this case have been primarily interested in saving this boy's life, even if it could mean there is some stunting of his growth.

Do you think that at this point of near recovery he requires more antibiotics, until all sign of joint swelling has completely disappeared?  Or is it perhaps normal for some tissue swelling to remain and gradually diminish as his system strengthens?

Many, many thanks for your help with this.  It's wonderful that you offer your assistance here, since so many vets lack experience caring for goats!  I look forward to your response, hoping that this little fella is finished with antibiotics, but prepared to continue a bit longer if necessary to definitely end the infection.

ANSWER: Is his weight really 45 pounds or? Sounds like he is a lot less than that as he is still suckling on his mom.  I always start with penicillin first and if that does not do the trick in 5 days then switch to oxytetracycline. Were you giving the oxy at 4.5 cc/100 pounds body weight once a day intramuscularly?  If not intramuscular then most of the antibiotics would not get to the source.  Re thiamin deficiency/polio, that generally does not occur in kid goats under 4 weeks as they have no fully functioning rumen yet.  Why did you suspect polio?   He definitely has a fever - anything over 102.5 is a fever and he needs aspirin for the swelling, pain, and fever.  Let me know about his true age and pounds before I go any further with specifics - thanks - Donna   

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QUESTION: Thank you for responding so quickly, Donna.  Yes, he is 45 lbs and about 3 months of age.  He was being separated from his mother when this trouble began... they were both more stressed than we have seen before, and he was away from her longer than we intended, so suddenly he had no milk for too long, and it's possible that with the stress he ate very little or not at all.  I don't recall exactly how long it was, but something like 36-48 hours.  He developed muscle tremors which were relieved with thiamine therapy.

We did begin with penicillin, as precaution for listeriosis, but since the knees began to swell while he was on penicillin, it was recommended to switch to oxytetracycline.  Most, maybe even all, the dosage instructions I saw for oxy said to give it subcutaneously, and this was also the direction given to me by an experienced vet assistant.  I'm so sorry to learn that IM would be the more effective way to go.

I've also heard different things about goat temperature.  We did take this buckling, Leo, to see the vet, and at that time 10 days ago his temp was 103.8, which did not alarm the vet at all.  I had been giving him aspirin at that point, and also a few doses of Dexamethasone, but the vet said that since Leo was starting the oxytetracycline, aspirin would not be needed and could hurt his stomach.

We've all been through a very rough time... I'd sure love to see this sweet boy on his feet and feeling tops again!  Thanks so much for your help.

ANSWER: Thanks for the info.  So the "muscle spasms" were really chills from the high fever.  Anything over 102.5 is a fever.  Intramuscular is best for anything injectable for goats.  At the first sign of a fever and/or joint swelling then aspirin must be started to help with pain, swelling, inflammation, fever breaking.  Dexa is harder on a goat.  At this point I would either go with a longer time of the oxy - again, not my favorite antibiotic - but IM and 4.5 ml/100 pounds body weight every day for 5 days.  Or you could start on penicillin at 3 cc/100 pounds body weight twice a day for 5 days.  For both the goat must have probiotics during the treatment.  Hope this helps - let me know - Donna

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QUESTION: I should mention that the buckling also had painful gut spasms for a while.  Do you think that he has had a polio issue?  Or a different problem from the beginning?

Do you think the penicillin originally given was not working against what has infected his joints, since they became infected while he was on penicillin? (although it was expired -- we live very rurally and had not yet driven the hour for a new bottle, which we were ready to do when it was suggested we switch to the oxy.  I have been told, though, that penicillin stored in the refrigerator keeps long beyond the expiration date.)  I will head over to him now for a temp check.  Would you recommend aspirin?  I wonder if it would be beneficial to switch the antibiotic for the sake of switching?  I'm just concerned about the effectiveness of the penicillin in this case, for the reason already mentioned.  Thanks again. :)

Gut spasms are not polio.  He could have had two or three items going on due to the infection.  What is the expiration date on the penicillin.  It should always be kept in the refrigerator anyway, but yes, it can last longer although loses some of its effectiveness over time.  I always start with penicillin as it takes care of most bacteria that goat's get.  The oxy generally can take care some infections and true joint ill is one, but generally joint ill happens within the first weeks of life as it is caused from bacteria going up the newly torn umbilical cord when it is not dipped in iodine.  I would start on aspirin.  You can stay with oxy but IM only - have you given IM injections before?  They are given in the rear thigh muscles.  Let me know - 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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